Sunday, May 17, 2015

"The harder they come, the harder they fall" -- the novel

"Violence is as American as cherry pie."

Black Panther and SNCC activist H. Rap Brown said this is a 1960s speech in Maryland. His life, unfortunately, became a testament to those words.

I was thinking of that quote as I read "The Harder They Come," the terrific new novel by T.C. Boyle. It's about the American way of violence. But it's also a family story, a heartbreaker for those of us who have raised challenging children. Boyle is a master stylist, a writer equally adept with the novel and the short story. He's best known for his dark humor and satire. We get that in this novel. But also a big helping of tragedy.

For his epigraph, Boyle reaches further back than the 1960s for a quote from D.H. Lawrence: "The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer. It has never yet melted."

If needed, you can immerse yourself in another dose of violence by watching the 1972 Jamaican crime film "The Harder They Come" and its Jimmy Cliff song of the same name. Despite reggae's "peace-and-love" rep, most of us boomers first encountered the music via a high body count.

I'm two-thirds of the way through Boyle's novel. So good and so horrifying, it's kept me up at night. It may do the same for you.

U/D 5/21/15: Finished the book. Glad I kept with it.

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