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Bryan Hurt

Five Questions with T.C. Boyle About The Women

Bryan Hurt: The historian and literary critic Hayden White has said that all historical narrative (biographies, journals, chronicles, etc.) are forms of fiction, no more or less so than their literary counterparts. For you (a) what are the reasons for, and advantages of, exploring the past through the form of the novel? And (b) why use the past (i.e. "actual people") at all?

T.C. Boyle: I agree most emphatically with Mr. White. Which is part of the fun I'm having with The Women and other historical narratives I've pursued. In the present case, we have actual people doing actual things as reported in newspaper and biographical accounts, but their actions are filtered through the recollections of the book's editor, Tadashi Sato, who responds in footnotes to the rather odd text he's received in translation and amplification from his grandson-in-law, the unpublished Irish-American novelist, Seamus O'Flaherty. Where, one wonders, does the truth reside? Not simply the truth of fiction, but the truth of history.

The Kingdom of Norway

There's this bar we go to sometimes. It's called The Kingdom of Norway and it's very exclusive. In fact, it's so exclusive we've never been there. No one we know has ever been there and no one you know has ever been there either. If they say that they have, they're lying. But tonight—trust me—we're going. And after that we imagine it will be the type of bar we can say we sometimes go to.

There are three of us in the car, which is Matty's and is an old VW Rabbit. Matty is my roommate and he has been since college. Back then we called him Matty and he liked it. "Hey, Matty," we'd say. "What's up, Matty?" "How's it going, Matty?" "Matty, give us a high five."

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