TC Boyle's Riven Rock

Santa Barbara-based author, TC Boyle, has made my reading list with several titles since I read The Tortilla Curtain in my California Literature class at UCLA. I recently finished Riven Rock, the next on my list since it's based in my current hometown. Well, based in the twentieth century Santa Barbara. It was an interesting read considering I started it when the topic of its contents felt all too familiar. I actually stopped reading it for awhile for these comparisons, but I finished and enjoyed it thoroughly. The characters are strong and their characterizations speak to the classes. I could go on...but I thought I would share some of my favorite quotations and how I felt reading them.

"He'd never realized death could be so loud. And it got louder. Telegrams arrived nonstop, newspapers ran headlines and front-page eulogies."
This couldn't be more true in today's times. Media doesn't allow the private sphere a chance to grieve, to think, to expel. While most of us require a quiet place to think and process, there's never a more difficult time to find that place than when we need it most.

"But he kept quiet because of the orange trees...and the best chance he had."
The orange trees came to represent the California ideal: the bright sunshine and the bearing of fruit in more ways than one. Be sure to let me know if you disagree.

"And then, he never understood how, she convinced him in a matter of seconds to throw over every principle he'd ever held sacred and every last drop of the ethical and religious training he's imbibed since birth, and come with her to her apartment."
Sometimes our emotions bare no consideration to morals or even personal expectations. The battle between the heart and the mind is continually being fought and while it seems virtuous to stand against indulgence, sometimes we learn the most from those occasions which bear no reason.

"I'm famished, Eddie," she said, and her voice had the same effect on him as that first sure sip of whiskey on a night when the barroom is lit like the reaches of heaven and nothing is impossible, "famished," she said. "For you."
This was the beginning of a love story. Don't they often begin with a first sure sip of whiskey?

"But all idylls have to end, as well he knew, and all too often they end with clamminess and insect bites and an ache in the head. They end with the break of day, a prick of the fog turned to drizzle, and painful rasping of some misplaced bird."
Moments in the wild; moments in the blackest of night--those are the most magical. The next morning is never as romantic as the moment.

"And they were wrong--hope was very much alive, even if it was dampened by the steady drizzle of years."
Adrenaline may fade, but an onward struggle can deliver those same feelings of ferocity if there is a commitment to completing the journey. And even more so if delivered upon the unsuspecting and the doubtful.

"It wasn't love or anything like that he was feeling, but just a good healthy appetite for second helpings, and he didn't want to seem overeager."
There's a reason they warn against lust.

"She was smiling up at him as if he's just bought her all of Asia and laid the deed at her feet."
Yes, even the little things can make you feel like you're on top of the world.

"And he did want to be honest. He had to be. Because this was no mere flirtation or passing fancy--this was the world and everything in it."
Basically, honesty is the best policy. Love can't be based on anything but true feelings and honest passion.

"He wasn't rich yet or even close to it, he didn't own an orange grove or an avocado ranch, his one son was an alien to him all the way across the country in Boston and the other one was named Guido--and why not get drunk?"
This one made me laugh. Sometimes the cards just aren't in your favor and life doesn't return the results you figured would come your way. That doesn't mean you can't allow yourself to have an occasional good time, enjoy the night, and worry about it tomorrow.

"O'kane was in the library, conscious of the peculiar odor of the books--calfskin and dust, the astringent ink and neutral paper--"
Can someone just make this a candle already?

"Women were conniving and false, and he'd always believed that--all of them, except his mother, that is, and maybe the Virgin Mary."

"But risk was involved in anything, in walking across the street, gulping your food, looking into a woman's eyes on a Saturday night."
Everyone will say it, life is about taking risks. Even ones you don't see as a risk at the time. Every action and interaction is a risk upon altering your person or situation. But that's how we live. That's how we find fulfillment.

"And if he was wooden, if he was a puppet, then who was pulling the strings?"
I saved the best for last, in my opinion. I often feel this way as a recent college graduate, a daughter, a friend, a community member, etc. In every role we play we are designated to certain actions and ideals that have been invented by that perceived persona. I catch myself wondering, "Who am I doing this for?" "Which part of this is inherent?" Truth is, our audience is often ourselves. While the designs of reality and the working world may seem to force us into certain constructs, there's no arguing that we wouldn't abide by them if we didn't believe they would lead us to star in the show we've always wanted to produce. Maybe we are operated by greater requirements than we would prefer, but there's often more happening behind the curtain than on stage.

Next up is Boyle's San Miguel, set on the Channel Islands!