Catalogue


After the plague : stories /
by T. Coraghessan Boyle.
imprint
New York : Viking, 2001.
description
303 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0670030058 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Viking, 2001.
isbn
0670030058 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
4581729
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
After the Plague, Termination Dust TERMINATION DUSTThere were a hundred and seven of them, of all ages, shapes and sizes, from twenty-five- and thirty-year-olds in dresses that looked like they were made of Saran Wrap to a couple of big-beamed older types in pantsuits who could have been somebody's mother-and I mean somebody grown, with a goatee beard and a job at McDonald's. I was there to meet them when they came off the plane from Los Angeles, I and Peter Merchant, whose travel agency had arranged the whole weekend in partnership with a Beverly Hills concern, and there were a couple other guys there too, eager beavers like J. J. Hotel, and the bad element, by which I mean Bud Withers specifically, who didn't want to cough up the hundred fifty bucks for the buffet, the Malibu Beach party and the auction afterward. They were hoping for maybe a sniff of something gratis, but I was there to act as a sort of buffer and make sure that didn't happen. Peter was all smiles as we came up to the first of the ladies, Susan Abrams, by her nametag, and started handing out corsages, one to a lady, and chimed out in chorus, "Welcome to Anchorage, Land of the Grizzly and the True-Hearted Man!" Well, it was pretty corny-it was Peter's idea, not mine-and I felt a little foolish with the first few (hard-looking women, divorcées for sure, maybe even legal secretaries or lawyers into the bargain), but when I saw this little one with eyes the color of glacial melt about six deep in the line, I really began to perk up. Her nametag was done in calligraphy, hand-lettered instead of computer-generated like the rest of them, and that really tugged at me, the care that went into it, and I gave her hand a squeeze and said, "Hi, Jordy, welcome to Alaska," when I gave her the corsage. She seemed a little dazed, and I chalked it up to the flight and the drinks and the general party atmosphere that must certainly have prevailed on that plane, one hundred and seven single women on their way for the Labor Day weekend in a state that boasted two eligible bachelors for every woman, but that wasn't it at all. She'd hardly had a glass of chablis, as it turned out-what I took to be confusion, lethargy, whatever, was just wonderment. As I was later to learn, she'd been drawn to the country all her life, had read and dreamed about it since she was a girl growing up in Altadena, California, within sight of the Rose Bowl. She was bookish-an English teacher, in fact-and she had a new worked-leather high-grade edition of Wuthering Heightswedged under the arm that held her suitcase and traveling bag. I guessed her to be maybe late twenties, early thirties. "Thank you," she said, in this whispery little voice that made me feel about thirteen years old all over again, and then she squinted those snowmelt eyes to take in my face and the spread of me (I should say I'm a big man, one of the biggest in the bush around Boynton, six-five and two-forty-two and not much of that gone yet to fat), and then she read my name off my nametag and added, in a deep-diving puff of a little floating wisp of a voice, "Ned." Then she was gone, and it was the next woman in line (with a face like a topographic map and the grip of a lumberjack), and then the next, and the next, and all the while I'm wondering how much Jordy's going to go for at the auction, and if a hundred and twenty-five, which is about all I'm prepared to spend, is going to be enough. The girls-women, ladies, whatever-rested up at their hotel for a while and did their ablutions and ironed their outfits and put on their makeup, while Peter and Susan Abrams fluttered around making sure all the little details of the evening had been worked out. I sat at the bar drinking Mexican beer to get in the mood. I'd barely finished my first when I looked up and who did I see but J.J. and Bud with maybe half a dozen local types in tow, all of them looking as lean
First Chapter
After the Plague, Termination Dust

TERMINATION DUST

There were a hundred and seven of them, of all ages, shapes and sizes, from twenty-five- and thirty-year-olds in dresses that looked like they were made of Saran Wrap to a couple of big-beamed older types in pantsuits who could have been somebody's mother-and I mean somebody grown, with a goatee beard and a job at McDonald's. I was there to meet them when they came off the plane from Los Angeles, I and Peter Merchant, whose travel agency had arranged the whole weekend in partnership with a Beverly Hills concern, and there were a couple other guys there too, eager beavers like J. J. Hotel, and the bad element, by which I mean Bud Withers specifically, who didn't want to cough up the hundred fifty bucks for the buffet, the Malibu Beach party and the auction afterward. They were hoping for maybe a sniff of something gratis, but I was there to act as a sort of buffer and make sure that didn't happen.

