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The Tortilla Curtain

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About the Author

T.C. Boyle is an American novelist and short story writer. Since the late 1970s, he has published sixteen novels, most recently The Terranauts and The Harder They Come, and ten collections of short stories. He won the PEN/Faulkner award in 1988 for his novel World's End, and the Prix M�dicis �tranger for The Tortilla Curtain in 1995; his 2003 novel Drop City was a finalist for the National Book Award. His honors include the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, the Henry David Thoreau Prize for excellence in nature writing, and the Rea Award for the Short Story. He is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California and lives in Santa Barbara.


This 1995 novel contrasts two starkly different Los Angeles couples and two cultures in opposition. With a heavy hand on ironic parallels, it alternates between a young Mexican who, without money, working papers, or roof over his head, struggles haplessly to provide for himself and his pregnant wife and an affluent nature writer whose wife sells real estate and lives with him in a pristine, insulated development. As frustrations intensify in both worlds, the fated course of collision is carefully charted in Boyle's maturest prose to date, but only the Mexican side of the picture is engaging. Boyle's realistic dialog lacks any resonance or dimension, a fault that only vanishes in the Mexican conversations, perhaps because he is trying less to prove he has "an ear." Barbara Rosenblat does little, besides rolling the "r" in "tortilla," to suggest Spanish speech; she tries too hard to make the upscale dialog sound chatty, making it sound turgid instead. Boyle's conception is simplistic, populated with easy types, and the relish with which he limits his contemptible white couple and idealizes the Mexicans (who are, after all, breaking the law at every turn) weakens the enterprise. But his final message of compassion in the face of impossible odds is movingly told and is one for our time. Recommended for larger literature collections.‘Peter Josyph, New York

"A compelling story of myopic misunderstanding and mutual tragedy." --Chicago Tribune "Succeeds in stealing the front page news and bringing it home to the great American tradition of the social novel . . . A book to appreciate as we peer at the faces of strangers outside our windows, and wall ourselves in." --The Boston Globe "Lays on the line of our national cult of hypocrisy. Comically and painfully he details the smug wastefulness of the haves and the vile misery of the have-nots." --Barbara Kingsolver, The Nation

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