Drop City

Drop City

by T. C. Boyle


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It is 1970, and a down-at-the-heels California commune devoted to peace, free love, and the simple life has decided to relocate to the last frontier—the unforgiving landscape of interior Alaska—in the ultimate expression of going back to the land. Armed with the spirit of adventure and naïve optimism, the inhabitants of “Drop City” arrive in the wilderness of Alaska only to find their utopia already populated by other young homesteaders. When the two communities collide, unexpected friendships and dangerous enmities are born as everyone struggles with the bare essentials of life: love, nourishment, and a roof over one’s head. Rich, allusive, and unsentimental, T.C. Boyle’s ninth novel is a tour de force infused with the lyricism and take-no-prisoners storytelling for which he is justly famous.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142003800
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/27/2004
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 319,110
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.07(d)
Age Range: 18 - 17 Years

About the Author

T. C. Boyle is the author of eleven novels, including World's End (winner of the PEN/FaulknerAward), Drop City (a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award), and The Inner Circle. His most recent story collections are Tooth and Claw and The Human Fly and Other Stories.


Santa Barbara California

Date of Birth:

December 2, 1948

Place of Birth:

Peekskill, New York


B.A. in music, State University of New York at Potsdam, 1970; Ph.D. in literature, Iowa University, 1977

Read an Excerpt

The morning was a fish in a net, glistening and wriggling at the dead black border of her consciousness, but she'd never caught a fish in a net or on a hook either, so she couldn't really say if or how or why. The morning was a fish in a net. That was what she told herself over and over, making a little chant of it-a mantra-as she decapitated weeds with the guillotine of her hoe, milked the slit-eyed goats and sat down to somebody's idea of porridge in the big drafty meeting room, where sixty shimmering communicants sucked at spoons and worked their jaws.

Outside was the California sun, making a statement in the dust and saying something like ten o'clock or ten-thirty to the outbuildings and the trees. There were voices all around her, laughter, morning pleasantries and animadversions, but she was floating sail and just opened up a million-kilowatt smile and took her ceramic bowl with the nuts and seeds and raisins and the dollop of pasty oatmeal afloat in goat's milk and drifted through the door and out into the yard to perch on a stump and feel the hot dust invade the spaces between her toes. Eating wasn't a private act-nothing was private at Drop City-but there were no dorm mothers here, no social directors or parents or bosses, and for once she felt like doing her own thing. Grooving, right? Wasn't that what this was all about? The California sun on your face, no games, no plastic society-just freedom and like minds, brothers and sisters all?

Star-Paulette Regina Starr, her name and being shrunk down to four essential letters now-had been at Drop City for something like three weeks. Something like. In truth, she couldn't have said exactly how long she'd been sleeping on a particular mattress in a particular room with a careless warm slew of non-particular people, nor would she have cared to. She wasn't counting days or weeks or months-or even years. Or eons either. Big Bang. Who created the universe? God created the universe. The morning is a fish in a net. Wasn't it a Tuesday when they got here? Tuesday was music night, and today-today was Friday. She knew that much from the buzz around the stewpot in the kitchen-the weekend hippies were on their way, and the gawkers and gapers too-but time wasn't really one other hangups, as she'd demonstrated for all and sundry by giving her Tissot watch with the gold-link wristband to an Indian kid in Taos, and he wasn't even staring at her or looking for a handout, just standing there at the bus stop with his hand clenched in his mother's. "Here," she said, "here," twisting it off her wrist, "you want this?" She'd never been west before, never seen anything like it, and there he was, black bangs shielding his black eyes, a little deep-dwelling Indian kid, and she had to give him something. The hills screamed with cactus. The fumes of the bus rode up her nose and made her eyes water.

She'd come west with a guy from home, Ronnie Sommers, who called himself Pan, and they'd had some adventures along the way, Star and Pan- like Lewis and dark, only brighter around the edges. Ronnie stopped for anybody with long hair, and that was universally good, opening up a whole world of places to crash, free food, drugs. They spent one night in Arizona in a teepee with a guy all tanned and lean, his hair tied back under a snake-skin headband, cooking brown rice and cauliflower over an open fire and swallowing peyote buds he'd gathered himself in the blinding white hills. "Hunters and gatherers," he kept saying, "that's what we are," and every time he said it they all broke up, and then Ronnie rolled a joint and she felt so good she made it with both of them.

She was still chanting to herself, the leaves on the trees frying right before her eyes and the dollop of oatmeal staring up at her from the yellowish goat's milk like something that had come out of her own body, blown out, vomited out, naked and alive and burnished with its own fluids, when a shadow fell over her and there he was, Ronnie, hovering in the frame of her picture like a ghost image. "Hey," he said, squatting before her in his huaraches and cutoff jeans, "I missed you, where you been?" Then he was lifting her foot out of the dust, her right foot, the one with the fishhook-shaped scar sealed into the flesh as a memento of her childhood, and he kissed her there, the wet impress of his lips dully glistening in the featureless glare.

She stared at her own foot, at his hand and his long, gnawed fingers, at the silver and turquoise rings eating up the light. "Ringo-Pan," she said.

