T.C. Boyle Takes a Hard Look at Violence in America

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Bestselling author T.C. Boyle has written 25 books and shows no sign of losing steam. The Los Angeles Times calls his latest, "The Harder They Come," "a full-throated Harley Davidson of a novel." The book begins with Sten Stensen, a Vietnam veteran who is vacationing in Costa Rica and kills an armed robber. When Sten returns home, he finds his unhinged son dating a much older woman and involved with a radical anarchist group. Infused with dark humor, Boyle's novel explores the woods of Northern California and the shadowy parts of the American psyche.

Interview Highlights

On Letting the Writing Lead Him

"It all happens line by line, day by day in an organic way. So everything that is behind me, I have to feel is very solid before I can go on. And it's -- I don't want to sound too mystical here, but the beauty of it, is for me, is to open up the unconscious mind and see where it takes me. Now, when I'm done with work each day, I forget about it. Except, on some level, I think I am trying to figure out these problems ... What are the themes? Why am I doing this? How do the characters interrelate? It's just an organic process, and I just follow it."

Boyle on Writing about Schizophrenia

"I'm writing about a specific case, from the news, in which the young man was schizophrenic. I am attracted to this particular mental imbalance because I have a very close friend, from childhood, who became increasingly schizophrenic as he grew into his teens, to the point in which he had to be institutionalized. He was non-violent, of course, and as you point out, most gun violence operates from one of us so-called "normal" people snapping. And if we had a weapon available, maybe we would use it."

Guests:

T.C. Boyle, author of 25 books, including "Wild Child," "When the Killing's Done" and his latest novel, "The Harder They Come"

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On the Myth of Substance Abuse and Writing

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"To think of our literary, film, and rock 'n roll heroes and that we could be geniuses too, if we were only high enough and that it's good to burn candles at both ends. I had my youth like everyone else, but then I became a dedicated artist. Now Ray Carver, who was a friend of mine, had his problems with alcohol and finally came clean and began to write his brilliant stories. I think it's very difficult, unless you're William Burroughs, to do both at the same time."

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