Best-selling author T.C. Boyle shares stories with audience of 168

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – Illuminated only by a small podium lamp in the darkened Grand Ballroom, author T.C. Boyle took his audience of more than 160 into the lives of two modern, stressed fathers, on Oct. 9 at Christopher Newport University.

Boyle presenting at CNU

Describing himself as primarily a storyteller, the New York Times bestselling author of 24 books of fiction read aloud two of his many short stories: “Back in the Eocene” in which a girl’s drug-resistance school program leads her father to recall his own drug-filled past, and “The Lie,” originally published in The New Yorker in 2008, about a father who escapes work by faking his baby’s death.

A father himself, Boyle said that “Back in the Eocene” stemmed from his own experience, although very little of his other work is taken from his own “placid” life.

“I save all of the adventure for my characters,” he said.

A distinguished professor of English at the University of Southern California, Boyle’s novels and short stories have won numerous awards, appeared in most major American magazines, and been translated into more than two dozen foreign languages.

“Stories seduce you into thinking for yourself,” he said, “And entertain you as art.”

Writing from multiple perspectives on topics and time periods from early American history to hippies, immigration, health and the environment, Boyle said he doesn’t follow the advice to write what you know.

“I write stories to challenge myself. I like to write what I don’t know and find something out,” he said.

Environmental concerns, racism, familial relations and conspicuous consumption are among his themes, he said, reflecting his attempts to find hope and joy with art amid a belief that everything gets worse.

Pressed by an audience member for further explanation of the food motif in his work, he joked, “First, look at me. I never get enough to eat.”

Although, he added, he doesn’t want to offend his friends or audience members who are “foodies,” he thinks an obsession over food is trivial and a sign of conspicuous consumption in a world depleted of resources.

Prompted by another question, Boyle explained changing his name as a teen from Thomas John Boyle to Tom Coraghessan Boyle, adopting an Irish family name.

“I felt that I was special. Very special,” he said. “This can’t be. This name is too normal. I had to change it.”

After his talk, readings and questions, Boyle finished off the Thursday evening by greeting audience members and signing books.

Boyle at CNU

T.C. Boyle, New York Times bestselling author of 24 books of fiction, signs books for Doreen McDaniel and her 17-year-old son Justin McDaniel on Oct. 9 at Christopher Newport University’s David Student Union.

Boyle at CNU

T.C. Boyle, New York Times bestselling author of 24 books of fiction, presents an author talk and reading on Oct. 9 at Christopher Newport University’s David Student Union.

The Boyle author talk, reading and book-signing was the eighth free best-selling author event sponsored by the Virginia Peninsula Literary Consortium, consisting of the public libraries of Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson and York County and the academic libraries of CNU, Hampton University and Thomas Nelson Community College.

Previous events featured Amy Tan in 2007, Walter Mosley in 2008, David Baldacci in 2009, Orson Scott Card in 2010, Catherine Coulter in 2011, Nikki Giovanni in 2012 and Jeff Shaara in 2013. The Consortium formed in 2006 to encourage the study and enjoyment of books and to foster cooperation among all types of libraries on the Peninsula.

The Virginia Peninsula Literary Consortium brings together the public libraries of Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson and York County and the academic libraries of Christopher Newport University, Hampton University and Thomas Nelson Community College, collectively serving all residents of the Virginia Peninsula. Programs presented by the Consortium are free and open to the public. For more information on Consortium programs, please call 757-926-1350 or visit www.thevplc.org/.