He laughed. His hair was getting long at the back of his neck, spilling like string over the spool of his head, and his beard was starting to cohere. But his face-his face was small and distant, receding like a balloon swept up into the sky.

"I was milking the goats," she said.

Two kids-little kids-blond, naked, dirty, appeared on the periphery, flopped down and started wrestling in the dirt. Somebody was banging a tambourine, and now a flute started up, skirling and stopping and lifting away like birdsong. "Good shit, huh?" he said.

Her smile came back, blissed-out, drenched with sun. Everything was alive everywhere. She could feel the earth spinning like a big ball beneath her feet. "Yeah," she said. "Oh, yeah. Definitely."

And then it was night. She'd come down gradually through the course of a long slow afternoon that stretched out and rolled over like a dog on a rug, and she'd worked in the kitchen with some of the others, chopping herbs, onions and tomatoes for the lentil soup and singing along to the Airplane and Country Joe and the Fish. Somebody was passing a pipe and she took a hit or two from that, and she'd kept a fruit jar topped up with Spanada right next to her throughout the cooking and the washing up and the meal that went on like the Last Supper while a guy named Sky Dog or maybe it was Junior Sky Dog played acoustic guitar and sang verses he made up on the spot. The blond kids from the morning were there, naked still, lentil soup streaking their torsos like war paint, and there was a baby in a wicker papoose strapped to the back of a gaunt tall woman with eyes that were like two craters sunk into her head. People were everywhere, people she'd never seen before-the weekend hippies up from the city-and her brothers and sisters too. Smoke rose from joss sticks, from grass and hash threaded meticulously from hand to hand as if they were all collectively stitching a quilt in the air. A pair of rangy yellow dogs sniffed at people's feet and thrust their snouts in the bowls that lay scattered across the floor.

Star was perched up on a throne of old couch pillows in the corner, along with Ronnie and a new girl whose name she'd forgotten. She wasn't feeling anything but tired, and though the whole thing-the whole scene-was fantastic, like summer camp without the counselors, a party that never ends, she was thinking she'd had enough, thinking she might just slip off and find a place to crash and let the sleep wash over her like a dark tide of nothing. Ronnie's leg lay across her own, and she could just barely feel the new girl's hair on her shoulder like a sprinkle of salt or sugar. She closed her eyes, let herself drift. The music began to fade, water sucked down a drain, water that was rushing over her, a creek, a river, one pool spilling into the next... but then one of the kids let out a sudden sharp wail and she came back to the moment. The kid, the little boy with his bare abdomen and dangling parts and his missing front teeth that gave him the look of a half-formed little ghoul, slapped something out of his mother's hand-Reba, that was her name, or maybe it was Rena? He let out another shriek, high and mechanical, but that was the beginning and the end of it, because Reba just held a joint to his lips and then sank back into the pillows as if nothing had happened.

Nothing had. No one seemed to notice or care. Sky Dog had been joined by a second guitarist now, and they were working their way through the steady creeping changes of a slow blues. A topless woman no one had ever seen before got up and began to hump her hips and flap her enormous breasts to the beat; before long, a couple of the commune's more or less permanent members rose up from the floor to join her, swaying in place and snaking their arms like Hindu mystics.

"A tourist," Ronnie said, the syllables dry and hard on his tongue. "Weekend hippie." He was wearing a Kmart T-shirt Star had tie-dyed for him on their first day here, orange supernovae bursting out of deep pink and purple galaxies, and when he turned to the new girl the light behind him made his beard translucent. "You're no tourist," he said. "Right, Merry?"

Merry leaned back into the cradle of his arm. "I am not ever going back," she said, "I promise you that." "Right," Ronnie said, "right, don't even think about it." Then he slipped his free arm around Star's shoulders and gave her a squeeze, and "Hey," he was saying, caught up in the slow-churning engine of the moment, "you want to maybe go down by the river and spread a blanket under the stars and make it- just the three of us, I mean? You feel like it?" His eyes were on the dancing woman, up one slope and down the other. "Would that be righteous, or what?"

And here was the truth: Star didn't feel like it. Nor, despite what she'd told herself, had she felt like it that night in the teepee either. It was Ronnie. Ronnie had talked her into undressing in front of the other guy-or no, he'd shamed her into it. "You don't want to be an uptight bourgeois cunt like your mother, do you?" he'd said, his voice a fierce rasp in her ear. "Or my mother, for shitsake? Come on, it's all right, it's just the human body, it's natural-I mean, what is this?"

The other guy, the teepee guy-she never knew his name-just watched her as if she were a movie he'd never seen before. He was sitting there yoga style, the very avatar of peace and love, but you could see he was all wound up inside. He was intense. Freakish, even. She could feel it, some sort of bad vibe emanating from him, but then she told herself she was just being paranoid because of the peyote. So she lay back, crossed her legs at the ankles and stared into the fire. No one said anything for the longest time. And when she looked up finally the teepee guy's eyes were so pale there were no irises to them, or hardly any, and Ronnie rolled a joint and helped her off with her blue denim shirt with all the signs of the zodiac she'd embroidered up and down the sleeves and across the shoulders, and he was in his shorts and the teepee guy-cat, teepee cat, because Ronnie was always correcting her, you don't call men guys you call them cats-was in some sort of loincloth, and she was naked to the waist. The firelight rode up the walls and the smoke found the hole at the top.

