BookBrowse Reviews Talk Talk by T.C. Boyle

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Talk Talk

by T.C. Boyle

Talk Talk by T.C. Boyle X
Talk Talk by T.C. Boyle
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2006, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2007, 352 pages

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A thrilling road trip across America and a moving story about language, love, and identity

From the book jacket: The first time Bridger saw Dana she was dancing barefoot, her hair aflame in the red glow of the club, her body throbbing with rhythms and cross-rhythms that only she could hear. He was mesmerized. That night they were both deaf, mouthing to each other over the booming bass. And it was not until their first date, after he had agonized over what CD to play in the car, that Bridger learned that her deafness was profound and permanent. By then, he was falling in love.

Now she is in a courtroom, her legs shackled, as a list of charges is read out. She is accused of assault with a deadly weapon, auto theft, and passing bad checks, among other things. Clearly there has been a terrible mistake. A man—his name is William "Peck" Wilson as Dana and Bridger eventually learn—has been living a blameless life of criminal excess at Dana's expense. And as Dana and Bridger set out to find him, they begin to test to its limits the life they have started to build together.

Comment: As a writer, Boyle tends to follow a pattern, alternating novels with short story collections and historical backdrops with contemporary settings ("Moving back and forth keeps me alive"). In Talk Talk, which follows Drop City and The Inner Circle, he delves deep into the modern-day nightmare of the "victimless crime" of identity theft . Upstanding citizen Dana Halter's life becomes a Kafkaesque nightmare when she is pulled over for a minor traffic infraction and finds herself thrown into jail for the crimes another has committed in her name. Three days later she is released from jail having proven in court that "she" cannot be the "he" who has committed the crimes, but her nightmare is just beginning - she's lost her job, her car's impounded and the debt collectors are on the phone.

Through a rather awkward coincidence that doesn't entirely ring true, Dana's boyfriend, Bridger, discovers the thief's phone number and chooses to dial it instead of reporting it to the police. This sets in motion a slow-mo chase across the country as Dana and Bridger attempt to track down and confront the man who has been passing himself off as Dana.

In Talk, Talk, Boyle explores the whole concept of identity, not just identity theft. As the fake Dana chops and changes his identity and the real Dana fights to be understood in a hearing world, readers will question how we define our own identity and how others perceive us by the identity we display.

Boyle ratchets things up a further notch by developing the perpetrator's character in as much depth as the victim's, giving us insight into his motives. Although most readers will find William "Peck" Wilson a self-pitying, self-centered social pariah of the first order, we are also privy to his few admirable qualities and can see how he has become the person he is. In Wilson's mind he is not a criminal, he is simply using his initiative to take a piece of the American dream for himself. In Michela Wrong's In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz, the author references a Congolese expression, "a mouse that goes hungry in a grain store has only itself to blame" - Peck is the mouse taking advantage of the plentiful bounty on offer.


About the Author

T.Coraghessan Boyle published his first collection of short stories in 1979 (Descent of Man), followed by his first novel, Water Music, in 1982 which the New Republic described as "pitiless and brilliant". Since then he has published more than 18 books. In a 2006 article in Publishers Weekly he expressed his appreciation for his publisher, agent and, most of all, his readers in the most enthusiastic superlatives, saying, "I will never get over the thrill and honor of knowing that I am touching people in some way. To have an audience is a miracle. It's pure joy to connect with them ... exhilarating!"

He started to mull over the question of how we identify ourselves after his dentist happened to mention that the patient before him was deaf.

"What would it be like to be deaf, since language is such a part of who we are?" he wondered. "The deaf have a totally different culture. Computers have changed everything, but traditionally the language of the deaf is a visual and spatial language. This gave me a way of talking about identity theft. My character would be deaf, someone with a special identity, something the thief could not have imagined."

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in August 2006, and has been updated for the June 2007 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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