Rock ‘n’ roll author speaks to UNLV students, faculty

T.C. Boyle.  Courtesy Photo.

“I just want to dream my dream and lay it on you.”

Surprising words from a former rock ‘n’ roll singer? No. From an award-winning author? Yes.

“Even though I’m a professor, I’m not giving lectures and I’m not going to committee meetings and I’m not recognizing professor so and so. I don’t want to do that,” said author T.C. Boyle.

Boyle spoke in the UNLV on Wednesday night to kick off last week’s Vegas Valley Book Festival.

His novels and short stories have been critically acclaimed and described as “gritty,” “dark” and “surreal.”

Dressed in a bright red suit with long hair and sunglasses dangling from his collar, Boyle defied the stereo-typical image associated with academia.

As part of the book festival, Boyle talked about himself, his writing and was available to answer questions and sign copies of his 20 published books.

Boyle read one of his short stories to the people who turned out for the event. The dark and comical tale described a man who lies to his boss about his baby dying so that he may get out of work.

This type of dark humor and morally ambiguous anti-hero typify Boyle’s gritty storytelling.

A history buff at heart, Boyle holds a bachelor’s degree in English and history from State University of New York Potsdam, a Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a doctorate in literature from the University of Iowa.

But his well-known battle with addiction is what makes his successful writing career an even greater accomplishment among fans.

As was evident from his rhythmic recitation of his short story, music is also a central influence to Boyle. He was the frontman in the rock band the Ventilators and he admits that he always listens to music when he is writing — that is, as long as what he’s listening to doesn’t have words.

“The rhythm is always important to the writing, as vital as anything else,” Boyle said.

After Boyle finished reading to the audience, he sat down with executive director of the Black Mountain Institute and former UNLV president Carol Harter for a question and answer session.

Harter commented on the work that Boyle puts into his writing, especially nodding to his extensive research that make his novels factually accurate.

“Very clearly there is more than just superficial research there,” Harter said.

“You got to remember you’re writing a novel,” Boyle said, suggesting that he sometimes gets caught up in research instead of writing new material.

“We all know the novelists that are forever researching and never writing,” Boyle said.

Aside from Boyle, more than 100 authors, poets, illustrators and literary folk were scheduled to speak and hold workshops during the five-day-long festival.

The Black Mountain Institute is among several partners involved in putting on the Vegas Valley Book Festival. The American Institute of Graphic Artist, the Las Vegas Review Journal, Nevada Humanities, the City of Las Vegas Office of Cultural Affairs and the Clark County Library District have all joined forces to make the festival a reality.