Cover image for A friend of the earth
A friend of the earth
Boyle, T. Coraghessan.
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Publication Information:
New York : Viking, [2000]

Physical Description:
271 pages ; 24 cm
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T.C. Boyle's range as a novelist is breathtaking; he is the kind of writer who is always setting himself new challenges, who never ceases to astonish. In A Friend of the Earth, "America's most imaginative contemporary novelist" (Newsweek) blends idealism & satire in a story that addresses the ultimate questions of human love & the survival of the species. A Friend of the Earth opens in the year 2025, as Tyrone O'Shaughnessy Tierwater ekes out a bleak living in southern California, managing a rock star's private menagerie of the species "only a mother could love"--scruffy hyenas, jackals, warthogs, & three down-at-the-mouth lions. Global warming is a reality. The biosphere has collapsed in a grim but very funny way, & most of the major mammalian species--not to mention fish, birds, & frogs--are extinct. Once, as we see in alternating chapters that flash back to the last two decades of the twentieth century, Ty was so seriously committed to environmental causes that he became an ecoterrorist & convicted felon. As a member of the radical environmental group Earth Forever!, he unwittingly endangered both his daughter, Sierra, & his wife, Andrea. Now, when he's just trying to survive in a world torn by obdurate storms & winnowing drought, Andrea comes back into his life. What happens as the two slip into a reborn involvement makes for a gripping, topical, & ever-surprising story that is certain to stir readers' emotions. Gritty & surreal, frightening yet touching, A Friend of the Earth represents a high-water mark in Boyle's career--his deep streak of social concern is effortlessly blended here with real compassion for his characters & the spirit of sheer exhilarating playfulness readers have come to expect of his work.

Author Notes

T. C. Boyle was born Thomas John Boyle in Peekskill, New York on December 2, 1948. He received a B.A. in English and history from SUNY Potsdam in 1968, a MFA from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1974, and a Ph.D. degree in nineteenth century British literature from the University of Iowa in 1977. He has been a member of the English department at the University of Southern California since 1978.

He has written over 20 books including After the Plague, Drop City, The Inner Circle, Tooth and Claw, The Human Fly, Talk Talk, The Women, Wild Child, and When the Killing's Done. He has received numerous awards including the PEN/Faulkner Award for best novel of the year for World's End; the PEN/Malamud Prize in the short story for T. C. Boyle Stories; and the Prix Médicis Étranger for best foreign novel in France for The Tortilla Curtain. His title's Sam Miguel and The Harder They Caome made The New York Times Best Seller List.

(Bowker Author Biography) T. Coraghessan Boyle is the best-selling author of "T.C. Boyle Stories," "Riven Rock," "The Tortilla Curtain," "Without a Hero," "The Road to Wellville," "East Is East," "If the River Was Whiskey," "World's End" (winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award), "Greasy Lake," "Budding Prospects," "Water Music," & "Descent of Man" (all available from Penguin). His fiction regularly appears in major American magazines, including "The New Yorker," "GQ," "The Paris Review," "Playboy," & "Esquire." He lives in Santa Barbara, California.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

