Friday, October 29, 2010

Talk Talk

Talk Talk by T. C. Boyle
Bloomsbury (Great Britain), 2006
Trade Paperback, 416 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0747586197
Very Highly Recommended

For his riveting eleventh novel, Boyle offers readers the closest thing to a thriller he has ever written, a tightly scripted page turner about the trials of Dana Halter, a thirty-three-year-old deaf woman whose identity has been stolen. Featuring a woman in the lead role (a Boyle first), Talk Talk is both a suspenseful chase across America and a moving story about language, love, and identity from one of America’s most versatile and entertaining novelists.
My Thoughts:

Dana Halter is a 33 year old PhD who teaches the deaf. She also happens to be deaf herself. At the beginning of Talk Talk, Dada is stopped for a minor traffic violation and subsequently arrested and taken to jail. She has been a victim of identity theft and the man who stole her identity is wanted for some serious crimes. After the mistake is discovered and Dana is released, she and her boyfriend, Bridger Martin, set out to find and stop the man who has stolen her identity.

The story then introduces us to William "Peck" Wilson, the scam artist who has stole Dana's identity. He figures out that they are on to him and flees across the country, with Dana and Bridger in pursuit. As the novel unfolds, we alternate between the point of view of these three characters. It is a pursuit and a trip of self discovery.

Boyle is a great writer. I really think he could take any plot and make it better simply based on his skill. But, as I was looking over various Amazon reviews, I noticed that several implied that details were left unexplained. Not true. I can recall an explanation for everything they questioned. So, that leaves me to believe that their reviews did a disservice to T.C. Boyle. Boyle is an excellent writer that you need to read carefully. He chooses words carefully, with clear descriptions and explanations. You need to follow what he reads, not skim through the book for the action as you would other novels because, while I thought the action kept the momentum and suspense going, I really think the action was just a vehicle for other, deeper explorations of the human psyche, identity, and the meaning of communication.

Okay, off the soap box. I really enjoyed Talk talk. I wasn't crazy about the ending, but I understood and accepted it. Very Highly Recommended


She was running late, always running late, a failing of hers, she knew it, but then she couldn't find her purse and once she did manage to locate it (underneath her blue corduroy jacket on the coat tree in the front hall), she couldn't find her keys. They should have been in her purse, but they weren't, and so she'd made a circuit of the apartment — two circuits, three — before she thought to look through the pockets of the jeans she'd worn the day before, but where were they ? No time for toast. Forget the toast, forget food. She was out of orange juice. Out of butter and cream cheese. The newspaper on the front mat was just another obstacle. opening

The color rose to her face — she was being arrested , and in public no less — and for a moment she was paralyzed. All she could think of was the shame of it, a shame that stung like some physical hurt, like the bite of an insect, a thousand insects seething all over her body — she could still feel the hot clamp of his hands on her ankles, her thighs. It was as if he'd burned her, scored her flesh with acid. pg. 8

It took her a moment, the blood burning in her veins, her face flushed with shame and anger and frustration, until she understood: it was a case of mistaken identity. Of course it was. Obviously. What else could it be? Someone who looked like her — some other slim graceful dark-eyed deaf woman of thirty-three who wasn't on her way to the dentist with a sheaf of papers she had to finish grading by the time her class met — had robbed a bank at gunpoint, shot up the neighborhood, hit a child and run. It was the only explanation, because she'd never violated the law in her life except in the most ordinary and innocuous ways, speeding on the freeway alongside a hundred other speeders.... pg 9

She was beside herself. Hurt. Furious. Stung. “There must be some mistake,” she insisted over and over again. “I'm Dana, Dana Halter. I teach at the San Roque School for the Deaf and I've never... I'm deaf, can't you see that? You've got the wrong person.” She watched them shift and shrug as if she were some sort of freak of nature, a talking dolphin or a ventriloquist's dummy come to life, but they gave her nothing. To them she was just another criminal — another perp — one more worthless case to be locked away and ignored. pg. 10-11

"No," Bridger said, "you don't understand. She didn't do anything. It's a mistake. I need to, well - I know this sounds crazy but I need to go down there and bail her out. Right now." pg. 19

She was wandering, again she was wandering, and she was thinking, unaccountably, of the talk fests they used to have in the dorm at Gallaudet, in Sign mainly, but with people speaking aloud too in a way that was all but unintelligible to a hearie, a kind of sing-along moan that underscored the signs. Talk talk. That was what happened when the deaf got together, a direct translation into English - they talked a lot, talked all the time, talked the way Bridger was talking now, only with their hands. Index finger of the four hand at the mouth, tapping, tapping to show the words coming out. When the deaf get together talk talk all the time. Communication, the universal need. Information. Access. Escape from the prison of silence. Talk, talk, talk. pg. 234-235


Danielle said...

I've never read anything by Boyle though I've picked up several of his books with interest. This one particularly appeals since it has a female protagonist and it verges on thriller material. I will have to look out for it!

Lori L said...

If you decide to read Talk Talk, I think it's very likely you'll enjoy it. I need to Read Boyle's The Tortilla Curtain someday...