Note: this is neither a review (critical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses) of the author’s book nor one of my “Digested Reads” (in which I attempt to give both myself and the reader as complete an experience of the author’s arguments as I can manage in as short a space as possible), but an “Appreciation”— as in a quotation-heavy, somewhat-lengthy summary of and rumination upon some of the author’s key insights, but leaving out much of the particularity that make the book so worth reading. Whereas a “Digested Read” might be seen, by those in a hurry, as a substitute for reading the entire work, the following should hopefully take both you and I back to the book itself: it’s that……
Robert Downey Junior’s character Derek Lutz (in Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School (1986)) may well have been poaching, with tongue-in-cheek, from Don DeLillo’s End Zone when he quipped that “violent ground acquisition games such as football are in fact a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war,” but TC Boyle takes Lutz’s (or Delillo’s) conceit up a notch or two in “56-0”, which I jealously think is one of the most perfectly crafted stories that I have ever read. “56-0” can be found in Boyle’s Stories, but it was previously published in his 1992 collection Without a Hero, whose title is a perfectly apt controlling metaphor for the story as a whole, since, with seemingly effortless grace, Boyle has somehow managed not only to revivify one of American culture’s most clichéd of plotlines (an underdog team’s attempted, “against all odds” heroic “comeback”), but also to bring the ossified Aristotelian unities magically back to life, such that his story gains a remarkable, athletic equipoise, in which humour is locked into a dialectical deathgrip with existential gravitas. And—somehow—Boyle manages to make writing like this appear to be the most natural thing in the world….
This message, left on the Kingston, Ontario Cablenet answering machine in 1988, both inspired and is featured in White Mythology: