Set in 1970, T. C. Boyle's Drop City (2003) follows a group of commune dwellers who abandon the Golden State in search of a new Eden in the “last frontier.” For Boyle's characters, California is no longer a haven once their commune is condemned as a health hazard and bulldozed by the county inspector after a nasty problem emerges concerning human waste management. Alaska thus becomes a refuge for the characters, who occupy themselves by making love and getting high while trying to live off the land with the little knowledge they have. In chronicling the contradictions of the modern ecology movement, Boyle is not interested in contributing to a neoconservative backlash against the counterculture; his critique instead involves recognizing how race, gender, and class privilege operate as important factors in environmentalism and how authoritarian structures often shape understandings of nature, problems that continue to plague environmentalism today. While the characters often make poor choices and find themselves in challenging circumstances, the novel ends on a cautiously optimistic note. The possibility of achieving a satisfying life in the Far North, however, comes only after the characters have reevaluated their social hierarchies and divested themselves of Edenic notions of Alaska.
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Susan Kollin; North to Alaska and Other Bad Trips in T. C. Boyle's Drop City. Genre 1 June 2012; 45 (2): 329–350. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-1574339
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