The Book: T. Coraghessan Boyle, WORLD'S END. Viking, 1987 (first edition). Fine book in near-fine Brodarted dust jacket.
First read: 1988
Owned since: 1997 (approximately, this copy)
I own two copies of this book: this first edition, and a trade paperback reprint that the author inscribed to me at a signing on St. Patrick's Day 1989, in Washington, DC. As I think I've said before, I'm not a serious collector of books, but I do like to have good copies of my favorites. This is a book I like to lend out, so it's good to have the more durable hardcover copy in addition to my own signed one. (The first sign of addiction, they say, is rationalization...)
WORLD'S END is a sweeping epic about the inexorable power of heredity, following two New York families from the early Dutch colonial days to the late 1960s/early 1970s. Walter van Brunt, wastrel son of an old farming family, has a near-fatal motorcycle accident when confronted with a vision from his family's past. Recovering, he makes an unlikely connection with Depeyster van Wart, heir to an old fortune and scion of a family that was always the enemy of Van Brunts. Seventeenth-century conflicts between Van Brunts and Van Warts play out into the 1970s; for 300 years, they ignore the importance of the natives who lived there first, but those natives wind up offering a weird kind of redemption to both families.
It's been a few years since I reread WORLD'S END, and I'm due. It's a young man's book: ambitious, clever, angry and funny, complex in structure, cynical in outlook, but drunk on the realization that ours was not the first generation to want things desperately and hope for the best. I'm curious to see how it holds up for the midlife reader.