I’m a creative person who is the child of scientists. My father was one of the greatest sulfur chemists of the 20th century and my mother was a physics and pharmacology educator and researcher for decades.
Art and music and writing is my genetic code, while my environmental education and upbringing was always one of deep and proper science. The latter influenced me to be rational and theoretical and to question and wonder about our world, my life. The former, to be social and to feel the world, to dance and to get high. So perhaps I’m biased in my reading of Boyle’s particularly incisive view of the scientists who are the main characters of The Terranauts. But let me tell you, it’s great.
It takes a lot of sensitivity and prosaic power to get inside the hearts and minds of people locked up together in an intense project, a collaborative effort of scale, or a prison, and express that faithfully. You really have to go through experiences like that or understand how working together happens in a deep way to attempt something like this. You have to understand people, socially and personally. Boyle does.
In The Terranauts, T. C. Boyle has invented an immense human project, populated it with entirely believable characters and embarked on a plumbing of their emotional and physical landscape with such brilliant detail, I find myself taken aback at the effort and his skill pulling it off.
His description of the technology of the Terranauts’ sealed-glass home in the desert is so vivid in detail down to the workings of the structure itself and including the flora and fauna – in some instances even described with Latin nomenclature in such a way as to feel beautiful – that I had to remind myself this place does not exist.
The pleasure I got from the contemplation of plants, animals and weather ‘inside’ by his characters is distinctly due to Boyle’s sensitivity, rooted in research and built with great prose. His descriptions of the emotional aspects of the scientists’ relationships to their subjects as well as to their co-workers is equally nuanced but even bolder.
The comfort Boyle has developed in delving into human sexuality here reveals an honest portrayal of our superficiality more than our capacity for love. But it isn’t cold.
Science is calculating.
Yet, there is so much of that capacity for love displayed – in the love of a scientific subject, or for the idea of team, or for loyalty as a badge of love. Even the subtleties of friendship and the complicated feelings that tie people together are handled exceptionally here.
This is a faithful portrayal of the emotional landscape of men and women put together for two years separated from us all, and Boyle has created a believable continuum that speaks to everyone about how we act.
Jealousy, lust, envy, competitiveness, anger, love, longing … it’s humans under glass.
T.C. Boyle gets us. His characters over the years are always like people I know or meet along the way. Here he throws four men and four women together separated by only inches from a half dozen of their friends, colleagues and lovers for two years solely for the purpose of expressing intimacy. It’s an incredible conceit seen vividly through.
Employing the style of first-person chapters collected together to do the telling works because of Boyle’s talent for briskness of plot. Though I don’t generally love the format, here it lets Boyle expand inner monologue, the guts of people’s feelings in confession, post-facto, as scientists would … really as anyone would.
Confessing after the fact, telling the truth and letting it out feels so good. It’s a really cool way to unreveal the “True Story of the Terranauts!”
The arrangement of these chapters and points of view is beautiful construction. The first-person chapters are woven in a way of telling the tale that seems complete, unfettered, whole. And it happens progressively.
It doesn’t take long to feel a part of this ecosystem and, once you’re in, you’re equally concerned as the characters as to whether the goats are getting fed or whether there are any tilapia left. You’re equally worried about O2 levels.
The characters are genuine, believable and, confessing their relatable flaws, they’re likable. Those who seem initially like obnoxious foes or nemeses go through transitions and humanize while the flaws of protagonists are openly dissected and brought down to earth.
My emotions changed towards characters and so I felt a part of the immense human enterprise. Like I was on the team, in the dome or at Mission Control, not some dopey tourist staring through the glass on my way to the Grand Canyon. Brilliant.
In retrospect the archetypal quality of the characters is resonant. The details make Boyle’s ecosystem a deeply human environment of our typical longings, lusts, and desires met and unmet. The way we see each other in constrained circumstances relates clearly to how we behave in society and Boyle uses an incredible palette of language to achieve this. I could feel the soil of the Ecosphere between my toes. I wanted to hug Linda, hard.
And, I guess typically for me, I felt kinship with Vodge and Linda and Gretchen.
I thoroughly recommend The Terranauts to anyone with brains and a heart – or for that matter a penis or a vagina.
Way to go, T.C.