It's the year 2026, and Tyrone O'Shaughnessy Tierwater, a 75-year-old eco-warrior who's done prison time for his assaults on lumber and power company equipment, muses, "The environment is a bore. And nobody wants to read about it." True, if he means that no one wants to be preached to, but Boyle, an ingenious and masterful storyteller, has written an eco-novel so charged with suspense, drama, and ironic humor, and so alive with compellingly complex and maddening characters, no reader, no matter how environmentally apathetic, will be able to resist it. Laced with tributes to the great eco-writer Edward Abbey and the radical group Earth First! (fictionalized as Earth Forever!), Boyle's tightly written tale explores the paradoxes inherent in environmentalism. Ty, an heir to a shopping-mall fortune, turned his back on consumerism after his first wife died on a camping trip. Left to raise their daughter, Sierra, he eventually marries Andrea, an environmentalist who gets all three of them involved in extreme forms of protest. In searing flashbacks, Ty remembers 1989, when they cut a trench in a logging road in Oregon, filled it with wet cement, and planted themselves there. Later, Sierra achieves martyrdom after living in a "grand old cathedral redwood" to keep a lumber company at bay. Ty now battles the horrific storms and skin-blistering heat born of global warming as he oversees a menagerie of all-but-extinct animals owned by an eccentric and wealthy rock star, Maclovio Pulchris, a dead ringer for Michael Jackson. But their efforts, just like all of Ty's courageous but futile acts of "ecotage," are doomed to failure. No matter how fervent their beliefs, or extravagant their tactics, Boyle suggests, environmentalists will always be David facing the Goliath of corporate entities. And nature, a force of unfathomable power, will remain a source of astonishment and humility for our marauding species as long as we live. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Mordantly funny and inventive, this take-no-prisoners novel revolves around a few of Boyle's favorite themes: obsessive hygiene, compulsive consumerism, uneasiness in the natural world and fear of technology. As the Vonnegutishly named Tyrone "Ty" O'Shaughnessy Tierwater reminds readers, "to be a friend of the earth you have to be an enemy of the people." In the year 2025, Ty is 75, by contemporary standards a young-old man, and zookeeper for a private menagerie in Santa Ynez, Calif. Most mammals are extinct, and the environment as 20th-century humans knew it is destroyed. Besieged by floods, drought and Force 8 winds, people tramp through pestilential mud, eat farm-grown catfish and drink rice wine. In flashbacks from the frenetic 21st-century sections to Ty's past as a rabid environmentalist in the late '80s and early '90s, Boyle choreographs a syncopated dance, riffing on the mores and manias of environmental crusaders. To prove a point in their early campaign, Ty and wife Andrea spend 30 days naked and unprovisioned in the wilderness, emerging triumphant. But otherwise, Ty is subjected to a lifelong series of humiliations, and his forthrightness about them makes him sympathetic, while eco-warriors in general are skewered as relentlessly as the bulldozer-driven corporations. A bad time is had by all, most notably by Ty's daughter, the tree-sitting Sierra, who, unlike Julia Butterfly Hill (the real-life tree-sitter who surely influenced Boyle), does not descend from her perch to publishing contracts and public radio interviews. Boyle (The Tortilla Curtain) allows for a hint of redemption in the end, but his depiction of the cruel fate of humankindÄthe fate of monkey wrenchers, lumber companies, the not-quite-engaged and the engaged, tooÄis as unflinching as it is satirical. Major ad/promo; first serial to Outside magazine; 8-city author tour. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The year is 2025, and global warming is a catastrophic reality; most mammalian species are extinct. Tyrone Tierwater looks back to the late 1980s, when he first predicted that disaster would happen. Although it was his activist wife, Andrea, who initially goaded him into joining the ecoterrorist group Earth Forever!, Tyrone and his daughter Sierra quickly surpassed Andrea in their commitment to monkeywrenching. Tyrone was repeatedly arrested for criminal trespass and the destruction of property and ended up spending years in prison. Meanwhile, Andrea advanced in the movement's leadership council, and when her husband's antics threatened her position, she quickly divorced him. In retrospect, Tyrone realizes that history's having proven him right offers little solace for a wasted life. In his new work, Boyle (Riven Rock) mercilessly skewers developers and environmentalists alike; clearly, developers have trashed the planet, but Boyle also shows that Tierwater's monkeywrenching is partly destruction for its own sake, and Earth Forever! is more interested in protecting its own bureaucracy than the environment. Even Mother Nature comes in for a drubbing, as when a wealthy rock star is eaten by one of the animals in his private zoo. What results is powerful satire that rethinks the basic premises of Edward Abbey's classic The Monkey Wrench Gang, arguing that there are no quick and easy solutions. This book shows Boyle maturing from a glib comedic talent to a more serious novelist. Recommended for most fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/00.]DEdward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Prologue Santa Ynez, November 2025         I'm out feeding the hyena her kibble and chicken backs and doing what I can to clean up after the latest storm, when the call comes through. It's Andrea. Andrea Knowles Cotton Tierwater, my ex-wife, my wife of a thousand years ago, when I was young and vigorous and relentlessly virile, the woman who routinely chained herself to cranes and bulldozers and seven-hundred-thousand-dollar Feller Buncher machines back in the time when we thought it mattered, the woman who helped me raise my daughter, the woman who made me crazy. Jesus Christ. If somebody had to come, why couldn't it be Teo. He'd be easier--him I could just kill. Bang-bang. And the Lily would have something more than chicken backs for dinner.         