New PDF release: American Writers, Supplement XX

By Jay Parini

ISBN-10: 1414438923

ISBN-13: 9781414438924

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There is little hope for humanity in the face of such denial; the crusading scientists are our only hope. Boyle manages to treat the end of the world humorously in the title story of his 2001 collection After the Plague. The narrator, one of only a handful of human survivors, allows an irascible, unattractive woman into his house in the name of procreating the species, only to learn that she had her tubes tied years ago. He discovers another living woman with whom he is more compatible, but the two of them are attacked by his first lover, who destroys their house.

The rapists return to their lives without punishment; the victim ends the story in the hospital, only dimly aware of what has happened to her, and the drowned man becomes part of the food cycle, his flesh consumed by crabs, his skeleton picked apart by gulls. The cynical idea evolving here will become part of Boyle’s enduring message: that humans interact similarly to other animals, preying on the vulnerable, fulfilling their appetites at the expense of their own species, and suffering little or no guilt when their immoral nature is exposed.

The drive to profit from land and from the hard work of others makes the patroon immoral yet clearly powerful, and others must either submit to him or face his wrath if they resist. The novel centers around parallel historical events that are open to interpretation. In the seventeenth century, two young men are executed for rising up against the patroon; in the twentieth century, a concert in support of the Communist Party is violently broken up by a mob of local vigilantes, led by one descendant of the patroon, Depeyster Van Wart.

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American Writers, Supplement XX by Jay Parini

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