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In his ninth and latest novel, Drop City, T.C. Boyle tells the story of a 1970 Sonoma commune and its denizens--loners and misfits with names like Star, Pan, and Merry who milk goats, share one another's beds and dope, and sell "authentic hippie in full hippie regalia" photos to tourists for 25 cents a pop. As would be expected, inadequate toilet facilities, ideological differences, and way too much acid eventually bring bad vibes to paradise, and when the cops visit the ranch after an ugly hit-and-run involving Drop City's founder and a horse, the commune packs up and heads north to Alaska, "the last truly free place on this whole continent." As they rebuild in a remote part of the Yukon, the caravan soon discovers that the self-sufficient fur-trapping homesteaders of the frontier have their own concept of living off the land, and the communities inevitably clash. Boyle's tale doesn't imply it's impossible to achieve an American utopia--just that it's really hard to do when other people are involved. Boyle (who still goes by T. Coraghessan too, by the way) will read from and sign copies of Drop City tonight. Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, 312-747-4080. Monday, March 17, 6 PM.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Pablo Campos.

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