A Word on T.C. Boyle’s Utter Coolness
T. Coraghessan Boyle is truly a social writer.
I don’t mean socially-conscious. Or Socialist. Or that he seeks to influence or corral a group of readers in some direct manner.
I mean he’s a social being … and an excellent writer.
His ‘socialness’ is apparent on Twitter where I have enjoyed daily images of his routines – the morning, the egg, the paper, the rat – and of his various voyages. But recently I became one of the many readers/followers to whom he has replied. I was reading his novel Talk Talk, (Viking, 2006), and tweeted some friends about it including his handle and what? what? @tcboyle dipped in to the thread to comment. Turns out he’s totally personable on Twitter and comfortable discussing his work in detail. (More on Boyle’s tweets in my review of Talk Talk).
So last week when I picked up his latest novel, I tweeted to tell him I was starting The Terranauts … and he responded! It was crazy. You can see the exchanges @mtksf. His openness and ease daily with his readers or the public or whatever twitter followers are, strikes me as pretty unusual for a novelist of his stature. I mean, he’s just so cool.
After 15 novels and dozens of short stories and collections, a bibliography of 25+ works, numerous national awards – the guy’s a prolific American man of letters – he still takes time out to hang with his twitter followers. Blows my mind. Though I shouldn’t be surprised. The one time I met him, pre-twitter in 2004, at KPFK in Los Angeles, he was totally present and easy-going, too.
He works at his discipline, teaches it, and is un-self-conscious enough to engage with his readers as a regular person. I can only conclude T.C. Boyle is as great a guy to hang out with as his novels are.
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Well the first fourteen games (four series) of the season are behind us and a couple of things are already clear.
Though we’re 5-9 and tied for last in the division with the Padres, we’re only four back because everyone in the NL West is actively beating up on each other. I have a strong feeling that’s how it’s going to be all year.
To get the Negative Nelly out of the way first, Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat is convinced after just 14 games that the Giants “dynasty is over,” and that we are not going to make the playoffs.
Me, I am not so sure. There’s a lot of baseball left to play.
Pluses and Minuses
Johnny Cueto is 3-0 while Madison Bumgarner has yet to win in three starts. Once again a Cy Young campaign for MadBum’s hamstrung early. sigh.
Our Gold Glovers Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford look awesome, but we lost Buster Posey to a fastball to the head. John Shea wrote this excellent piece on the after effects of getting hit in the head by a 90+mph baseball. It is reported that Posey may play in the series against Kansas City that starts tonight.
Nick Hundley has been really good in Posey’s absence, a stable veteran behind the plate who instills confidence in the position of backup C.
Nuñez ABs are fun to watch and he is a demon on the bases, but his play at third has been up and down. Let’s hope it’s early season stuff. I really like the guy.
Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence are looking good at the plate.
Matt Moore looks good for about 78- 85 pitches and then the drop off seems a little crazy. The fact Bochy doesn’t feel he can trust our ‘pen hurts in Moore’s starts.
But Mark Melancon turned around after his weak opening day showing and has looked considerably better.
Jeff Samardzija, like last year, is probably going to take a few starts to get going.
Matt Cain got a win! (Olney comments below)
LF has been a problem and it was compounded when Jarrett Parker made a great play only to crash into the wall and destroy his clavicle – gone eight to ten weeks.
On to the Reader
With Parker going down Chris Marrero could be seeing more time in left field. Kaila Cruz thinks that’s a good thing.
We traded Clayton Blackburn to the Rangers for a 21-year-old unproven utility infielder named Frandy De La Rosa – Brisbee explains why.
Jake Mastroianni has a closer look at the pitching and offense two weeks into the season.
Buster Olney had this to say about Matt The Big Horse and his win.
The Giants’ Matt Cain is facing a similar transition to the one that CC Sabathia has had to go through — adjusting to the reality that he cannot throw as hard as he used to and learning to mix his pitches differently. In Cain’s most recent start against Arizona, he did what catchers and pitchers refer to as pitching backward — by throwing breaking balls in counts in which pitchers typically throw fastballs and using his off-speed stuff to set up the less frequent use of his fastball. Cain allowed one run in five innings. Sabathia recalled an at-bat in which he pitched to Russell Martin a couple of years ago, when the left-hander had it in his mind that he would bust a fastball past his former teammate — but the best he could do was 90 mph, which Martin clubbed for a homer. Sabathia says now that he wishes he had started altering speeds with his pitches earlier in his career.