Peter was all smiles as we came up to the first of the ladies, Susan Abrams, by her nametag, and started handing out corsages, one to a lady, and chimed out in chorus, "Welcome to Anchorage, Land of the Grizzly and the True-Hearted Man!" Well, it was pretty corny-it was Peter's idea, not mine-and I felt a little foolish with the first few (hard-looking women, divorcées for sure, maybe even legal secretaries or lawyers into the bargain), but when I saw this little one with eyes the color of glacial melt about six deep in the line, I really began to perk up. Her nametag was done in calligraphy, hand-lettered instead of computer-generated like the rest of them, and that really tugged at me, the care that went into it, and I gave her hand a squeeze and said, "Hi, Jordy, welcome to Alaska," when I gave her the corsage.

She seemed a little dazed, and I chalked it up to the flight and the drinks and the general party atmosphere that must certainly have prevailed on that plane, one hundred and seven single women on their way for the Labor Day weekend in a state that boasted two eligible bachelors for every woman, but that wasn't it at all. She'd hardly had a glass of chablis, as it turned out-what I took to be confusion, lethargy, whatever, was just wonderment. As I was later to learn, she'd been drawn to the country all her life, had read and dreamed about it since she was a girl growing up in Altadena, California, within sight of the Rose Bowl. She was bookish-an English teacher, in fact-and she had a new worked-leather high-grade edition of Wuthering Heightswedged under the arm that held her suitcase and traveling bag. I guessed her to be maybe late twenties, early thirties.

"Thank you," she said, in this whispery little voice that made me feel about thirteen years old all over again, and then she squinted those snowmelt eyes to take in my face and the spread of me (I should say I'm a big man, one of the biggest in the bush around Boynton, six-five and two-forty-two and not much of that gone yet to fat), and then she read my name off my nametag and added, in a deep-diving puff of a little floating wisp of a voice, "Ned."

Then she was gone, and it was the next woman in line (with a face like a topographic map and the grip of a lumberjack), and then the next, and the next, and all the while I'm wondering how much Jordy's going to go for at the auction, and if a hundred and twenty-five, which is about all I'm prepared to spend, is going to be enough.

The girls-women, ladies, whatever-rested up at their hotel for a while and did their ablutions and ironed their outfits and put on their makeup, while Peter and Susan Abrams fluttered around making sure all the little details of the evening had been worked out. I sat at the bar drinking Mexican beer to get in the mood. I'd barely finished my first when I looked up and who did I see but J.J. and Bud with maybe half a dozen local types in tow, all of them looking as lean and hungry as a winter cat. Bud ignored me and started chatting up the Anchorage boys with his eternal line of bullshit about living off the land in his cabin in the bush outside Boynton-which was absolutely the purest undiluted nonsense, as anybody who'd known him for more than half a minute could testify-but J.J. settled in beside me with a combination yodel and sigh and offered to buy me a drink, which I accepted. "Got one picked out?" he said, and he had this mocking grin on his face, as if the whole business of the Los Angeles contingent was a bad joke, though I knew it was all an act and he was as eager and sweetly optimistic as I was myself.

The image of a hundred and seven women in their underwear suddenly flashed through my mind, and then I pictured Jordy in a black brassiere and matching panties, and I blushed and ducked my head and tried on an awkward little smile.

"Yeah," I admitted.

"I'll be damned if Mr. Confidence down there"-a gesture for Bud, who was neck-deep in guano with the weekend outdoorsmen in their L. L. Bean outfits-"doesn't have one too. Says he's got her room number already and told her he'd bid whatever it takes for a date with her, even if he had to dip into the family fortune."