Anyway, there are trees down everywhere and the muck is tugging at my gum boots like a greedy sucking mouth, a mouth that's going to pull me all the way down eventually, but not yet. I might be seventy-five years old and my shoulders might feel as if they're attached at the joint with fishhooks, but the new kidney they grew me is still processing fluids just fine, thank you, and I can still outwork half the spoonfed cretins on this place.  Besides, I have skills, special skills--I'm an animal man and there aren't many of us left these days, and my boss, Maclovio Pulchris, appreciates that. And I'm not name-dropping here, not necessarily--just stating the facts. I manage the man's private menagerie, the last surviving one in this part of the world, and it's an important--scratch that, vital--reservoir for zoo-cloning and the distribution of what's left of the major mammalian species. And you can say what you will about pop stars or the quality of his music or even the way he looks when he takes his hat and sunglasses off and you can see what a ridiculous little crushed nugget of a head he was born with, but I'll say this--he's a friend of the animals.         Of course, there isn't going to be anything left of the place if the weather doesn't let up. It's not even the rainy season--or what we used to qualify as the rainy season, as if we knew anything about it in the first place--but the storms are stacked up over the Pacific like pool balls on a billiard table and not a pocket in sight. Two days ago the wind came up in the night, ripped the roof off of one of the back pens and slammed it like a giant Frisbee into the Lupine Hill condos across the way. Mac didn't particularly care about that--nobody's insured for weather anymore and any and all lawsuits are automatically thrown out of court, so don't even ask--but what hurt was the fact that the Patagonian fox got loose, and that's the last native-born individual known to be in existence on this worn-out planet, and we still haven't found the thing. Not a clue. No tracks, no nothing. She just disappeared, as if the storm had picked her up like Dorothy and set her down in the place where the extinct carnivores of all the ages run riot through fields of hobbled game--or in the middle of a freeway, where to the average motorist she'd be nothing more than a dog on stilts. The pangolins, they're gone too. And less than fifty of them out there in the world. It's a crime, but what can you do--call up the search and rescue? We've all been hit hard. Floods, winds, thunder and lightning, even hail. There are plenty of people without roofs over their heads, and right here in Santa Barbara County, not just Los Andiegoles or San Jose Francisco.         So Lily, she's giving me a long steady look out of the egg yolks of her eyes, and I'm lucky to have chicken backs what with the meat situation lately, when the pictaphone rings (think Dick Tracy , because the whole world's a comic strip now). The sky is black--not gray, black--and it can't be past three in the afternoon. Everything is still, and I smell it like a gathering cloud, death, the death of everything, hopeless and stinking and wasted, the pigment gone from the paint, the paint gone from the buildings, cars abandoned along the road, and then it starts raining again. I talk to my wrist (no picture, though--the picture button is set firmly and permanently in the off position--why would I want to show this wreck of a face to anybody?). "Yeah?" I shout, and the rain is heavier, wind-driven now, snapping in my face like a wet towel.         "Ty?"         The voice is cracked and blistered, like the dirt here when the storms move on to Nevada and Arizona and the sun comes back to pound us all with its unfiltered melanomic might, but I recognize it right away, twenty years notwithstanding. It's a voice that does something physical to me, that jumps out of the circumambient air and seizes hold of me like a thing that lives off the blood of other things. "Andrea? Andrea Cotton?" Half a beat. "Jesus Christ, it's you, isn't it?"         Soft and seductive, the wind rising, Lily fixing me from behind the chicken wire as if I'm the main course: "No picture for me?"         "What do you want, Andrea?"         "I want to see you."         "Sorry, nobody sees me."         "I mean in person, face to face.  Like before."         Rain streams from my hat. One of the sorry inbred lions starts coughing its lungs out, a ratcheting, oddly mechanical sound that drifts across the weedlot and ricochets off the monolithic face of the condos. I'm trying to hold back a whole raft of feelings, but they keep bobbing and pitching to the surface, threatening to break loose and shoot the rapids once and for all. "What for?"         "What do you think?"         "I don't know--to run down my debit cards? Fuck with my head? Save the planet?"         Lily stretches, yawns, shows me the length of her yellow canines and the big crushing molars in back. She should be out on the veldt, cracking up giraffe bones, extracting marrow from the vertebrae, gnawing on hoofs. Except that there is no veldt, not anymore, and no giraffes either. Something unleashed in my brain shouts, IT'S ANDREA! And it is. Andrea's voice coming back at me. "No, fool," she says. "For love." Excerpted from A Friend of the Earth by T. C. Boyle All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.