Live from Elliott Bay

T.C. Boyle shared his latest, A Friend of the Earth with a capacity crowd down at Elliott Bay this evening. It was a lot of fun: Boyle is sardonic and personable, with a very sharp wit, and he showed off some extremely funny passages from the book. He also managed to turn the whole reading -- his introductory comments, the passages themselves, the Q and A period, even his little asides -- into a discussion on environmental issue, questions of the future and the present, mixing despair at the melting of the polar ice caps with a greived insistence on the painful fact that it's human population and consumption that are causing such havoc, but pulling everything together with a writer's insistence on articulating issues and his probing, intelligent wit.

Also, I was a little unfair on William Vollmann, I realize now. This is because the guy who asked Vollmann about the spaces between people and how they could be bridged, this guy was at the Boyle reading and he asked Boyle the same exact question, word for word, I think. So it's not just Vollmann who brings 'em out of the woodwork. Of course, where Vollmann got by with "Love. Love is the answer," Boyle managed to disarm the fellow by speaking nonstop for several minutes, in a long and quite interesting monlogue that ultimately wound up on the topic of the pond Boyle dug in his backyard: twenty feet across and five deep. "For the critters," he said. Apparently, digging and splitting table-sized rocks ("like in prison movies") provides a nice break from writing.

Boyle also had an interesting suggestion for fixing our planet's environmental problems, although he did not that it would require the cooperation of absolutely everyone on the planet. He noted that if we could all agree to abstain from sex for a hundred years, it would pretty much deal with the problem.