The great Boyle is back with yet another collection of his edgy and dark short stories. The 14 stories range in subject from a newly-widowed man who finds comfort in the company of rodents
("Thirteen Hundred Rats") to a famous baseball pitcher whose mother is held for ransom
("The Unlucky Mother of Aquiles Maldonado"). Boyle loves his characters but he cuts them no slack. They rarely come out on the postive side of things, and though you're rooting that they will, you know that they won't.
In this ninth collection of short stories - including the novella-length title piece about Victor of Aveyron, the feral boy discovered in the French countryside during the reign of Napoleon - the writer wields his pen like a rapier.
Though some of the tales here fall a bit short of his most memorable short story collections like Greasy Lake and Descent of Man, he still leaves his contemporaries a distant second.
Here are the first few lines of a story called "La Conchita," about a deliveryman who runs into a bit of trouble:
"In my business, where you put something like forty to forty-five thousand miles a year on your vehicle and the sweet suck of the engine at 3,500 rpm is like another kind of breathing, you can't afford distractions. Can't afford to get tired or lazy or lift your eyes from the road to appreciate the way the fog reshapes the palms on Ocean Avenue or the light slips down the flanks of the mountains on that mind-blowing stretch of Highway 1 between Malibu and Oxnard. Get distracted and you could wind up meat. I know that."
Boyle slides in an out of his words like a slalom runner. You have the feeling that he has so much in reserve, you're just waiting for him to really turn on the literary jets and blow you out of your seat
- which he does over and over in Wild Child.
These aren't his best stories, but they are wonders of creation. If you've read everything else he's written - and you probably have - you'll want to read these,
just to appreciate those moments when he steps on the accelerator and zips across the page with prose no one else even comes close to.