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Drop City (2003)

by T. C. Boyle

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,327525,526 (3.73)1 / 157
In 1970 the shabby members of a California commune pull up stakes and move to the harsh interior of Alaska. They establish Drop City, a back-to-the-land town, on a foundation of peace and free love. But their idealism cannot prevent tension from rippling through the group.
  1. 40
    Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (suniru)
  2. 20
    The Beach by Alex Garland (usuallee)
    usuallee: Another great novel dealing with a youthful, naive quest for utopia by retreating from society.
  3. 00
    The Lady by Anne McCaffrey (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the general atmosphere of social upheaval.
  4. 00
    We Are As Gods: Back to the Land in the 1970s on the Quest for a New America by Kate Daloz (libraryhead)
  5. 00
    Arcadia by Lauren Groff (booklove2)
    booklove2: Another amazing novel on hippie communes trying to find their place. Also, a similar writing style.
  6. 01
    The Terror by Dan Simmons (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For characters failing to adapt to their environment.

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» See also 157 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Realistic fictional account of attempts by Hippies to operate a commune, beginning in California and ending up in Alaska. Would have been better at half its 495 pages. ( )
  KENNERLYDAN | Jul 11, 2021 |
Probably my favorite TC Boyle, of the recent books, at least. I need to reread Water Music to see if it still holds up. ( )
  flemertown | Jul 10, 2021 |
i enjoyed this right from the beginning, even though i didn't care much about any of the people or even the story, really. still, somehow he really kept me reading, and even dreaming of these characters. each of the storylines' sections were long enough that i really got into each of them before we'd be pulled back to the other storyline, and back and forth. it took a little while to see how they'd connect, and i was surprised when they did that pamela and sess were as welcoming as they were to the hippie newcomers. i mean, they had to be for the hippies' survival, but it seemed to me that their presence would really change the landscape of their solitude there, which i was under the impression that they both wanted. still, it also makes sense for them to want some company, at times.

it was interesting to read both about the commune life and life in the isolated bush in nowhere alaska. somehow i really enjoyed this even before i cared at all about any of the characters, which took probably 75% or more of the book. except marco, i liked marco as soon as he was introduced. by the end, i also liked star, pamela, and sess, but that's about it. his writing was solid and consistent throughout, and grabbed me right away, though. ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Mar 17, 2021 |
  victor.k.jacobsson | May 23, 2020 |
Set in 1970, this novel focuses on two seemingly very different communities, which in reality share common traits. The eponymous , Drop City, is a hippy commune set on forty-seven acres in sunny California; the other, Boynton, is in the remote Alaskan hinterland.

Initially the two societies appear to be decidedly distinct. Drop City, made up of hippies and draft dodgers, is a place to be free of societies' moral constraints, where free love and drug-taking is endemic, where 'chilled' generally means lazy. In contrast the inhabitants of Boynton, face an almost daily uphill struggle just to stay alive, a place where self-discipline means survival but when the police threaten to close down the original Drop City, its inhabitants, led by there guru-like leader Norm, decamp to the outskirts of Boynton with the intention of establishing a new settlement, out of reach of the authorities and living off the land.

Living cheek by jowl and faced with months of cold and darkness stretching ahead it soon becomes apparent that the two communities actually share a number of similarities. In particular, both are riven by internal discord. For the hippies petty jealousies gets in the way of the much vaunted sexual freedom and challenges their 'peace and love' ideals. Meanwhile a jealous, murderous feud is taking place between two of Boynton's inhabitants Sess Harder and Joe Bosky. The commune's open-doors policy results in a sudden influx of new arrivals which causes tensions in the commune and the town. Both communities appear permanently poised on the precipice of catastrophe, man-made or natural.

Personally I found the Californian section of this novel somewhat aimless, lacking a real sense of direction, and the book wasn't really working until the two communities were merged. Only by bringing them together do we see what the author is really trying to say. That if you strip away the hippies' free love philosophy then there is little to separate them and the backwoodsmen, both are retreating from the conventions of society. This, I found it amusing, also seemed somewhat simplistic, because whilst the hippies had a choice the locals didn't.

I found this an interesting insight into the drop-out culture of the 60's and early 70's but as Star, the main female hippy character, and her lover Marco eventually comes to realise their 'freedom' isn't without costs and not as radical as they supposed. I found it hard to like any of the hippy characters who were shallow and fickle, they purported to want nothing to do with society yet were happy to take hand-outs from it. In contrast I came to admire, Sess Harder and his wife Pamela, in their attempts to carve out a life for themselves.

However, for me the main weakness in this novel is that it lacked any real sense of struggle. I never really felt that any of the characters were ever in real jeopardy, there were differences but they weren't fully explored and as a result, the climax, when it comes, was rather disappointing. On the whole I enjoyed the author's writing style and the book contains some amusing episodes, the genital crabs spring to mind, but I never really believed that he had any real idea what he was trying to achieve. Therefore, an OK read with some interesting ideas but one that could have been better. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Oct 31, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Mr. Boyle's sheer brio as a storyteller and his delight in recounting his characters' adventures quickly win the reader over. He has written a novel that is not only an entertaining romp through the madness of the counterculture 70's, but a stirring parable about the American dream as well.

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Think of our life in nature, - daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, - rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! the solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?

- Henry David Thoreau, "Ktaadn"
Let me tell you about heartache and the loss of god,
Wandering, wandering in hopeless night.
Out here in the perimeter there are no stars,
Out here we is stoned
- Jim Morrison, "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)"
For the sisters
Kathy, Linda, Janice and Christine
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The morning was a fish in a net, glistening and wriggling at the dead black border of her consciousness, but she'd never caught a fish in a net or on a hook either, so she couldn't really say if or how or why.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

In 1970 the shabby members of a California commune pull up stakes and move to the harsh interior of Alaska. They establish Drop City, a back-to-the-land town, on a foundation of peace and free love. But their idealism cannot prevent tension from rippling through the group.

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Book description
Two story lines converge in a dark Alaska winter. Drop City is the story of a commune of acid-dropping hippies in SoCal who, pressed by the authorities, drop everything and go to start Drop City North in the ironically named  (AFTER AN 1850S MAP) and wildly remote Alaskan village of Boynto -- well, actually 12 miles northish of Boynton. There they mostly irritate a wilderness town of misfit dropouts of a different persuasion - mostly conservative, mostly social misfits, trappers and ovcrwzy vets, and when who for their own reasons don't fit or don't want to fit into whatnots people call home. Boyle writes so well you believe it all, the people the places, the characters, the problem, the fights, the sex, the drugs, the moose, the bears, the racial confrontations among the peace love crowd. He's good enough that he lays out thee tensions amongst the peace and love crowd with precision. He also knows his stuff about trapping, traplines, wilderness living, getting your meat, surviving the dark; the predictable and unpredictable enemies; the unlikely friends; the smallness of people.  I couldn't' put the book down, even as it got darker and darker. By the end, I no longer liked anyone, but I admired the author. Having lived through the sixties and seventies, memory tells me Boyle got it. Right.
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Average: (3.73)
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