T.C Boyle, the American novelist and short story writer, with over 27 novels and story collections out in English and over 12 foreign languages as well, presides over a unique fan club of sorts. It’s an informal fan club and there is no formal official fanzine website for it, but for the past 30 years, Boyle has not only developed a following in Germany, but he has responded to the following and his fans there by reaching out to them via his own website and Twitter feed. [See TcBoyle.de for information in German, thanks for Holger Reichard.]
In fact, about half of his incoming Tweets come from readers and fans in Germany, and most of them are written in German, too. Boyle, who speaks Spanish and German, often responds to the tweets from Germany in German as well. While his novels and short story collections are also translated into French and Italian and Spanish and a dozen other languages, for some reason Boyle’s novels and personality resonates most in Germany. He flies over there after each new novel is published and gives lectures, readings, TV interviews and meet and greet book signings all over the country but focused mostly in Berlin and Cologne. No other American novelist has this kind of following in Germany, and no other American novelist has this kind of following and rapport with readers in a foreign country. In Germany, Boyle is now regarded as a kind of literary rock star and his visits there are always sold-out performances on stage.
So what is to account for this amazing cultural phenomenon that connects America and Germany with the written words and public lectures of an American novelist from California? True, Boyle does go to visit other nations in Europe and he is well-received there by readers and literary critics there as well. In fact, he recently noted in a tweet: ” I’ve toured there [in Germany] more than in other foreign countries. My second best is France, followed by the UK and everybody else. I can’t go everywhere and these trips do exhaust me, so I must pick and choose.”
He also noted on his blog in early January 2018: “[As for] Europe, I am looking forward to the publication of a new collection of [a set of earlier short stories that have been published here and there in English and this new collection is in German only and is] unique to Germany (titled ”Good Home”) to be released [on January 29th there] and at some point, my new Italian publisher, La Nave di Teseo Editore, will [soon] bring out the Italian translation of The Terranauts, while in France, my longtime publisher, Editions Grasset, will release the French version of that novel as well.”
When asked about all this, Boyle says: I am thankful to my readers. And I do like to give a show.”
Part of the show, in addition to his novels and short stories, and his public performances of some of his short stories at venues in the USA and in Europe, Germany especially, is Mr Boyle’s unique and idiosyncratic Twitter feed. While most people use Twitter to retweet news links and interact with reporters about politics and other newsy things, TCB set up a Twitter account at the urging of his publishers in New York to use as spotlight for his ongoing performance personality, although on Twitter there is no sound or video, just Tom being witty and friendly and using the platform as another way to shocase his performance chops, although on Twitter, it is very low-key and text only, with many photo snaps of his daily morning and evening routines in Santa Barbara, which his fans in the USA and in Germany comment upon, with Tom adding comments about their comments and not only does the lovefest between read and author continue this way, but it’s also a way for Tom to include his fans from all over the world. At the moment, most of his Twitter comments come from readers in Gemany and the USA, and there are few, if any at all, tweets from readers in France or Italy or the UK.
TCB told reporter Allen Pierleoni at the Sacramento Bee in 2016: “My publisher [Ecco Books] said I had to have a Twitter account,”…. “I didn’t know anything about it and still don’t. So what I do is a shtick on (the notion of) ‘Here is your entré to the intimate life of a world-famous literary star.’ ”
The reporter added: Boyle’s Twitter posts are indicative of his world view of the absurd. One recurring tweet [even now in 2018] is a photo of the egg (still in the shell) he will have for breakfast that particular morning, with the text “Egg.” In another shot, he places an egg atop a vase, with the caption, “The egg, in formal pose.” Other favorites are photos of his dog, a sprouting potato, the early-morning view of a street near his house and a decaying rat.
He goes on: “The first selfie I ever took was accidental. I was showing the Tweetsters online the black muck I was cleaning out of my fish pond in Montecito to put on the yard plants. I leaned over and photographed the muck for them and noticed my face was reflected in the muck, so what I had done was take a muck selfie for them. So that’s the coolest thing about being me – the muck selfie.”
Sop one can see that TCB uses his Twitter platform as a performance platform, not to do PR for his novels and provide news link to news articles about his or book reviews or anything like that. He is not into self-promotion and doesn’t need to be. His novels speak for themselvse. He uses the Twitter platform as a way to stay in touch with his readers and fans worldwide, borderless, across time zones and oceans and mountain ranges, and and he uses the platform to entertain his fans and friends. It’s a pure act of love, and another way to him to be the ”world historial hero artist” that he has become, in an engaging and warm-hearted and sometimes light-hearted way, but always with a serious intent.
His German fans and readers respond favorably to his daily tweets — and I do mean DAILY — as do his American fans and friends as well. This is part of his charm and part of his personality and what makes his relationship with Germany fans and readers so remarkable. And anyone anywhere in the world can go to TCB’s Twitter feed and read the posts, lurk in the background and chuckle at the jokes and the asides, and also see the serious side of an artist/performer at the height of his adult powers. German fans “get” Tom Boyle, they understand him, and in return, he “gets” them as well. It’s really an amazing and insightful relationship, across borders — with more to come.