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Mr Boyle used variations of this tragicomic trajectory to wonderful effect in an earlier story collection Descent of Man and two novels Water Music and Budding Prospects all widely and justly praised for their manic wit lush baroque language and narrative invention What hasnt been sufficiently emphasized however is that beneath its surface play erudition and sheer storytelling power his fiction also presents a disturbing and convincing critique of an American society so jaded with sensationalized images and plasticized excess that nothing stirs its spirit anymore As a Presidential candidate in one of Mr Boyles new stories puts it The great the giving the earnest energetic and righteous American people had thrown in the towel Rape murder cannibalism political upheaval in the Third World rock and roll unemployment puppies mothers Jackie Michael Liza nothing moved them It is into this world that Mr Boyle projects his heroes wh o are typically lusty exuberant dreamers whose wildly inflated ambitions lead them into a series of hilarious often disastrous adventures The story Greasy Lake whose title and epigraph are borrowed from Bruce Springsteen shows off his irreverence his gifts for social satire and slapstick humor and most of all his razzle-dazzle verbal energy Its a warm June night and three male spirits are driving around looking for the heart of Saturday night Bored drunk clad in torn-up leather jackets We were bad these suburban teen-agers are anxious to stir up some action But whats a fella to do when Thunder Road leads only to more housing developments and shopping malls They wind up out at Greasy Lake a mythic spot once known by the Indians for its clear waters but now littered with broken glass beer cans and contraceptives This the narrator explains was nature And its here that all the really bad kids come hoping to snuff the rich scent of possibility on the breeze watch a girl take off her clothes and plunge
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