"Just like the Sioux camped on the banks of the Little Bighorn, right, man?" Ronnie said, passing the joint. And then time seemed to ripple a bit, everything sparking red and blue-green and gold, and Ronnie was on top of her and the teepee guy was watching and she didn't care, or she did, but it didn't matter. They made it on an Indian rug in the dirt with this cat watching, but it was Ronnie, and she fit the slope of his body, knew his shoulders and his tongue and the way he moved. Ronnie. Pan. From back home. But then he rolled off her and sat there a minute saying, "Man, wow, far out," breathing hard, sweat on his forehead and a tiny infinitesimal drop of it fixed like a jewel to the tip of his nose, and he made a gesture to the teepee cat and said, "Go ahead, brother, it's cool-"

Outside, at the main gate to the Drop City ranch, there was a plywood sign nailed clumsily to the wooden crossbars: NO MEN, NO WOMEN-ONLY CHILDREN. That was about it, she was thinking, nothing but children, Show and Tell, and show and show and show. Ronnie's arm was like a dead thing, like a two-ton weight, a felled tree crushing her from the neck down. The big topless woman danced. Got to keep movin', Junior Sky Dog was singing, movin' on down the line.

"So what do you say?" Ronnie wanted to know. His face was right there, inches from hers, the pale fur of his beard, the dangle of his hair. His eyes were fractured, little ceramic plates hammered into the sheen there and then smashed to fragments. She said nothing, so he turned to Merry, and Star watched the new girl's face.

Merry had her own version of the million-kilowatt smile, wide-mouthed and pretty, and she was all legs in a pale yellow miniskirt that looked as if it hadn't been washed in a month. She looked first to Ronnie, then stared right into Star's eyes before letting her gaze drift out across the room as if she were too stoned to care, but she did care, she did-Star could see it in the self-conscious way she ducked her head and tugged at the hem of her dress and the dark indelible line of dirt there where she'd tugged at it a thousand times before. "I don't know," she said, her voice nothing but air. And then she shrugged. "I guess."

The two blond kids were dancing now, the vacant-eyed boy of four or five and his little sister, watching their feet, no sense of rhythm, none at all, the boy's little wadded-up tube of a penis flapping like a metronome to another beat altogether. "Cool," Ronnie said. And then he turned to her, to Star, and said, "What about it, Star, what do you say?"

She said, "I don't think so. Not tonight. I'm feeling-I don't know, weird."

"Weird? What the fuck you talking about?" Ronnie's brow was crawling and his mouth had dropped down into a little pit of nothing-she knew the look. Though he hadn't moved a muscle, though for all the world he was the hippest coolest least-uptight flower-child cat in the universe, he was puffing himself up inside, full of rancor and Ronnie-bile. He got his own way. He always got his own way, whether it was a matter of who he was going to ball and when or what interstate they were going to take or where they were going to spend the night or even what sort of food they were going to eat. It didn't matter if they were passing through Buttwash, Texas, the Dexamil wearing off and eggs over easy the only thing she could think about to the point of obsession and maybe even hallucination, he wanted tacos, he wanted salsa and chiles and Tecate, and that's what they got.

"No, come on now, don't be a bummer, Paulette. You know what the Keristan Society says, right there in black and white in the Speeler? Huh? Don't you?"

She did. Because he quoted it to her every time he felt horny. Whoever they were, the Keristanians or Keristanters or whatever they wanted to call themselves, they preached Free Love without prejudice-that is, making it with anybody who asked, no matter their race or creed or color or whether they were fat and old or retarded or smelled like the underside of somebody's shoe. It was considered an act of hostility to say no to anybody who wanted to ball, whether you felt like it or not-it's seven A.M. and you're hungover and your hair looks like it's been grafted to your head, and some guy wants to ball? You ball him. Either that, or you're not into the scene because you're infected with all your bourgeois hangups just like your fucked-up parents and the rest of the straight world. That was what the Keristan Society had to say, but what she was thinking, or beginning to think, in the most rudimentary way, was that Free Love was just an invention of some cat with pimples and terminally bad hair and maybe crossed eyes who couldn't get laid any other way or under any other regime, and she wasn't having it, not tonight, not with Ronnie and what's her name.

"No, Ronnie," she said, lifting his arm off her shoulder and letting it drop like the deadweight it was, "n-o." She was on her feet now, looking down at him, at the tiny dollop of his face and the girl staring up at her with her smile fading like a brown-out. "I don't give a shit about the Keristan Society. I'm going to bed. And don't call me that."

