What do we learn about ourselves when we look at nature? We recognize deep similarities in our behavior and that of (other) animals. Intellectually, this is obvious to anyone who has sat through a high school biology class and learned about Darwin's evolution, but only recently so.
Centuries of thinkers believed that man and animal were distinct entities in their essence. But there is an elusive bridge between the two. That bridge juts out from our animalistic behaviors and takes human nature into completely new territory that is as exciting as it is difficult to express. This is, alas, the task of the writer; sometimes expressing the slippery truths of existence comes easy, and other times it's enough to provoke dark thoughts, as Boyle readily discloses.
Yet it is our uniquely human traits which make life livable for us. The very faculties that distinguish us from animals give us the ability — perhaps the obligation — to extract something uniquely meaningful from life. For Boyle, that is plainly making art. What is it for you?
T.C. Boyle's latest book is The Terranauts.