This is one of the books that makes me feel very middle of the road It s brilliant at points Other points it s just a whole lot of environmentalist propaganda Sometimes so heavy handed that it takes an earth loving hippie like me and hits me over the head with it so hard that it s hard to enjoy the actual story.The interesting thing here is not that world is going to hell in a hand basket Any child of the 80s and 90s well knows that rhetoric and how it plays out is almost exactly like any number of pamphlets you could have picked up at an Earth rally in those eras Unfortunately, it feels like that s the story that is most focused on here.The truly interesting story is about Ty Tierwater Former Eco Terrorist, convict and now caretaker of dying breeds of the animals no one could love The unsavory predators of the animal world The metaphor here becomes clear that Ty is less of an environmentalist and of an unsavory predator He is the product of an unhappy, abusive household with a lot of anger at the world He finds his outlet in Earth First , an organization devoted to the saving the earth before it s too late Chapters alternate between the world that hasn t been saved and the years of hopeless crusades to do exactly that The journey of self discovery the Ty undertakes to find his peace is amazing I wish there had been emphasis on that.It s summed up perfectly in the last line where he s walking a patagonian fox and meets a girl who distinctly reminds him of his dead daughter Is it a dog That s right, I say, that s right, she s a dog And then, for no reason I can think of, I can t help adding, And I m a human being It s the ultimate statement of a wolf forced to end his days in sheep s clothing. The fate of the earth is not the issue for main character and narrator, Tyrone O Shaughnessy Tierwater He knows that it s doomed But, so does the reader The post apocalyptic opening chapter is set in 2025 California Nature is reclaiming the planet Weather related disasters rage, wreaking havoc on the remaining lifeforms and infrastructure Ty is the last man standing of a class of radical environmentalists from the Earth Forever movement It is a carbon copy of a 1980 s environmental movement called Earth First Ty is the last one, until the ex wife calls to reconnect after many years of separation Their protracted reunification is the dynamic through which author TC Boyle reveals the complex character of his seventy five year old antihero And, it works well The book is a satirical blend of environmentalism and love story, in which aging adults play the leading roles I found that part of the book quite enjoyable The part that left me shaking my head was the subplot about Tyrone s relationship with his daughter, and his abysmal judgment as a parent The book alternates between the 2025 timeline and his years as a parent beginning in 1989 Tyrone s pathetic efforts to parent his teenage daughter is the author s vehicle for relating the history of the Earth Forever movement Her mother is gone, the subject of an accidental death at a young age In the opening chapter, Tyrone places his young teenage daughter in harms way to the point that she ends up in foster care far from home And, it gets worse culminating in a disturbing and unbelievable scene in which the hero fights off a young foster parent and a high school aged youth, while somehow holding his thirteen year old daughter in his arms The scene belongs in a comic book.So, in my view the book is a mixed bag If you enjoy TC Boyle s work, then I recommend it If you re not already a fan, there are probably better places to start with his body of work. Tyrone O Shaugnessy Tierwater, Suburban Drudge, Is Manager Of An Antiquated Shopping Centre In New York His Life Is Changed Dramatically By His Marriage To Andrea, A Well Known Environmental Activist Flashing Forward To , Tyrone Is Now Manager Of A Pop Star S Private Animal Menagerie All I could manage of this one was 100 pages I wanted to like it its premise of near future ecological collapse feels relevant and laudable but the prose is so lazily executed that it begins to feel like an insult The book is full of cheap narrative gambits and inexact metaphors and faux ominous filler of this sort He doesn t like this He doesn t like it at all Or, much worse Because I m bored Because I ve got nothing to lose Because I know I can put the brakes on if I have to Roll with it Ride your pony Oh, yes, indeed Rereading that, I m stunned that I put up with 100 pages.Perhaps worse than the prose is the light hipsterish tone that dominates the novel and implies that none of its content is ultimately very serious Even the most catastrophic details and events of Boyle s dystopia lack reality and weight Boyle has an inability not to be wry except in the most shocking moments, and those moments don t work because nothing that precedes them has taught the reader that seriousness will be possible in this book Like Vonnegut, Boyle is slightly making fun of everything in his narrative, a smart ass, self insulating tactic that also prevents the novel from being anything you might call literary. You can always rely on T.C Boyle for an entertaining read Here, our future the year 2025 is described in the bleakest and at times depressing terms Due to our destruction of the environment, people are suffering from extreme weather conditions At the moment, a neverending rainstorm rages for months, which makes normal living difficult Most animals and plants are extinct, all there is to drink is sake, and the hero of the story, Ty Tierwater, has a job looking after the animals in the private menagerie of a former rock star.Interspersed with the 2025 narrative is Ty s story of the 1980s and 90s He was a militant environmentalist then, together with his wife and daughter who, we slowly get to know, died under mysterious circumstances His sabotage actions described with much suspense were often stupid, but