By Adrian Ernesto Cepeda
When some think of The Harder They Come, shades of reggae singer Jimmy Cliff’s 1972 Jamaican crime film and his song of matching title come to mind. However, once readers devour T.C. Boyle’s new book of the same name, I have a feeling they will be thinking of anything but reggae and Jamaica. This author has taken the classic moniker and given it a Harder redefinition.
Admittedly, there’s still a wait period to actually get your hands on the book, as it doesn’t come out until March 31 of this year. However, this regular WordTheatre contributor has had an affinity for taking center stage, and we know his stories can hold immense sway over the mind. This should hold especially true to a novel, that Boyle told the Kenyon Review, “deals with the American penchant for violence and how this ties in with our frontier mentality (yeah, and don’t you dare tread on me!)”. It is of no surprise that T.C. Boyle would take on such a prominent subject that has been evolving with American culture and is a center point of many debates.
What is most curious about this upcoming work though is how it contrasts with his novel San Miguel. According to T.C. Boyle, “‘it occupies the opposite pole from the novel that preceded it, San Miguel, which was told from a female point of view and explored the hermetic existence of three women on an island. If San Miguel was contemplative, this one should get your pulse pounding. Really pounding.” That’s a promise you can expect to be kept as this writer always delivers.
But what you might not expect from such a prolific author is that a writer’s life wasn’t the calling he dreamed of living. He told The Huffington Post, “I didn’t realize that you could be an author ’til my junior year in college when I blundered into a creative writing class. Prior to that I had two ambitions: The first was musical; I studied saxophone in high school and could play the living hell out of the instrument, sight-reading and sight-transposing, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, both for me and the world) I flunked my audition at the music college I went to because I had no feel for the kind of music they expected us to play. I made up for this by becoming, like all young Americans, a rocker. The second ambition, or rather the first, since it preceded music, will come as no surprise to my readers, who have traced my musings about the environment through the many turnings of my books and stories.”
Another particular characteristic is that, unlike most authors, Boyle loves meeting the public and taking to audiences about his novels and love of craft as he recently told The Paris Review, “Most writers are writers because they are introverts who have chosen a profession in which they don’t have to deal with anyone. I, on the other hand, don’t mind getting up onstage and doing everything I can to engage and entertain an audience, for which I’ve been misunderstood and even reviled in some quarters, as if literature is some sort of priesthood and by making people laugh and writhe I’m somehow an apostate. But to my mind literature is alive, a living, vital art form that needs to appeal to its audience—not pander to it, but appeal to it in the highest and lowest way.”
I am dying to see the ways in which T.C. Boyle articulates The Harder They Come. There is so much for his voice to take on and carry us through.