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Drop City by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Drop City (2003)

by T. Coraghessan Boyle

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,226504,790 (3.73)1 / 150
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. 30
    Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (suniru)
  2. 10
    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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Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
  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 |
Late 60s, early 70s. A commune of sorts, Drop City, in Northern California and then Alaska. The "guru", Norm, is a 30-40ish guy who owns property and thus can host this group.

These folks are proud of being hippies, proud of being "free", proud of their (supposed) lack of hangups around sex and drugs. And there is a lot of both, as most of the members just d whatever whenever. Only some of the women and a few of the men do 80% of the work or more. And they know it, for the most part.

The first half of this book was OK. When they went to Alaska, though, it was more of the same, only in -40 degree weather. Which just seems soooo impossible when there are no roads and you need a boat or snow machine (they don't have one) to get to town. They got no game...what are the 18 that stay the winter eating?

This book was just too long, and the wrapping up was really not satisfying to me. ( )
  Dreesie | May 25, 2019 |
T. C. Boyle is the author of eleven novels, including World’s End (winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award), Drop City (a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award). I read World's End and now Drop City which I actually owed the longest of the two books. I liked World's End a lot but this one took a long time to get into.

The book published in 2003 is set in the late sixties and is a story of the hippie generation. Upon searching drop city I find that there really was a Drop City that was established by artists but it was in Colorado. There were similarities in the difficulties the fictional Drop City of California experienced to that in Colorado. I was a young person during this era but never really a hippy and not into free love or drug culture. I liked the book much better when the group goes north to Boynton, Alaska to establish Drop City North and where they really learn what it means to live off the land. I did not like most of these people. My favorites were the Alaskan couple Sess and Pamela. Of t he hippies, I liked Star and Marco the most but just a bit more than the rest. I did have hope in them. I hated the way the hippies just threw their trash and had no disregard for nature and lived in a continuous drug fogged world, never washing. Sex, called free, in the era is not ever free. There is always consequences for all choices one makes. ( )
  Kristelh | May 11, 2019 |
I feel a bit ambivalent about this book. I didn't find the plot or characters all that compelling, but Boyle is such a good writer that he drew me in anyway. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (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)"
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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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