He was hurt, put-upon, devastated, clinging to the girl-Merry, that was her name, Merry-as if she were a crate on the high seas and his ship had just gone down. "Call you what?" Breasts flapping, the little penis swaying, people hammering tambourines against their palms and the smoke of grass and incense roiling up off the floor like fog. "Don't call me Paulette," she said, and then she was gone, bare feet picking their way through the sprawled hips and naked limbs of her brothers and her sisters.

It was another morning. This one came in over the treetops with a glow that was purely natural because she hadn't been high for three days now because Ronnie was busy with Merry and the big tits woman, who was twenty-seven years old as it turned out and worked as a secretary for some shipping company. Her name was Lydia, and she'd found a welcoming mattress or two and decided to stay on and screw her job and the plastic world and her big straining flesh-cutting brassieres and the hair pins and makeup and all the rest. Star was indifferent. It wasn't as if she was in love with Ronnie or anything, she told herself. It was just that he was from back home and they'd been together on me road all that time, through the big bread pan of Iowa, yellow Nebraska, New Mexico in its shield of crumbling brown, brick-red Arizona, singing along to the Stones, Under My Thumb, Goin' Home, home, home, home. That was something. Sure it was. But as she maneuvered the bucket in under the first of the goats, she realized she was feeling good, clean and pure and good, without hangups or hassles, for the first time in as long as she could remember.

The moment was electric, and she could feel it through the soles of her bare feet, through her every pore: this was the life she'd envisioned when she left home, a life of peace and tranquility, of love and meditation and faith in the ordinary, no pretense, no games, no plastic yearning after the almighty dollar. She'd got her first inkling of what it could be like back at home with Ronnie, with some people he knew who'd rented a collection of stone cottages in deep woods no more than a mile off the main highway. She and Ronnie would go there most nights, even nights when she had to get up and work in the morning, because she was living at her parents' still and this was a place where you could kick out your legs, drop all pretense and just be yourself. People from the surrounding cottages would gather in the last one down the row-two sisters from Florida had the place, JoJo and Suzie-because it was the biggest and it had a stone fireplace Suzie's boyfriend kept stoked all the time.

JoJo was older, twenty-four or twenty-five, and she'd been part of a commune in Vermont for a while-a place called Further-and on the good nights, when everybody wasn't so stoned they just sank wordlessly into the pillows on the floor and let the heartbeat of the stereo take over for them, JoJo used to reminisce about it. She'd gone there just after high school, alone, with six dollars in her pocket and a copy of The Dharma Bums under one arm, hooked up with a cat, and stayed three years. Her eyes would draw into themselves as she talked, and the ash on her cigarette would go white. She'd sit at the kitchen table and tell Star about the way it was when you could live with a group of people who just lit you up day and night, your real appointed mystical brothers and sisters, selected out of all the world just for you, and about the simple joys of baking bread or collecting eggs or boiling down the thin, faintly sweet sap of the sugar maples till you had a syrup that was liquid gold, like nothing anybody ever bought in a store.

Ronnie would be out in the main room-he was into heroin then-nodding and scratching and talking in a graveyard voice about cars or stereos or bands, and JoJo would have a pot of something going on the stove just in case anybody got hungry, and they did, they would, practically every night. This wasn't a commune-it wasn't anything more than a bunch of young people, hip people, choosing to live next door to one another-but to Star it seemed absolute. You could show up there, in any one of those cottages, at any time of the day or night and there'd always be someone to talk to, share a new record with-or a poem or drugs or food. Star would settle into the old rug by the fireplace, shoulder-to-shoulder with Ronnie, and listen to music all night long while a pipe or a joint went round, and when she wanted to just gossip or show off a new pair of boots or jewelry, she had Suzie and JoJo and half a dozen other girls to relate to, and they were like sisters, like dormmates, only better.

That was a taste, only a taste. Because before long the police zeroed in on the place and made it a real hassle even to drive down the dark overgrown street to get there, the flashing lights and out of the car and where are you going this time of night and don't I know you? And it was too dependent on drugs, everybody zoned out after a while, and no real cooperation-they all still had their own jobs in the plastic world. Suzie got busted, and then her boyfriend, Mike, and the whole thing seemed to just fade away. But now Star was here, in California, the sunshine ladled over her shoulders and the goats bleating for her, really part of something for the first time, something important. And how about this? Until two weeks ago, she'd never even seen a goat-or if she had, it might have been at a petting zoo or pumpkin patch when she was ten and her jaws were clamped tight over her braces because she wouldn't dare smile with all that ugly metal flashing like a lightbulb in her mouth-and here she was milking the two of them like an expert, like a milkmaid in a Thomas Hardy novel, Star of the D'Urbervilles, and the whole community dependent on her.

All right. The yellow milk hissed into the bucket. But then the second goat-it was either Amanda or Dewlap, and she couldn't tell them apart for all the squeezing and teat-pulling she'd done for how many mornings in a row now?-stepped in it, and the milk, which they were planning to use for yogurt, not to mention cornflakes and coffee, washed out into the dirt.

"Wow," said a voice behind her, "-an offering to the gods. I am impressed."

