Monday, March 9, 2009

Drop City

Drop City by T. Coraghessan Boyle was originally published in 2003. My hardcover copy has 444 pages. T.C. Boyle is a gifted writer and it's a pleasure to read his writing. The story of the Drop City commune itself wasn't quite as enjoyable as Boyle's writing. While I enjoyed the juxtaposition of people living off the land in the Alaskan wilderness versus the hippies at Drop City's idea of going back to nature in California, I really did become tired of the Drop City denizens, and their drugs and sex in the first part of the novel. Actually, I appreciated the novel more once Drop City moved to Alaska and they had to learn some harsh truths. This is a highly recommended novel.

I was especially excited to discover that this book, picked up in a used bookstore clearance section was, in fact, a signed edition by T. C. Boyle. They really need to double check what they are doing. This isn't the first time I've found a hidden treasure there, beyond the books themselves.

From Book Magazine:

It's 1970, and the hippies at Drop City, a California commune, are grooving on acid, pot, free love and music by Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane. A thousand miles north in the Alaskan wilderness, a very different community of bourgeois "dropouts" exists: isolated trappers and homesteaders, such as Sess Harder and his new wife, Pamela, who live in a remote cabin and struggle against the brutally cold winter. For nearly half of Boyle's engaging novel, which depicts the sometimes tragic American desire for reinvention, the two communities remain separate, but when sanitary and legal troubles threaten Drop City, the hippies pile into their school bus and head north to Alaska, "the last truly free place on this whole continent." Through border crossings and Jack London-like treks in the cold, Boyle masterfully builds narrative suspense in anticipation of the collision of these two communities. Though some may find the blend of realism and naturalism too conventional for a novel about free love and communes, Boyle, always a skilled and generous storyteller, offers a stream of adventures, surprises and rewards.

"Outside was the California sun, making a statement in the dust and saving something like ten o'clock or ten-thirty to the outbuildings and the trees. There were voices all around her, laughter, morning pleasantries and animadversions, but she was floating still and just opened up a million-kilowatt smile and took her ceramic bowl with the nuts and seeds and raisins and the dollop of pasty oatmeal afloat in goat's milk and drifted through the door and out into the yard to perch on a stump and feel the hot dust invade the spaces between her toes. Eating wasn't a private act - nothing was private at Drop City - but there were no dorm mother's here, no social directors or parents or bosses, and for once she felt like doing her own thing. Grooving, right? Wasn't that what this was all about? The California sun on your face, no games, no plastic society - just freedom and like minds, brothers and sisters all?" pg. 3

Ronnie's brow was crawling and his mouth had dropped down into a little pit of nothing - she knew the look. Though he hadn't moved a muscle, though for all the world he was the hippest coolest least-uptight flower-child cat in the universe, he was puffing himself up inside, full of rancor and Ronnie-bile. He got his own way. He always got his own way..." pgs 8-9

"His name was Marco, and Norm Sender, the guy -cat - who'd inherited these forty-seven sun-washed acres above the Russian River and founded Drop City two years ago, had picked him up hitchhiking on the road out of Bolinas." pg. 13

"All the communities he'd been a part of, or tried to be a part of, had fallen to pieces under the pressure of the little things, the essentials, the cooking and the cleaning and the repairs, and while it was nice to think everybody would pitch in during a crisis, it didn't always work out that way." pg. 48

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