in the light of 2025 he seems to have been right to warn everyone about destroying the environment The story has a mind boggling climax, some humour, bizaare characters, an unlikely hero, some mysteries that are solved along the way, and almost a happy end everything that makes an entertaining book This could be a fun read for tree huggers and tree spikers alike In a narrative split between the climate battered world of 2025 and life as a circa 1990 ecosaboteur, environmental doom meets righteously taking on the system Supporters of Deep Green Resistance, Earth First , the Earth Liberation Front, or Stop Fossil Fuels are reminded of the climate chaos and mass extinction we re fighting to head off, and can vicariously and safely enjoy the thrill of underground, illegal tactics against a system immune to transformation from within.But the book falls short of its potential, reflecting real life limitations of early and all too much contemporary monkeywrencher culture misogyny and an absence of strategy This is understandable, since the book was published in 2000 before activist rape culture and toxic male behavior was being called out, and before serious analysis of how to bring down the industrial economy was readily available If the reader can accept these historic limitations, she can probably still enjoy the book for what it is.Read full review Originally published in 2000, A Friend of the Earth by T C Boyle is a gripping, humorous and emotional novel which charts the life of committed eco activist Ty Tierwater and his battles to confront humanity s destruction of nature I first encountered an excerpt from this book several years ago when reading the anthology I m With The Bears Short Stories From a Damaged Planet The chapter The Siskiyou, July 1989 was something of a revelation for me then, a powerful, slow reveal vignette in which a man, his wife, young daughter and another set out under cover of night on an arduous and forlorn protest against the logging of the virgin Oregon forest The horror builds as you realise not only of the protestors helplessness when confronted by the loggers and the local police, but also in the love of a father for his daughter as they endure the physical and psychological torment of their protest Boyle captures both the comedy and torment of a father torn between the love of his daughter and his attempts to fight against humanity s rampant ecocide As I started to read A Friend of the Earth this last fortnight, I recalled this tale and realised that this was a novel that speaks directly to one of the key dilemmas of our time how one makes sense of the destruction of the natural world.The novel opens in the surreal Californian countryside of 2025 a land wracked by drenching storms and stifling heat a climate in meltdown and a society fast unravelling At this late stage in his life, Ty Tierwater is a cynical caretaker for a bizarre menagerie of exotic animals owned by a reclusive ex pop star Ty s former wife Andrea re enters his life as the zoo s animals escape, and the novel then oscillates between defining moments in his life and his climate shocked present.A rollicking, satirical read, Boyle cleverly develops Ty s life story around his growing disgust at humanity s relentless destruction of nature Initially a reluctant environmentalist, through Andrea s influence he becomes a committed eco warrior and under the weight of his failed protests and subsequent jail time, his resolve hardens and his methods become extreme As Ty declares to be a friend of the earth you have to be an enemy of the people Modelled loosely on the example of eco activist groups such as Earth First , Boyle skilfully invests the story with the details and events of Ty s mission the species of owls, amphibians and trees that are endemic to the Oregon and Californian forests the traffic jams and chaos of American suburban sprawl the detailed process of monkeywrenching the logging trucks and other machinery that Ty is at war with The various defeats and humiliations he endures fail to dim his determination to change things, even if this means saving one small piece of the whole As a result, Boyle creates a sympathetic anti hero an outsider reminiscent of the misanthropes in a Kurt Vonnegut or Carl Hiaasen novel.Nor is this a simple morality tale From Ty s perspective, society is a consumerist nightmare, and the loggers, police and investigators are thugs and hypocrites Yet, as in life, there are no neat happy endings, and Boyle emphasises the compromises and contradictions that underlie environmentalism For instance, the co option of increasingly corporatized environmental organisations is also neatly skewered, paralleling Naomi Klein s recent critique of Big Green.While published seventeen years ago, A Friend of the Earth is timely today than ever In an era of climate crisis, the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry, and the election of a US President hell bent on destroying what piecemeal environmental protections currently exist, there is much about this novel that resonates deeply As Aldo Leopold 1949 183 noted nearly seventy years ago one of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds an ecologist sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise In the unequal battle of the economy versus the environment, A Friend of the Earth captures many of the dilemmas faced by those aware of the harm we are unleashing on this planet the lonely and often futile fight to try and limit our own creative self destruction. Once again I ve encountered a book that is about issues I m extremely interested in and concerned with, but the formal characteristics of the writing are problematic to me I d never considered reading any of T.C Boyle s work, though I d heard his name quite a bit Then I heard about this book and its subject a washed up old environmental activist trying to survive in a 2025 world ravaged by the effects