She was squatting in the shade of the oak tree they tethered the goats to overnight so as to prevent them from stripping every last green and burgeoning thing off the face of the earth, and she pulled up her smile and swung her head round. She was happy-exalted, ready to shout out and testify, spilled milk and all-because this was what she'd always wanted, living off the land with her brothers and sisters, and fuck Ronnie, really, just fuck him. Okay. Fine. But she was smiling at nothing: there was no one there.

Was it that bad, then? Flashbacks were one thing, but aural hallucinations?

"Up here," the voice said, and she looked up into the broad gray avenues of the tree and saw the soles of a pair of dirt-blackened feet, feet like the inside of a tomb, and the naked white slash of a man's thighs and hips and then his bare chest and his hair and his face. He was grinning down at her. Spraddling a branch as big around as the pipes that fed water to the kids-on-bicycles and mom-in-the-kitchen suburban development where she'd grown up amidst the roar of lawnmowers and the smoke of the cooking grills. Barbecue. Lilac bushes. K through 12.

What could she say? She automatically raised the rigid plane of her hand to shield her eyes against the glare, but there was no glare, only the deep shadows of the tree and the soft glowing nimbus of the sun.

Behind him-to his left and just above him, and how could she have failed to notice it?-was a treehouse, the very image of the one her father had built for her in the wild cherry tree in their backyard when she turned eight because that was what she'd wanted for her birthday and nothing else. His voice came floating down to her: "Goats being naughty or were you really trying to propitiate the gods?"

Propitiate? Who was this guy?

"I was going to make yogurt-for everybody-but Dewlap here, or maybe it's Amanda-doesn't seem to want to cooperate.""

"You need a goat wrangler."

"Right. You wouldn't be a goat wrangler, would you-by any chance, I mean?"

He was a naked man sitting in a tree. He laughed. "You got me pegged. But really that's only my avocation-my true vocation, what I was born here on this earth to do, is build treehouses. You like it, by the way?"

His name was Marco, and Norm Sender, the guy-cat-who'd inherited these forty-seven sun-washed acres above the Russian River and founded Drop City two years ago, had picked him up hitchhiking on the road out of Bolinas. Marco had built the treehouse from scrap lumber in a single afternoon-yesterday afternoon, in fact, while she was taking a siesta, meditating, pulling weeds and scrubbing communal pots-and when he reached down a bare arm to her she took hold of his hand and he pulled her up onto the branch alongside him as if she weighed no more than the circumambient air. She was in his lap, practically in his lap, and he was naked, but not hard, because this wasn't about that-this was about brother- and sisterhood, about being up in a tree at a certain hour of the morning and letting the world run itself without them. "This is Mount Olympus," he said, "and we are the gods and givers of light, and can you see that stain in the dirt down there on the puny earth where the goat girl made sacrifice?"

She could, and that was funny, the funniest thing in the world, goat's milk spilled in the dirt and the unadorned tin pail on its side and the goats bleating and dropping their pellets and some early riser-it was Reba, blowsy, blown, ever-mothering Reba-coming out of the kitchen in the main house with a pan of dishwater to drip judiciously on the marguerites in the kitchen garden. She laughed till her chest hurt and the twin points of oxygen deprivation began to dig talons into the back other head, and then he led her into the treehouse, six feet wide, eight long, with a carpet, a guitar, an unfurled sleeping bag and a roof of sweet-smelling cedar shake. And what was the first thing he did then? He rolled a joint, licked off the ends, and handed it to her.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A vastly entertaining tale that balances the exuberance and the excesses, the promise and the preposterousness of the counterculture perhaps better than any other work of American fiction.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Not only an entertaining romp through the madness of the countercultural ’70s, but a stirring parable about the American dream as well.” —The New York Times

