The Relive Box and Other Stories

T.C. Boyle's 11th short story collection, The Relive Box and Other Stories, depicts a world trapped in self-indulgence, unable to recognize its own collapse. Boyle, a prolific novelist and short story writer, is no stranger to using speculative fiction to speak to a larger American moment. In the title story, the mere existence of a memory machine forces a man to lose himself in his past, and in "You Don't Miss Your Water," a community in a drought watches as their bodies and lives shrivel around them. Boyle's stories may depict a world that does not quite exist, but in doing so it best captures the world of today, its boundless appetites and insatiable emptiness.

Despite their unsettling concepts, Boyle's stories ring with tinny humor and compassion. His sparse, clean prose and one-off punch lines feign cool indifference while speaking to the heft that lies beneath the surface of his work. The obsessive characters he so hypnotically renders reveal a grandiosity of passion and sorrow, perhaps best when highlighting what they lack. Whether this is a man's inability to leave his memories alone, or a husband's emotionless response to having a child, Boyle reveals more in the methodical way his characters approach the world than many writers accomplish through melodrama and complicated character revelations. With its kinetic style and bold concepts, this collection reasserts Boyle as a psychological translator for the modern era. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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