Letters to a Young Writer


I totally agree with Mr. Boyle and his sentiments. I said as much in a blog tour I had in July. The tradition of "artist as activist" follows great writers like Camus, Vonnegut and Boyle, and we must not lose our way!

I, too, concur with Mr. Boyle, who I saw at this year's LA Times Festival of the Book. He's as fine a reader and performer as he is a writer. Not to mention a cultural visionary.

As a scientist/journalist involved with land and species conservation, I've felt like the Dutch Boy with his finger in the hole in the dike for over two decades. Yet, I always think there's something we can do, no matter how dour things look, and that there is still enough time to do it.

I admire T. C. Boyle for never shying away from saying it all.

While Mr. Boyle addresses nearly all of a young writer's needs, one question remains--what magic can be grown on our faces? And, more importantly, how do I communicate to my girlfriend that I derive much of my creative force (yeah, that's right) from my facial hair, and that when she complains of it "scratching her," she's actually hurting my fiction?

Mr. Boyle, since I know you tend to check up on the discussion boards at your site, I'm hoping you'll peruse this comment section and offer up an answer.

A very wise man.

Boyle's right. Wearing your cause on your sleeve doesn't bode well for the novel's entertainment value, but if you aren't above looking into the subtleties, you'll probably find Boyle's and just about every other serious author's work brimming with positions, causes, and activism. Thanks for putting this out there. It inspired me to write a blog of my own.

Reading your words, I immediately identify with the necessity of writing. I write to make sense of life in all its illogical, frustrating pain and nonsense. I have no choice in the matter.

The integrity of Mr. Boyle and his stories bears emotional truths I find inspiring and enlightening.

Dear Mr. Boyle,
If we have but a handful of readers, must we still write?

Living in a desert both literal and literary, I did not know Mr. Boyle until now, when, reading his response to a Young Writer, my eyes welled with tears. I will seek him out.

Mr. Wagner,

Your comment makes me smile and wonder how young, how very
young you must be to suffer choosing between your art and your woman's pleasure!

Capitalism is not conducive to community. The run for the dollar exhausts love, separates people.

Mr. Wagner,


I agree with Constance Walsh in that your comment made me smile, but I would like to offer some advice from a woman's point of view: choose love, you won't regret it. The act of sacrificing your facial hair just might prove to be a gift to your writing. What do you have to lose? It always grows back. Good luck!

"I write to make sense of life in all its illogical, frustrating pain and nonsense." Regarding Raynor Trent's comment: thank you. So true.


With the advent of today's rapid communication, both mental and physical, we are constantly, though maybe unconsciously, playing "catch-up" but seldom reach the finish line, whatever that may be.

After reading this, I admire T.C. Boyle in a different way than before. It's troubling to hear Bush vow to defend free market capitalism even while economies degenerate.

Boyle's final paragraph reminds me, also, of John Gardner's words, and also of the purpose and meaning of Gardner's story "Redemption," (based on something that happened to Gardner) in which the protagonist who kills his brother on the farm later tries his hand at the redemptive process of creating art (music, in that case).

Thanks, Narrative, for publishing this.

I like Boyle's non-patronizing stand and worldview. Writers should be as socially-engaged and enlightened as any other activists. After all, we have the gift of using words to paint, sculpt, and poke the hearts of fellow humans, and by extension influence our environment and culture.

In my home country, Nigeria, writers have played a major part in influencing the direction of public discourse in major sectors of the economy, and have written fictional stories that depict the environmental degradation by multi-national oil firms working in Niger Delta. In my writing, too, I try to ask and ponder about the meaning and significance of life . . . the why, and the what are we doing on earth? Questions that beg for answers!

Great feature. Can't wait to see who will be next.

It's a razor-thin line Boyle walks. Even I -- a long, long-time fanatic of his work -- get a bit uneasy at times when his views peek through the prose (and let me assure you that those times are very few and far between). But he gets away with it because (it is plain to see) that his first priority is the work itself. Boyle is so in love with fiction and all its possibilities that he often neglects -- indeed, even abuses -- his own convictions for the sake of the story. Few writers are this good. It's like they say on TV: "Don't try this at home."

I shaved my beard off for lesser reasons: more acting roles one. I'd avoid the Sampson Complex for more obvious benefits.


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