TC Boyle: ‘America is going to be like The Road … We’ll be eating each other’

According to the satirist TC Boyle, writing and nature saved their own lives. I was the hippies hippie and immoral to boot, and never devoted a was just thinking about putting a needle in my limb, the 67 -year-old says of his wild years in New York, during the late 60 s and early 70 s. I was a youth, I didnt care, I was experimenting with everything in life. I was angry and disturbed and banging my head against the wall to find out what its all about. I turned 25, realized what I could do and wanted to do, and I sought it fanatically ever since. What he ended up seeking was writing. Boyle is now one of Americas most prolific novelists, one the Paris Review once referred to as the maximalist novelist. The author of suffering Americana like The Harder They Come and The Tortilla Curtain lives up to this reputation in conversation. In person hes energetic and flamboyant, with a penchant for driving yet meandering conversation. The Terranauts, his 26 thbook, fictionalizes a notable 90 s Arizona experiment. Eight scientists, coined the Terranauts, lived under glass in E2, a model of a possible off-Earth colony. Their closed, three-acre compound encompassed five biomes rainforest, savanna, desert, ocean and marsh to sustain them over two years. Following on from the likes of A Friend of the Earth and Tooth and Claw, The Terranauts addresses environmental challenges. Sitting in his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Montecito in southern California, hes fired up about the state of the nation. He is not exactly optimistic about the future. I think its going to turn out like The Road within 50 years. Well eat everything left to eat and then well eat one another, he says. He takes a spoonful of his lunchtime cereal. War and climate change and some microbe will decimate us and well go back to The Road or The Road Warrior or some scenario like this and maybe build another civilization again. Where Im living and talking to you from, the capitalist system is dependent upon infinite product and infinite consumers and its a finite world. Donald Trump, Boyle says, is the supreme emblem of everything wrong with the US. This ogre jester in the orange makeup has somehow embarrassed and humbled America. He will soon vanish back into reality Tv where he belongs.

TC Boyle at his home in Montecito. Photograph: Ricardo DeAratanha/ LA Times via Getty Images
Boyle believes Trump reflects the sad state of the Republican party. Lets not forget the great President Bush who actually paid scientists to give us false science on climate change. We could have been 10 years ahead of the loop.

America has amnesia about George W Bush, Boyle adds. The worst American chairman by far. He destroyed the world, he gave us the recession, he set us a trillion dollars in debt, he generated Isis. Its like were living in Orwells 1984, actual history and actual facts dont matter in the slightest bit.

Boyle says that being among nature, especially the sequoias, is essential for him to write. Listening to a creek, observing the sky and feeling the heartbeat of something greater than our own little ego-obsessed daily lives. It is so vitally important for us animals to be a part of the larger ecosphere, the one we live in. Rather than simply always be attached to our mechanical gadgets and sitting indoors in an artificial environment.

The Terranauts has a connection with The Inner circle, his novel about controversial Indiana sexologist Alfred Kinsey, and Drop City, his Alaskan commune irony. Im quite fascinated by this idea of a small community, especially of a guru telling you what to do and how that were likely to sort itself out. I like to say that its a damn good thing weve generated virtual reality because the actual reality is pretty well gone.

For his part, Boyle could never live on a commune unless he was running the show.I like to control what Im doing as best I can, in this chaotic world. Such a situation would never work for me. Unless I were the despot of the place, and I would never want to have that role.

Despite his large output, Boyle still has plenty of ideas. His publisher has accepted another collection of short narratives, called The Loopbox. His favorite, Why Are We Not Managed ?, about the new CRISPR technology, will run soon in The New Yorker. Hes still got a sense of urgency about his work and quotes Philip Roths Im like a doctor and its an emergency room. And Im the emergency line, chuckling: I love that quote, utterly love it. And I would subscribe to that as a route of talking about the urgency and the need to create art.

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