Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Hector Quesadilla Story” resembles Boyle’s other short fiction in its explorations of the clichés and mythologies of popular culture and in its loving attention to the details of the senses. In addition to being in tune with his pain, Hector is acutely alert to all his senses, loving the fact that his sheets “smell of starch and soap and flowers.” His greatest sensual delight, however, comes from eating.

Food is a unifying device in Hector’s story. Although it may revive him, it also weighs him down: “He ate too much, that was the problem. Ate prodigiously, ate mightily, ate as if there were a hidden thing inside him, a creature all of jaws with an infinite trailing ribbon of gut.” (His appetite is one of the serpents the mystic warrior must battle.) Boyle’s accounts of Hector’s quest for good meals allow him to display the writer’s gift for colorful metaphors and comic exaggeration and his love of lists, as when he describes each dish in the athlete’s multi-course breakfasts.

Baseball and food even overlap. When Hector is hitting well, it is because he sees the ball as being larger: “like an orange, a mango, a muskmelon.” In unusual circumstances, however, as with the endless game, even food can be forsaken: “Though he hasn’t had a bite since breakfast he feels impervious to the pangs of hunger, as if he were preparing himself, mortifying his flesh like a saint in the desert.” Only the quest for baseball sainthood or immortality can overshadow Hector’s more basic need.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Suggested Readings

Boyle, T. Coraghessan. “T. Coraghessan Boyle.” Interview by Alexander Neubauer. In Conversations on Writing Fiction: Interviews with Thirteen Distinguished Teachers of Fiction Writing in America. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

Dee, Jonathan. Review of Greasy Lake and Other Stories, by T. Coraghessan Boyle. Village Voice, July 30, 1985, 49-50.

McCaffery, Larry. Review of Greasy Lake and Other Stories, by T. Coraghessan Boyle. The New York Times Book Review, June 9, 1985, 15-16.

Walker, Michael. “Boyle’s Greasy Lake’ and the Moral Failure of Postmodernism.” Studies in Short Fiction 31 (Spring, 1994): 247-255.