My laugh was a bitter, strangled thing. Bud was just out of jail, where he'd done six months on a criminal mischief charge for shooting out the windows in three cabins and the sunny side of my store on the main street-the only street-in downtown Boynton, population 170. He didn't have a pot to piss in, except what he got from the VA or welfare or whatever it was-it was hard to say, judging from the way he seemed to confuse fact and fiction. That and the rattrap cabin he'd built on federal land along the Yukon River, and that was condemned. I didn't even know what he'd done with his kid after Linda left him, and I didn't want to guess. "How'd he even get here?" I said.

J.J. was a little man with a bald pate and a full snow-white beard, a widower and a musician who cooked as mean a moose tritip with garlic and white gravy as any man who'd come into the country in the past ten years. He shrugged, set his beer mug down on the bar. "Same as you and me."

I was incredulous. "You mean he drove? Where'd he get the car?"

"All I know's he told me last week he had this buddy was going to lend him a brand-new Toyota Land Cruiser for the weekend and that furthermore, he was planning on going home to Boynton with the second Mrs. Withers, even if he did have to break down and shell out the one fifty for the party and all. It's an investment, he says, as if any woman'd be crazy enough to go anyplace with him, let alone a cabin out in the hind end of nowhere."

I guess I was probably stultified with amazement at this point, and I couldn't really manage a response. I was just looking over the top of my beer at the back of Bud's head and his elbow resting on the bar and then the necks of his boots as if I could catch a glimpse of the plastic feet he's got stuffed in there. I'd seen them once, those feet, when he first got back from the hospital and he came round the store for a pint of something, already half drunk and wearing a pair of shorts under his coat though it was minus thirty out. "Hey, Ned," he said to me in this really nasty, accusatory voice, "you see what you and the rest of them done to me?," and he flipped open the coat to show his ankles and the straps and the plastic feet that were exactly like the pink molded feet of a mannequin in a department store window.

I was worried. I didn't want to let on to J.J., but I knew Bud, I knew how smooth he was-especially if you weren't forewarned-and I knew women found him attractive. I kept thinking, What if it's Jordy he's after?, but then I told myself the chances were pretty remote, what with a hundred and seven eager women to choose from, and even if it was-even if it was-there were still a hundred and six others and one of them had to be for me.

