Out of all the T.C. Boyle stories I’ve ever read, I can’t for the life of me remember one I truly ever loved. This one follows in that tradition, though for whatever reason I liked it more than his usual fare.
Our narrator is an exceptionally big man, one of a select-few caged and daily observed and pampered by the government of some ambiguous Latin American country. They are being primed for mating with volunteer giantesses, in hopes that such breeding would produce a super-army of giants (a humorous eugenic experiment borne of paranoia, as the country has many enemies, we are told).
One of the more exceptionally porcine of the giants tells our narrator forebodingly that the dictator of this country–absent throughout the story except via mentions as some blindly revered figure–once bred cattles. We are thus set up for an age-old theme: Duty to one’s country at the expense of the individual. The lab rat giants and giantesses capitulate simple-mindedly to patriotic appeals from their minders; one has a duty to one’s country (and one’s president) after all, no?
How the narrator breaks free from the herd (as he most inevitably would have to) is quite funny and rather moving (a nice tip of the hat back to a throwaway line about mistaking a Hebrew figure as Greek early on in the story). In one of the story’s most memorable lines, the narrator ruminates, “Am I a beast of burden? Yes. But I’m nobody’s beast but my own.”
Overall, an odd delight of a story.