Posts Tagged ‘Justin Taylor’
August 22, 2014 | by The Paris Review
“From the outside it was clear that the building known generally as ‘Old Meats’ had eased under the hegemony of the horticulture department.” So begins Jane Smiley’s 1995 campus satire, Moo; from that first sentence I knew it was the only book I needed for the weekend. It had that tone—that late-century Midwestern tone. You hear it in Jonathan Franzen’s first two novels, and in Infinite Jest, too. It’s the sound of an omniscient narrator who is sophisticated and slightly wry and who, at the same time, belongs to a safe, stable, neighborly community, the sort of place where things can be “known generally.” Maybe because I grew up on the East Coast, in a city—or maybe just because it is so manifestly pre-Internet—that kind of sentence is as soothing and inviting to me as “Once upon a time.” And Moo lived up to its promise. —Lorin Stein
What happens when myth becomes reality? For the residents around Maine’s North Pond, a legend about a hermit became strikingly less legendary when the hermit, a man by the name of Christopher Knight, was found and arrested last year during a burglary attempt. For twenty-seven years, Knight had lived in the woods of Maine in a tent, never communicating with the outside world (except once, when he passed a hiker). “Silence is to me normal, comfortable,” he tells Mike Finkel, a journalist for GQ. “I’m not used to seeing people’s faces. There’s too much information there.” What’s remarkable about Knight’s story is that there wasn’t any particular reason he chose to disappear. He merely started driving one day and didn’t stop until he came across his camp in the woods. “I found a place where I was content.” Thoreau couldn’t have summed it up better himself. —Justin Alvarez
Sixty years ago in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the NYPD pinned a crime spree on four innocent men. What else is new, you might say. Well, a researcher has brought the malfeasance to light, and a collage by Robert Rauschenberg helped solve the mystery. Specifically, it was “Collection,” which Rauschenberg composed in the mid-fifties from newspapers containing accounts of the crimes. The Observer tells the story, which is full of crooked cops and falsified documents and botched autopsies and noirish goings-on under the Williamsburg Bridge; Rauschenberg’s involvement, however peripheral, makes the whole thing impressively surreal. —Dan Piepenbring
Many clichéd things can be said of the stories in Justin Taylor’s new collection, Flings. They’re hilarious and heartbreaking; there’s an existential loneliness to their characters; there’s a stark beauty in their sentences. But these sentiments smooth over the messy truths that Taylor works with—he’s managed to gather up all the confusion, repressed aggression, and misplaced acceptance of growing up in the nineties and becoming a young adult in the twenty-first century. Taylor isn’t afraid to place his characters squarely in our place and time. The narrator of “Sungold” manipulates his boss—a coked-up, alcoholic, trust-funded man-baby who owns an unnamed pizza chain—into not being so much of a fuck-up. In “Mike’s Song,” a brother and sister and their divorced father attend a Phish concert together. But behind his contemporary premises, Taylor is practicing a brand of acute, oblique realism that stretches back to Carver and Yates and even to Sherwood Anderson, in which events act as triggers for memories that are the real story. —Andrew Jimenez Read More »
August 7, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
February 28, 2011 | by Natalie Jacoby
The Gospel of Anarchy is the debut novel from Justin Taylor. The story follows a group of anarchist hippies living together in Fishgut, a house turned commune in the college town of Gainesville, Florida. Philosophizing on religion, freedom, and happiness, they await the return of their Anarchristian friend, Parker, whose left-behind journals have become their own gospel. I met with Taylor to talk about the book.
The Gospel of Anarchy is your first novel. Did you encounter any challenges in the process of switching from the short story format?
One of the hardest parts of writing a novel is figuring out the structure. Mine went through a lot of different versions. The “zero draft” was all in first person, told by David, and then it was all rewritten in third, but still just about him. I wanted to include the others’ perspectives, so I tried doing it in a first-person round, almost like Rashomon or something, which didn’t work either, and somehow or other I came around to what you see now.
The way in which the topic of faith is discussed in the book reminds me of Flannery O’Connor. Was she on your mind in writing this story? Were their other authors that influenced your writing?
Flannery O’Connor was definitely an influence, especially her “other” novel, The Violent Bear It Away, which I actually like much better than Wise Blood. Violent is very funny but very dark, and the stakes of the entire book are basically whether this idiot child should be baptized. For her this is a matter of life and death, and the baptism might actually be more important than death, and I love that. Another author I really love is DeLillo. You can end up in some pretty murky waters trying to do your own take on DeLillo, so hopefully the book steers clear of imitation, but he was a big influence and there are a couple DeLillo shout-outs in the book. The first comes early on, when a character named Thomas sarcastically quotes the opening of White Noise in conversation. Later on, a couple characters compile a zine based on their friend Parker’s journal, which itself is a jumble of uncited allusions, quotes, and references to all kinds of political and religious thinkers mixed with Parker’s original thoughts. But there’s a line slipped in there about how “our faith makes us crazy in the world.” That’s from the Moonie character in DeLillo’s Mao II.
February 25, 2011 | by The Paris Review
A surprise discovery at my local library’s book sale: our own William Pène du Bois’s 1971 children’s tale, Bear Circus. Koala bears discover the supplies from a crashed pink circus plane and put on a show to thank their friends, the kangaroos. Highly recommended for the juvenile set. —Nicole Rudick
Sometimes, I don’t know why, I want to read short stories—but like, a bunch of short stories. This week I’ve gone back to Joy Williams’s Honored Guest and sampled Justin Taylor’s first collection, Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever. —Lorin Stein
Nathan Heller has a beautiful essay in Slate about stuttering: “At 3, those sentences first met with some resistance on my tongue, the way a car moves off asphalt, onto dirt—and then, finally, across rocks that jolt the tires and make it hard to track where you are headed. Today, I am still being jolted, and the jagged terrain behind bears the track marks of my own innumerable small humiliations.” —Thessaly La Force
I started the week with this fantastic piece of reluctant Hemingway-ese by Libyan novelist Hisham Matar and then felt compelled to reread his rueful, angry, but ultimately dignified sliver of memoir, from last year, about his father’s abduction. His consummate poise attests to an extraordinary imaginative stamina in the most difficult of circumstances, but there are moments from that earlier piece where he almost anticipates the tumult and excitement of the past few weeks: “This is tremendous news. Tremendous in the way a storm or flood can be tremendous. Uncanny how reality presses against that precious quiet place of dreaming. As if life is jealous of fiction.” That new novel can’t come quickly enough! —Jonathan Gharraie