--From After the Plague: and other Storiesby T. C. Boyle (c) September 2001, Viking Press, a division of Penguin Putnam, used by permission.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2001-08-01:
In his sixth collection of short stories, Boyle presents a series of wickedly ironic, sometimes poignant, sometimes darkly humorous tales that speak directly to the human condition and to a variety of contemporary social issuesfrom abortion to Internet voyeur cams, from railway killers to air rage. Among the best are a wonderfully crafted tale about an elderly widowa beautiful old lady clothed in catsand another about an ex-rocker, ex-actor, surf-shop owner who finally loses his cool when faced with three teenage harassers and a smug jewel thief. Then there are the Black and White Sisters who seem determined to eliminate all color in their lives. Somewhat out of context, but no less touching, is the story of an Italian immigrant farmer who in 1905 purchases, sight unseen, 70 acres of California wasteland and loses his love but keeps on digging, never losing his vision of a better future. The final and title story focuses on four survivors of a disease-induced apocalypsea classic tale of can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em that leaves one smiling in spite of the circumstances. All in all this is classic Boyle, a work to be embraced by his enthusiasts and one that belongs in most collections of serious fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/01.]David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2001-08-06:
If Boyle's progress as a novelist has been uneven his more recent narratives have not managed to achieve the acclaim of 1990's East Is East his talent for crafting amusing and startling short stories has never been in doubt. This compilation (his fifth, not counting a collected volume) culls pieces published in the New Yorker, GQ and other outlets and showcases the signature elements of his fiction: darkly comic scenarios (a surly airline passenger goes berserk and a downtrodden elementary school teacher saves the day), pitiful and realistic characters (an Internet porn addict) and mundane but serious subjects (love, overpopulation, abortion). While there's not much new ground broken here, Boyle more than makes up for the relative lack of innovation by delivering his trademark dazzler endings. In "She Wasn't Soft," a triathlete's idiot boyfriend tries to atone for his wretched behavior by drugging her rival in a race, with potentially disastrous results. And in the title story, an apocalypse leaves only a handful of people on Earth; after a disastrous experience with another survivor, the narrator learns that, even in the worst of situations, love can prevail. Boyle has matured since 1995's Without a Hero: here he relies more on language than farce or shock value, describing the relationship between two lovers who "wore each other like a pair of socks," or, conversely, a college boy who enters a girl's room and feels "like some weird growth sprung up on the unsuspecting flank of her personal space." Boyle's imagination and zeal for storytelling are in top form here, making this collection a smash. Author tour. (Sept. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, May 2001
Booklist, June 2001
Kirkus Reviews, June 2001
Library Journal, August 2001
New York Times Book Review, August 2001
Publishers Weekly, August 2001
Boston Globe, September 2001
Los Angeles Times, September 2001
New York Times Book Review, September 2001
Washington Post, September 2001
San Francisco Chronicle, November 2001
Los Angeles Times, December 2001
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Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
Few authors in America write with such sheer love of story, language, and imagination as T. C. Boyle, and nowhere is that passion more evident than in his inventive, wickedly funny, and widely praised short stories. In After the Plague, his sixth collection of stories, Boyle exhibits his maturing themes, speaking to contemporary social issues in a range of emotional keys. The sixteen stories gathered here, nine of which have appeared in The New Yorker and three in The O'Henry Prize Stories and Best American Short Stories volumes, display Boyle's astonishing range as he rings his changes on everything from air rage ("Friendly Skies") to abortion doctors ("Killing Babies"). There are also stories of quiet passion here, such as "The Love of My Life," which deals with first love and its consequences, and "My Widow," a touching portrait of the writer's own possible future. The collection ends with the brilliant title story, a whimsical and imaginative vision of a disease-ravaged Earth and the few inheritors of a new Eden. Presented with characteristic wit and intelligence, these stories will delight readers in search of the latest news of the chaotic, disturbing, and achingly beautiful world in which we live.
Publisher Fact Sheet
Few authors in America write with such sheer love of story, language, & imagination as T. C. Boyle, & nowhere is that passion more evident than in his inventive, wickedly funny, & widely praised short stories. In After the Plague, his sixth collection of stories, Boyle exhibits his maturing themes, speaking to contemporary social issues in a range of emotional keys. The sixteen stories gathered here, nine of which have appeared in The New Yorker & three in The O'Henry Prize Stories & Best American Short Stories volumes, display Boyle's astonishing range as he rings his changes on everything from air rage ("Friendly Skies") to abortion doctors ("Killing Babies"). There are also stories of quiet passion here, such as "The Love of My Life," which deals with first love & its consequences, & "My Widow," a touching portrait of the writer's own possible future. The collection ends with the brilliant title story, a whimsical & imaginative vision of a disease-ravaged Earth & the few inheritors of a new Eden. Presented with characteristic wit & intelligence, these stories will delight readers in search of the latest news of the chaotic, disturbing, & achingly beautiful world in which we live.
Unpaid Annotation
Few authors in America write with such sheer love of story, language, and imagination as T. C. Boyle, and nowhere is that passion more evident than in his inventive, wickedly funny, and widely praised short stories. In After the Plague, his sixth collection of stories, Boyle exhibits his maturing themes, speaking to contemporary social issues in a range of emotional keys. The sixteen stories gathered here, nine of which have appeared in The New Yorker and three in The O'Henry Prize Stories and Best American Short Stories volumes, display Boyle's astonishing range as he rings his changes on everything from air rage ("Friendly Skies") to abortion doctors ("Killing Babies"). There are also stories of quiet passion here, such as "The Love of My Life", which deals with first love and its consequences, and "My Widow", a touching portrait of the writer's own possible future. The collection ends with the brilliant title story, a whimsical and imaginative vision of a disease-ravaged Earth and the few inheritors of a new Eden. Presented with characteristic wit and intelligence, these stories will delight readers in search of the latest news of

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