of the global climate change he had been trying to fight in his youth I eagerly snapped up a copy It turns out that Boyle does a pretty decent job envisioning that future situation although he doesn t touch the 2 other interrelated future dooms we re heading for, economic collapse and peak oil My main problem, though, is his writing He seems to be considered a serious literary type author, I thought, but I couldn t help getting caught up in the various flaws of his prose For instance, he tends to be one of those writers that employs useless, over the top metaphors a metaphor, to my mind, should be used to compare one thing the reader is less familiar with to another thing that the reader is familiar with, as a way of conveying clearly what that first thing is But Boyle is fond of the reverse using something even less familiar as a metaphor, which might serve to illuminate the narrators inner monologue but doesn t work as effective description He also seems uncertain whether he wants to use first person or third person, and whether he s writing a surreal satire or a piece of science based realism.I still enjoyed this book, and it really deserves like a 3.5 star rating, but in the end it didn t satisfy, neither from an aesthetic, i m enjoying the pleasure of reading good writing standpoint nor from a this adeptly explores the concepts I want it to standpoint Maybe I was just looking for a different book Nevertheless, the concept of Tortilla Curtain , another of Boyle s books, intrigues me just enough to want to risk another go at his work, and I guess that s the best indicator of my opinion. I really, really enjoyed this novel and can easily recommend it You can check out the long version or stay here for a shorter one.A Friend of the Earth is quite different from many environmentally or eco based novels I ve read While some of the normal dystopian scenarios are in place, and the author in his own way lets his readers know that there is little to no hope for the future, it also makes you laugh as Mr Boyle puts irony ahead of heavy handedness or preaching since, as the main character notes, it s much too late for that It s 2025, and Tyrone Ty Tierwater works as the caretaker of a private collection of animals Ty, in his 70s, has a good gig working for a millionaire pop star who s been trying to save some of the last critically endangered animals before they re gone for good As a result of global warming and the collapse of the biosphere, these days, floods, rain, heat and nightmarish winds are the norm Ty lives a simple life, taking care of the animals and then going out for the occasional drink of sake, but that all changes when one day, without warning, his ex wife Andrea shows up with news that a writer is interested in penning the story of their daughter Sierra But it s not the only reason she s there she has plans to restart Earth Forever , the environmental activism group they were part of in the past, for the survivors Andrea s return is what prompts the story of Ty s former days as a monkeywrenching member of the group, complete with berets, raised fists and acts of ecotage, at a time when to be a friend of the earth, you have to be an enemy of the people As the narrative goes back in time, it reveals not only the motivations behind Ty s actions which may not be quite what you d expect , but also how eventually he came to sacrifice much than he bargained for in the process of doing his part in saving the planet It s a wonderful book, much less heavy handed than I expected from its beginning.One of the messages to be found here is that we re all involved in a paradoxical relationship with our planet s future progress gives us the little gadgets and gizmoes we love and demand, but at the same time our consumer habits are partially to blame for the planet s woes we also care about what happens to the environment, but at the same time few people these days are going to go live completely off the grid in total tune with nature It s all about compromise These points are illustrated amply and ironically throughout this novel, which I only put down reluctantly when forced by outside circumstances to do so It s pleasantly way better than what I first expected after reading the cover blurb, and while it tended to receive lower star ratings from most reviewers, I recommend it highly I think it hit me long after I d put down the book just how cool it really is. There is a story behind why I chose to review A Friend of the Earth In 2001, I bought the novel and could not get past the first few pages I tried again and again No go So I dropped it in a box to be forgotten but not trashed Roughly a year later I was rummaging around for a book to read and pulled it out What the hell, I thought I ll give it another try The planets had aligned, apparently or likely this time I was mentally receptive and, as with all his previous books, I immediately fell in love with his writing and the journey His imagination is wild, his wit caustic, and he knows how to mess with your mind to provoke laughter and thought in a neuron explosive way And I mean that in a good way, even when the subject matter is bleak, as with this apocalyptic romp Also, this novel has a great closing line My point is this Art is subjective, true, but sometime when your mind tunes into the right frequency you hear the music and not static T.C.B is among the living or dead one of our greatest writers.
T Coraghessan Boyle also known as T.C Boyle, is a U.S novelist and short story writer Since the late 1970s, he has published seventeen novels and eleven collections of short stories He won the PEN Faulkner award in 1988 for his third novel, World s End, which recounts 300 years in upstate New York He is married with three children Boyle has been a Distinguished Professor of English at the
- Unknown Binding
- 288 pages
- A Friend of the Earth
- T. Coraghessan Boyle
- 09 April 2017 T. Coraghessan Boyle