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Drop City 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Comical and entertaining. Well written good brain candy!
RockyMtnHigh More than 1 year ago
Being a child of the nineties I have misperceived the hippy era and the idea of communal living, almost thinking about it in a mystical way. Boyle's book really enlightened me on how living outside the straight world really was. Maybe all about peace and free-love, but definitely had problems of its own. I also liked learning about surviving the winter in the harsh Yukon Territory. It was great to see the characters evolve and I think anyone can definitely relate to their ideas and aspirations. I will read more of Boyle's books because this one was truly a gem.
Guest More than 1 year ago
No one creates characters quite like TC Boyle. Back country Alaskins or Californian hippies... you just really care about these cats and chicks. TC Boyle is clearly the most under apreciated american writer of our age , in my opinion. Read this book. You won't be disapointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have just finished reading Drop City, and I have nothing bad to say about this book. Boyle does a great job of introducing the characters and the scene. The whole time I was reading the book I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next. It gives a great look at the way some people of lived their lives outside of the 'straight' world, with nothing but drugs, sex, and free love on their mind. I would recommend this book to anyone who just wants to get lost in a book for a little while. It was definatley a page turner!!
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After hearing so much about this book and repeatedly picking it up and putting it down in bookstores, I finally read it and I¿m glad I did. T.C. Boyle is fast becoming one of my favorite writers and I¿m sad that I didn¿t start reading him earlier in my life. His ability to sharply define characters with dialogue, description and action is a finely-honed talent. He pulls no punches and doesn¿t solely create people that everyone will identify with or even like. One thing I do like about Boyle, that others find irritating, is the fact that he doesn¿t beat you over the head with an idea. He gives it shape and power and then lets the reader draw the conclusion. Some say this is lack of depth, but I don¿t think it is because he has no depth, just chooses not to drag the reader down into it.I really enjoyed the parts that told about life in such a remote and extreme place. It was a bit like little house on the prairie because of the lack of mod cons. Ces and his wife made almost everything they had including the cabin. But they loved it. The garden was a joy. The trapping a job. The dogs weren¿t pets, they were necessary equipment. No power or running water either (unless you count the river). Their dependence and independence were balanced and the fact that they opted out was compelling. I was kind of jealous of their ability to confidently eschew most of the modern world. As much as I¿d like to strip away all of my dependence on society and all of its mod cons, I cannot. They are too firmly part of how I view the world and how I live. But these folks don¿t need that and can leave it behind with a sigh of relief.The communal hippie lifestyle on the other hand, I have no wistful longing for. A person would really need to be selfless to live this way. To make it work, each person would have to care more about the whole than himself. Because only as a whole can it survive. If each member didn¿t suppress her innate selfishness, it would collapse. I don¿t have that kind of giving nature. As it turns out, very few did in this story. Sure, when times were good, they were all happy and loving and all was right with the world. But whenever some kind of hardship arose, those other core attributes of humanity came out with a vengeance. People started hording food, acting out violently from jealousy, abusing positions of leadership. All part of being human, but not helpful for a communal society.And all the drugs were off-putting. How can people even function with that amount of chemical interference? Perhaps that¿s part of the glue that holds them together though. Maybe it allows them enough illusion to keep functioning. Maybe it keeps the darker nature at a bay longer. At any rate, keeping a constant supply of pot and other drugs was paramount for the members of Drop City. I thought it would be more of a hindrance in Alaska than it was, but they still survived while stoned, although not as thoroughly stoned as they were in California.Unlike The Inner Circle, this novel does have a plot, a goal, something that needs to get done. Sure, we get a lot of extraneous detail, but it is a joy to read and Boyle wrings emotion from the reader in many forms; anger, hope, joy and world-weary frustration. That¿s what the hippies engendered in me anyway. They made me laugh with their dopey view of the world, but that also made me frustrated. Couldn¿t they see what their problem was? They cherry-picked qualities of human nature, taking the ones they liked and leaving the ones they didn¿t. Just because they didn¿t like deceit, violence or selfishness, doesn¿t mean they could escape them.And they are not the only ones who long for escape. The other half of the tale starts with the small town of Boynton, Alaska. Situated at the end of the state highway, Boynton is about as remote as you can get and still have a road. People who chose to live here are pretty unique. They¿re self-sufficient, yet know their reliance on o
sanddancer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book begins in a commune in California in the late 1960s where a group of hippies of living out their ideals. But factions start to form in the commune and there is trouble with the authorities so they decide to move to Alaska where they hope they can be truly free. At the same time, a young woman moves to Alaska looking for a man to live with out in the wilds. The narrative changes perspective from the point of view of various characters over the its course. There is a sense of inevitability that things are going to go wrong with the communal living so it isn't the most original storyline, but the Alaska part adds an interesting dimension and you get a real sense of the hardships of these lifestyle choices.
wpschlitz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Last time I was looking for a book to read my girlfriend was watching a TV show about California hippies "living off the land" and some Alaskan lady and her son doing the same... whoever produced that must be a Boyle fan. It reminded me that I'd enjoyed this book the first time so I figured I'd give it a reread.Just as good the second time.Your usual Boyle fare... I just want to know what happens next!
