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TC Boyle, 64, is the author of 24 books of fiction including, most recently, Wild Child, When the Killing’s Done and San Miguel. He has won many literary prizes, including the PEN/Faulkner award, and is a professor of English at the University of Southern California.
What was your earliest ambition?
To be as close as possible with my mother. I remember being six months old and held in her arms. What a joy! I could crap directly in my pants and nap at will. Taxes? I’d never even heard of them.
Public school or state school? University or straight into work?
I am the product, exclusively, of public schools. We had excellent schools in suburban New York when I was growing up. I subsequently went to the State University of New York at Potsdam and then the University of Iowa for my MFA and PhD degrees.
Who was or still is your mentor?
I’ve had many, from junior high through grad school, but I’ll pick an artistic mentor: Robert Coover. His work provided the initial stimulus to my wanting to be a writer.
How physically fit are you?
I live in a village so I walk everywhere, just to go about my errands. I swim and hike. Amazingly, I still have a few hairs left on my head and most of my teeth.
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
They are linked inextricably. But let’s not forget the third factor: blind luck. Have you ever taken an IQ test? Yes. In elementary school. My mother was privy to the results but would never reveal them. Bless her!
How politically committed are you?
I hate all politics and all politicians (that is, the shills of the corporations who have the effrontery to claim they represent us).
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
As an environmental writer (see A Friend of the Earth), I am obsessed by it. As the hero of that novel says, just to be alive in western society is to be an enemy of the earth.
Do you have more than one home?
No. This would be environmentally insensitive.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
A tiger preserve as vast as all India.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
Water. We need it to survive, especially here in coastal California.
In what place are you happiest?
What ambitions do you still have?
I’ll paraphrase the former governor of this state, who, in his earlier role as Conan the Barbarian, said: “I want to drive my enemies before me and listen to the lamentations of their women and children.”
What drives you on?
The sheer joy of entering the dream of creation each day of my life.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Waking up this morning.
What has been your greatest disappointment?
That I haven’t yet been nailed to a cross like my original role model, Jesus of Nazareth (not that my enemies haven’t tried).
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
“Look at that decrepit old man. Why doesn’t he just crawl off and die?”
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
Buy a gun.
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
Yes. Wasn’t the myth that guided our youth the notion that we actually had individual rights?
Do you believe in an afterlife?
No. I believe in rot. Sadly.
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
Given the alternatives in an indifferent universe ruled by accident, I have been exceedingly lucky to be sitting here responding to your questions. So, I must say: give it a 10. With gratitude.
‘Stories II’ by TC Boyle is published by Bloomsbury, RRP£30
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