Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever: Stories- Justin Taylor
I will never lean. How many writers have been celebrated on the back covers of their debut books as the new Carver? And why I keep reading them, hoping to discover a new literary hero? That's unfair for the writer, and after reading the book, on a 99% of the cases, unfair for the reader.
Because "Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever" by Justin Taylor is not a
bad collection of stories. On the contrary. Taylor's voice is quite unique: sharp, bittersweet and distant, yet skilled and polished (poetic glimpses included). Modern minimalism? New dirty realism? Labels here harm a quite cohesive and remarkable young writer. Taylor shouldn't be compared with giants, but highlighted as a quite refreshing author of his very own.
"Everything Here..." is purposely blurred. Don't expect answers of definitive endings. The fifteen stories included are just snapshots of the lives of confused young people, that would qualify as isolated losers, in which age, religion and identity are recurrent topics. Underground and counterculture might be the ground Taylor is showing us, but forget any heroics in their actions. On the contrary, a silent desolation will predominantly arise. I find the contrast between straight and frank narration and the inner turmoil of the characters quite exciting. There's sweetness but also rawness on their stories, something I believe proves Taylor's ability (and promise) to capture feelings and emotions and put the on paper. My concern has to do with the final results, with the impact of each story, for me too uneven.
That's the problem with Taylor's stories. Some, like the brief “The Jealousy of
Angels”, "Tetris", or "Weekends Away" passed completely unnoticed for me. The ones with the anarchist (or just bored?) David were flat, with the lack of passion that is the "trending topic" of actual literature (that modern, frequently annoying tick) doing little favour to their very fragile characters. “Jewels Flashing in the Night of Time” might be worst of the lot, plain awful.
On the other hand, there's a bunch of stories to be remembered, like the solid "Tennessee", in which Jewishness is the background of a fierce father-and-son tale. Or in "What Was Once All Yours”, takes the subject of abortion from a male perspective, giving the emotionally charged topic a new approach. “New Life” does wonders with the redemption of a hopelessly in love kid. Or like “Whistle Through
Your Teeth and Spit”, where the end of a peculiar coffee house is a phenomenal excuse to portray the bunch of regular (and outcasts) clients.
At times extremely interesting, despite the uneven impact / quality of this collection of stories, "Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever" is a quite promising first approach to Justin Taylor's work, and also an intriguing attempt to show the miseries, as well as the hopes, of young characters striving to find their space within mankind.