- Buster Olney on ESPN
If you haven’t yet read the sweet, sweet quotes in AlPav’s look back at Madison Bumgarner’s relief appearance in Game seven of the 2014 WS in KC, do it now.
Opening day in Phoenix was a massive, thick-beamed wood rollercoaster ride built by Madison Bumgarner that went off the rails in such a familiar manner it felt sickening – or for the less dramatic and more experienced fans, like typical Giants baseball.
During the frustration, I got into a Twitter discussion over the use of the word ‘torture’ to describe Giants baseball.
We all fell in love with Mike Krukow’s term in 2010 because it felt like a pure assessment of the near-misses that made it up: the earthquake, the 100 win season fail, the Angels in ’02, Pudge in front of the plate.
But personally, the torture I felt for 30 years was washed away by the immense wave of relief I felt on November 1, 2010 when we finally won it all for the first time in SF.
Giants fan Ted G, 57, disagrees. For him, SF Giants baseball is uniquely agonizing across decades win or lose. He thinks Krukow’s phrase, “Giants Baseball … Torture,” is emblematic of our pathos as an organization and the struggles we eternally endure.
“The term torture has nothing to do with not winning. Totally about how they go about creating situations that are torture.” – Ted G, @TedSFGman
I can see that, but whatever remnants of the feeling of torture that may have remained for me were certainly washed away by winning the way we did in 2012 – my favorite of the championships. We had to retire Melky Cabrera. Pablo hit 3Hrs – two off Verlander – and Romo dared and won with an incredible fastball to end it with Miggy looking.
Madison going out there in 2014 and ripping it away from the Royals cemented my feeling that we have earned well-deserved titles, establishing a kind of dynasty in an era when the back-to-back World Series championship has disappeared.
There hasn’t been a back-to-back World Series Champion in the 21st century. So for me, this ain’t torture any more, it’s working the details.
But enough about torture, lets get to
The first GBC Reader of the year:
It was a rough game because of the blown saves, but being opening day on the road, it really shouldn’t matter that much in the face of what Madison Bumgarner accomplished: the first pitcher in the 140 years of this game to hit two home runs on opening day put himself in position to win twice before the bullpen’s struggles came to bear. It was epic and #TheLegendofMadBum continues to grow.
Ashley Verala, the West Coast Fan Girl @wcoastfangirl has a sweet piece she calls Last True Renaissance Man of Major League Baseball about our Mad Bum.
Brisbee noted that Bumgarner was also the first Giant to hit two dingers on Opening Day since Barry Lamar. And Grant’s coverage of the debacle it became is actually considerably temperate – I think fatherhood is mellowing him out.
Hank is back in his seat for another long season and here’s his takeaways.
MLB dot com Columnist Joe Posnanski has some really excellent things to say about Madison’s performance, really putting the scale of MadBum’s audacity in nice perspective. He includes Statcast data regarding the speed of these HRs that if you haven’t checked out yet, you gotta see.
Haft chose to focus on MadBum’s dominance on the mound. Man, did he look good.
I like AlPav’s headline for his pretty close-up view of the guts of this one. Ruthian Game For the Ages from Bumgarner pretty much sums it up.
Baggs however seems to have felt more like I did. His piece drips with the wretched agony of cheating MadBum of the win.
But Mark Simon and Sarah Langs at ESPN were enthralled by our heroic pitcher.
I didn’t really have time to make this great, but hey, it’s the first one of the year. I’ll add some links later if I find more content.
I also apologized on Twitter for rage tweeting the value of Mark Melancon’s contract excessively yesterday. I am sorry. It was petty lashing out at the collapse and an irrelevant memory of last year that fueled my rage.
Which brings us to Jake Mastroianni’s piece about everyone who overreacted to the opening day loss.
Happy New Year everyone.
Should have moved slower and stayed further away.
not really HQ enough for the digital slo-mo to be that impressive and tracking this guy was hard – had to spin all the way around. Anyway, happy to see Ardea alba returning.
Maybe I saved a few frogs lives today!
Finally put together a playlist covering the Rocky Point Recharge Zone. Here are videos of birds, deer, reptiles, amphibians and insects in our area of study
This was a noisy Sunday in the field as the Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) were out screeching away trying to teach their young to fly and to walk across the street. Incredibly funny to me the way they act.