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World's End by T. C. Boyle

World's End (1988)

by T. C. Boyle

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1,1561210,876 (3.95)64
Haunted by the burden of his family's traitorous past, woozy with pot, cheap wine and sex, and disturbed by a frighteningly real encounter with some family ghosts, Walter van Brunt is about to have a collision with history. It will lead Walter to search for his lost father. And it will send the story into the past of the Hudson River Valley, from the late 1960's back to the anticommunist riots of the 1940's to the late seventeenth century, where the long-hidden secrets of three families--the aristocratic van Warts, the Native-American Mohonks, and Walter's own ancestors, the van Brunts--will be revealed.… (more)
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English (11)  Dutch (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
BOTM, Nov 2017. Story of generations of Dutch that settled the New York area. A family saga (two families actually) and it goes back and forth from early settlement (1600s to to the 1960-70s). I really enjoyed learning about the Dutch and the early years of the New York area. I thought the author did a great job of putting the history into his characters. Rating: 4.375. ( )
  Kristelh | Nov 28, 2017 |
This novel jumps back ad forth through time from 17th century colonial Dutch/English New York, and then to the same area (and the descendants of the original colonists and natives) in the early 20th century and the mid 20th century.

As might be expected, but largely unknown to the characters, the descendants have personalities/character flaws similar to their ancestors'. The wealthy patroons (and then landlords) stay well off, rude, and rather arrogant. The stubborn (Jeremias and Wouter) produce progeny that are also stubborn to their own detriment, just like their ancestors. The oddballs, the Cranes, though mocked throughout the generations, manage to carve out their own niche within the community. The natives, meanwhile, do not give up the old ways, even in the 20th century, and the many Jeremy Mohonks continue to pass down their stories and histories and make their way between their own culture and Dutch/English/American culture. And the last Jeremy Mohonk gets the best revenge--though it will likely remain unknown--against those patroons.

This book is 30 years old, and DNA testing at home was not a thing when Boyle wrote this. It is entirely possible that Jeremy Mohonk's revenge would actually become known in this day and age! I wonder what Boyle would say. ( )
  Dreesie | Nov 17, 2017 |
I downgraded this a bit after a reread. It's too long, for one thing. Boyle engages in a metaphor/simile onslaught that ended up annoying me. Rather than leave it at one or two for a given situation (the insatiable hunger section, for instance), he piles it on.

The hippie characters tend to be too stereotypical to be believable, whereas the establishment figures are more three dimensional. I have only reread Budding Prospects and Water Music, and those two hold up better than this one. ( )
  nog | Oct 10, 2016 |
This was in the 1001 to read list and I'm glad it was. I would've given it a five star rating if the ending was not a let down. The book is about a man, Walter, who loses his foot in a motorcycle accident.

For the rest of the book review, visit my blog at: http://angelofmine1974.livejournal.com/94907.html ( )
  booklover3258 | Aug 18, 2015 |
Walter van Brunt literally collides with history one night and thereafter sets out to find the truth about his father, commonly held to be a traitor and a coward. Walter soon finds that he and his friends are re-enacting the conflicts of their forefathers who lived in the same stretch of New York's Hudson Valley in the 17th century. The conflict between the landowning/industrialist van Warts and their indentured servants/employees the Brunts, and the relationship of both to the Cranoc and Kitchawanks in the 1600s, 1940s, and 1960s are interwoven throughout the novel, which wears its history lightly and tempers its social concern with broad humour. Winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award.
  Oandthegang | May 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
T. C. Boyleprimary authorall editionscalculated
Commandeur, SjaakTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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After such knowledge, what forgiveness? - T.S. Eliot, Gerontion
He began to doubt whether both he and the world around him were not bewitched. - Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle
In memory of my own lost father
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On the day he lost his right foot, Walter Van Brunt had been haunted, however haphazardly, by ghosts of the past.
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World’s End is set in New York’s Hudson Valley in three time periods: the late seventeenth century, when the Dutch had begun to give way to the English along the great river’s banks,; the 1940s, when anti-Communist sentiment was sweeping the country; and the late 1960s. With low humor and high seriousness, and in magical, almost hallucinatory prose, it follows the interwoven destinies of three families: a family of Indians, a family of lordly Dutch patrons and their descendants, and a family of yeomen, whose latter-day representative is Walter Van Brunt, a confused and callow twenty-two-year-old with a motorcycle and a 4-F draft deferment.

This is how World’s End begins: On the day he lost his right foot, Walter Van Brunt had been haunted, however haphazardly, by the ghosts of his past. It began in the morning, when he woke to the smell of potato pancakes, a smell that reminded him of his mother, dead of sorrow after the Peterskill riots of 1949, and it carried through the miserable lunch break he divided between nostalgic recollections of his paternal grandmother and a liverwurst sandwich that tasted of dead flesh and chemicals. Over the whine of the lathe that afternoon he was surprised by a walking dream of his grandfather, a morose, big-bellied man so covered with hair he could have been an ogre out of a children’s tale, and then just before five, he had a vague rippling vision of a leering Dutchman in surgarloaf hat and pantaloons.
Thus haunted by the burden of his heredity, woozy with pot, cheap wine, and sex, and reeling from an actual or imagined encounter with spectral beings in the “ghosts ships” moored in the Hudson below West Point, Walter has a literal collision with history. It precipitates his two journeys – Walter’s as he searches for his lost father, and ours, as we are drawn back through the centuries, and the secrets of the Van Brunt, the Van Warts, and the Mohonks are at last revealed. Why had Harmanus Van Brunt nearly gorged himself to death in the New World, and why had his son turned betrayer? What really happened in the 1948 riot in which the McCarthyite citizens of Peterskill turned on their socialist neighbors? Why did Walter’s father desert his friends, his son, and his wife, and where did he disappear to? What does it mean to be the last of your line? All this, and more, is the story of World’s End: a story haunted by the spirits of Washington Irving, Hawthorne, and Melville, a story about fathers and sons, about how people betray one another – most of all the ones they love – and about the ownership of the very land we live on.
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