DreamingTikay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My First Review of this book:"Don't Even Bother"This is the most devilish account of life in a commune...not at all accurate! IS HE KIDDING ME! What this person (T.C. Boyle)reports about life in an intentional community, is so off that it makes me shudder. If you happen to have read it and found it to be a truthful account then I know you have never bothered to visit a "hippy" commune or ventured to live in one. It is utter ridiculousness. I found myself in a constant state of shock while reading what his sick imagination came up with for the daily goings on in a commune. If a writer has no idea what they are writing on, they need to take some time off from pumping out novella and get to a research course. I am still aggered and I grabbed this pulp fiction the minute I found out that it was about my clan. At least someone bothered to write on the subject, too bad he had absolutly no clue about his subject. Even the people he writes about in Alaska, wilderness men. all seem to be portrayed as thugs, and total drunkerds. Nice Mr. Boyle...the only two novels I have read of yours make me think that there is no hope for the world. Even the good guys are painted so UGLY. It just makes you want to give up. I am already somewhat worried about the way things seem to be going at times, you are no comfort, and lead the mind to some very dark speculation. Is it meant to shake a finger at the wrong-doers I think not, it occurs to me that you have a very low opinion of some fairly decent folks. The story of the commune has yet to be written. We should all take up our pens...those who have acutally lived it and those who have a finer mind. This work was almost indecent, in all of its inaccuracies. Rape of a child in the first chapters and feeding babies drugs soon thereafter. I just get sickened. Take a class in research Mr. Boyle... NOW... My latest review in amazon:I didn't enjoy reading this book, not because of any lack of imagination or talent on the part of the author. If you're into dismal fantasy, this is as good as it gets. The lack of reality, was a huge dissappointment. Coming from the perspective of one who has lived in a commune. I was actually enraged at times and spent the majority of my reading time trying to be objective about T.C.'s his lack of care of the people he was damning with this book. I read Tortilla Curtain after just ro see what sort of writer he was, I found him to have a nasty attitude, and while the story was compelling, he is a good writer...he appered to me to be a bigot and a falsifyer. His perspective is skewed in an unholy direction. Just my opinion. I cannot abide his foul take on things, though I can see his skill as a writer...which makes me dispise him even more. He will influence many with his persuasive intellect, and that worries me. He is angry and unforgiving, and it shows.
jasonpettus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com].)(Just like anyone else who is a lover of great books, I find myself sometimes with a desire to become a "completist" of certain authors; that is, to have read every book that author has ever written. This new series of essays chronicles that attempt.)So first, a confession, that I still have a long way to go before becoming a completist of author TC Boyle; this is only the second novel of his I've read, to tell you the truth, the other one being The Road to Wellville, possibly his most famous because of the 1994 movie version starring Anthony Hopkins, Matthew Broderick, Bridget Fonda, John Cusack and more. Oh, but what a novel! Who knew that a contemporary author could paint such a vivid picture of events that happened nearly a century ago -- in this case, the formation of the various health spas in the upper Midwest at the turn of the 20th century, which for those who don't know were the groups who accidentally invented our modern breakfast cereals? In fact, this is one of the things that Boyle is most known for as an author; for his meticulous and exacting research into whatever time period he is writing about, and whatever crazy events were happening during that time period. Now combine this with Boyle's ability to effortlessly jump between comedy and drama, his masterful touch as a story plotter, and a personal writing style that is both unique and never manages to call attention to itself, and you've got yourself one very admired and award-winning novelist indeed.And of the eleven novels that Boyle has now written, arguably one of his best-known ones is 2003's Drop City, mostly because it's about the American hippie movement of the 1960s and '70s, of which Boyle was a part of himself in his own youth (having gotten his Bachelor's degree in 1968, for those who don't know). And yes, just like Wellville, this novel also features a semi-wacky concept to propel the story forward; in this case, it's about a group of young people who start their own "free love" commune at the end of the '60s (the aforementioned Drop City), which gets its start in California after founding member Norm inherits a large chunk of land from a recently expired relative. And yes, just like Wellville, Boyle uses this semi-wacky concept for both humorous and dramatic purposes; to sometimes viciously make fun of how unequipped most of these idealistic flower children are to actually "live off the land," while still legitimately admiring their desire to do such a thing, and arguing why such a desire is ultimately a good thing that all of us should at least partly aspire to.And of course, this being Boyle, the fun doesn't stop there; about halfway through the book, in fact, the residents of Drop City get tired of all the hassles of being in California (the constant police harassment, the endless hippie mooches), and decide on a whim to move to Alaska instead, where Norm has access to yet more land owned by a relative, a grizzled fur-trapper uncle who has recently retired and moved to Seattle. And thus does Boyle get the chance to expand the story even further, by introducing the existing population of that small Alaskan town as characters themselves, and by hopping back and forth between the two groups' storylines until the moment the hippies actually get to Alaska and the plots suddenly merge.In fact, it is within these interchanging storylines where Boyle's main strength as a writer can be seen; of the way he is able to not only parody the foibles of both groups, to point out their weaknesses and inconsistencies in a way that's oftentimes hilarious, but also display a lot of affection for both groups as well, and make us by the end fall in love a little with them too, or at least to find both groups compelling enough that we eagerly keep reading, anxious to find out their fates. And this is one of the things I really loved about Wellville
sproutchild on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
T. C. Boyle is brilliant. Still regret missing seeing him give a reading. First book was Tortilla Curtain then on to Road to Wellville. Drop City turns my whole regret at not having been part of the hippie movement on its head. He's so good at getting right to the heart of the issue.
nivramkoorb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have wanted to read T.C. Boyle and started this book on audio. Did about 2/3 that way and read the rest. Having come of age during that timeframe I can relate a lot to the subject matter. It also helps to be from San Francisco and familiar with Northern California. The writing was great. My only complaint was that it took way too long to get them up to Alaska. I thought the ending was tied up a little too cleanly. It does seem like a sequel could be written. It was only after I started reading this that I found out it had been a finalist for the National Book award. I can understand why. Great book!!!!
