“Asleep at the Wheel”
by T. Coraghessan Boyle
from the February 11, 2019 issue of The New Yorker

Even though I’ve only loved a few of them, I’m always excited when I see that Boyle has a new story in The New Yorker. His ability to carry me from start to finish with an exciting voice is something I always enjoy even if the story itself doesn’t speak to me. To be honest, looking at the first paragraph, I’m thinking that might be the case again here:

The car says this to her: “Cindy, listen, I know you’ve got to get over to 1133 Hollister Avenue by 2 p.m. for your meeting with Rose Taylor, of Taylor, Levine & Rodriguez, L.L.P., but did you hear that Les Bourses is having a thirty-per-cent-off sale? And, remember, they carry the complete Picard line you like—in particular, that cute cross-body bag in fuchsia you had your eye on last week. They have two left in stock.”

I haven’t had a chance to look at this story at all (I’ve been on holiday and am just now catching up a bit — I’ve back-dated this post so it looks like it went up on Monday, as usual, instead of Wednesday!), so hopefully you can all start the conversation below. Let us know what you think! Is this one of his strong stories? I’m excited to see for myself but also to hear what you think. It’s short, so I’ll jump in soon!

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By |2019-02-06T13:57:22+00:00February 4th, 2019|Categories: New Yorker Fiction, T. Coraghessan Boyle|Tags: |3 Comments


  1. Julian Wyllie February 6, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    It will be interesting to see how speculative fiction will grow in importance. Based on the author interview, the goal seemed to be to feature a bit of humor and horror, even if it’s not necessarily a very dramatic story. To me this functions because it shows a slice of life from a few character’s perspective in a future we can recognize, but one that isn’t quite in our hands.

    My only critique is that the subheads slowed down the momentum for me. Boyle is talented enough to make this something to be read straight through, so I wish every episode wasn’t tipped off so early in advance.

  2. David February 7, 2019 at 10:50 pm

    I have not liked much of Boyle’s work in the past, but his last New Yorker story was an improvement, so I was hopeful. Then I read this story. This one is not only bad, not only the worst of his stories I have read, but it was embarrassingly bad.
    First, lets deal with the fact that there are two almost completely unrelated stories going on here. The story of the teenagers is a complete waste of time. There is no insight here, nothing creative or new about it, and the characters are barely drawn at all, so I never cared about them. The fact that Boyle has two unrelated stories suggests that he really does think that what he is writing is some sort of commentary on the one thing they have in common – the Technology of the FutureTM. But what does he have to say about the possibility of a driverless world? Mostly nothing. At least, what he has is far less imaginative than a ton of other things I have read about what a driverless world could be like. And his main contribution was a gripping and original idea when it was presented fifty years ago by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick. Carly not letting Cindy in the car is just HAL and Dave all over again.
    After thinking about this story a bit, I checked back what I wrote about his other recent stories in The New Yorker. I got a pretty good laugh when I read my opening comment about his story “Are We Not Men” from November 2016. I wrote: I was thoroughly unimpressed with this story. It seems he thought it would be clever to write something about genetic engineering, but then has nothing at all to say about it, or at least nothing that wasn’t said much better fifty years ago by Philip K. Dick. So it would seem Boyle has gone from recycling Dick (badly) to recycling Clarke/Kubrick (badly), and he’s still fifty years behind the times.
    Boyle should probably stay away from anything remotely science fiction or futuristic. He’s just awful and amateurish at it. Whatever optimism I had about his future work from his previous story has been lost completely. If The New Yorker publishes him again I will probably read it. I just hope it won’t be set in the future. He’s at his worst there.

  3. Ken February 21, 2019 at 3:28 am

    Boyle’s style and ability to keep the momentum going carried me through even though the ideas here are, per David, awfully durned familiar. It made for an enjoyable read but not a memorable story.

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