1/21/2015 · Writer discussed: T.C
He is survived by seven children, Michael (Cindy) Saxton, Omaha, Neb., Kathleen Marlowe, Lakewood, Colo., Thomas (Loretta Green) Saxton, Fruita, Colo., Mary Beth (Ed) Meier, Albuquerque, N.M., Jean (Frank) Hossack, Brighton, Colo., Denise Saxton, Denver, Colo., and John (Sharin Varner) Saxton, Alamosa, Colo.; 18 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
The Setting of Greasy Lake – Garrett Morte
Submitted by Robert Waxler ()
Title and Author: by T. Coraghessan Boyle
Genre: Short story
Theme: Journey to the dark side; male violence; the instinctual thrill of adventure
Class type: Men
I always use at the first session of my CLTL seminar series, asking the men to read the story silently around the table. I read it with them, watching to see how they are doing. It usually takes about a half-hour for everyone to finish.
It is a story about three 19-year-old young men looking for adventure late one night. They drive up to the local hangout, Greasy Lake, hoping to find some last-minute excitement before they head home. Jeff, Digby, and the unnamed narrator are wannabes, suburbanites in their mother's car, dreaming about being "bad." For them, a practical joke is usually excitement enough.
When they get to the lake, they lose their keys, get in a fight with "a bad greasy character," and come close to killing him and then raping his girlfriend. They have, by this time, traveled far down the dark side. They are living their own nightmare.
When another car pulls up to the lake, the boys flee: the narrator into the lake, the other two into the woods. In the murky lake, the narrator finds a corpse, a terrifying confrontation with his own condition.
Finally the three boys re-emerge on shore, discover the keys at the light of dawn, have one final encounter with two older girls, and then head home.
It has been quite a night - an adventure, a ride on the dark side, and much more than they had bargained for.
Questions about the three boys that I usually start the discussion with:
--What kind of people are they?
--Are they really "bad"?
--Why do they want to be "bad"?
--How do they compare with the other characters (the "greaser," his girlfriend, the group in the second car, the older girls at the end of the story)?
This opening allows us to situate the characters, to begin to explore their differences, but also their similarities, their common desires and expectations.
The opening discussion often leads to another line of inquiry, the journey itself, not only to Greasy Lake, but into the interior terrain of primal consciousness.
Questions that I might ask:
--What can we make of the narrator losing his keys?
--How does he feel when he starts to hit "the greaser" with his tire iron?
--Why does he attack the girl?
With these questions, we begin to focus on a pattern common to many of the subsequent stories we will read, a pattern suggesting the seduction and thrill of adventure and violence, the quest for excitement, despite fear, in the midst of boredom. We begin to look at the meaning of transgression and the powerful forces unleashed with raw instinct.
Questions I might then ask:
--Is this a power we all feel at some moment in our lives?
--What does such instinctual power do to our human connectiveness? To ourselves?
Often the offenders will begin to map their own stories, especially about drugs, onto this story. They see themselves, as we all do, reflected in the experiences described in "Greasy Lake."
We then move into the lake with the narrator.
Questions I might ask:
--What does the narrator feel when he first encounters the corpse in the murky lake?
--What is he thinking about?
Such questions evoke a variety of responses, reminding us of the multiple dimensions of human consciousness and the complexity of human emotions. Some typical responses are, "He must be thinking he has gone too far." "He must be thinking about his own death." "He must be considering how he almost killed the guy on the shore." He must be wondering how he ever got in this mess." "He must be thinking about what he is going to tell his parents."
Usually the results of this investigation into the meaning of adventure is a recognition that we have choices, that human experiences are complex, that the adrenaline high is dangerous but reflects a shared pattern of human behavior. It could happen to any of us.
If time permits, I will pursue a final line of inquire this first night.
--How do these three friends feel as they head home?
--Will they return to Greasy Lake soon?
--Is it easier for someone considered "good" to be "bad" or for someone considered "bad" to become "good?"
Videos (may take a few moments):
At a CLTL conference, Judge Robert Kane () asks the question: "Is there a connection between the violence we read about in literature and the violence we experience in our lives?"