Jamnjazzz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As with everything TC Boyle, wit, thought and a good degree of meaningfulness are present. Maybe may favorite from him to date, if only because of subject matter. Kinda like the electric kool-aide acid test with sarcasm.
klarusu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a random, experimental book choice - it was on the 1001 Books list and I hadn't read any T.C. Boyle before so I mooched it as a trial balloon. It was certainly a satisfying read and I'm going to search out more of his novels after this.This book centres around two drastically different communities in the late 60s/early 70s hippy era: a commune in California and a bush community in Alaska living off trap lines and hunting trips. Boyle carefully sets up both of these communities as opposing ends of the same phenomenon - both, in their individual ways, are trying to drop out of a mainstream American society that they feel no fraternity with. However, that's where the similarity ends as these two are mirror images of each other. The commune may attract tourists and converts but its commitment to living off the land is laughable in comparison to the Alaskans, whose continued existence depends on it. It soon becomes clear that these communities are heading for a spectacular collision.There is an underlying irony; that the eponomous Drop City community, formed as a means of dropping out of society and living in harmony with the land, finds it impossible to do so despite the visible evidence that it is possible, provided by the Alaskans they live alongside. The longer Drop City remains in the Alaskan bush, the more this becomes a study of the decay and breakdown of a society under pressure created by the reality of living wild in Alaska. It is a symbolic representation of the disintegration of the dream the commune member have, the artificial, romanticised version of Alaskan life they have constructed in their minds. I have seen this book described in other reviews as a comment on the American Dream. If that is the case, then Boyle seems to have penned a fairly damning indictment of those who seek it, implying naivety and unrealistic expectations.It is a well-characterised and complex novel, certainly not just 'one of the crowd' of hippy novels this period continues to spawn. The question remains, is it a great book? For me, it was a very good book, competently executed, enjoyable and easy to read but it never really crossed the line to greatness. Possibly it suffered from the fact that I didn't really like any of the characters. There was certainly little that really stuck with me from this but it was enjoyable enough that, as I said earlier, I will read more from T.C. Boyle. An enjoyable read but not necessarily a 'must-read'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Long dreary story about hippies wanting to live off the land going to Alaska where people really do live off the land.
rayski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Naïve hippies learn about society when forced to live off the land in Alaska.
jemsw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The depiction of commune living here is so vivid as to be somewhat unsettling. The pettiness, irresponsibility, and complex villainy of some characters is highlighted by the patience, determination and righteousness of others, who work to keep the commune afloat through difficult transitions. The climax is, unlike in so many modern novels, both shocking and satisfying.
ireed110 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The California commune attracts too many moochers, cops, and zoning laws, so Alaska looks better. Alaska's not as easy as it looks.
Zmrzlina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read T.C. Boyle's, Tortilla Curtain, which I did enjoy, though not love. Having now read two of his books, I think I might retire this author to my "Only If There Is Nothing Else To Read" list. Not that I didn't like this story, I did, but I don't think I could take another tale of good and evil and how easy it is to confuse the two. One of the annoying things in this book is the author's tendency to use the given and hippie names of the Drop City residents interchangeably. I was always forgetting whose name had been changed to what. I am sure there is a reason for this back and forth between the two names, but for the life of me I can't figure it out.The ending sort of reminds me of the movie American Beauty. At the end, everyone sort of gets what they want or deserve (and Boyle makes it clear that what you deserve is what you really want), but the reader is left wondering if that really is the case after all. I rather like the ending, which is why this book gets a higher rating.
franhigg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent novel which seems to me to have no weak points at all. The action is set in the late 1960s, and charts the fortunes of Drop City, a hippy commune in California that is forced by the opposition of the straight world to up sticks and transfer its operations to one of the remotest parts of Alaska, where its leader has inherited some property. The first half of the novel develops two parallel story lines, one following the declining fortunes of the commune, and the other setting the scene in and around the remote town of Boynton - the furthermost reach of mainland USA's road system - where the hippies will eventually arrive. The second half of the novel deals with what happens when they do, and although I enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot too much to give anything away, it will not spoil your pleasure if I say that there is far more to this clash of cultures than a simplistic opposition of locals and interlopers.The author's style is punchy and direct, and so is ideally suited to the subject, with an omniscient narrator whose tone of exposition varies according to whichever character is prominent in the story. There is a lot of fun at the hippies' expense, but they are not caricatures, for some of them reveal unexpected strengths and talents: one of the pleasures of the book lies in the author's exploration of their multi-faceted personalities. Likewise, although the novel is no advertisement for the denizens, culture or climate of Alaska, we come to understand something of what impels people to live lives of almost unimaginable hardship in hand-built cabins with no services or communications, enjoying a diet of moose and bear and not much else, and where the night of winter is several months long and the temperature regularly falls to 40 below freezing. Having no experience whatsoever of all this, I am quite unable to say how authentic the author's narrative actually is, but I found it totally convincing - parts of it could almost be used as a survival manual!Although the topography and natural history of Alaska, not to mention its strangeness for most readers, almost require the author to indulge in passages of description, these are always subservient to the development of plot and character, and there are no wearisome purple patches. Indeed, the narration carries the reader along in fine style, the pages flash by, and in an almost unprecedented event I kept away from the internet for 48 hours, every spare moment being given over to finding out what happened next.Wholeheartedly recommended!
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This book is wonderful. As soon as I finished it I wanted to read it again
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