In his debut Collection, Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, Justin Taylor channels a few old chestnuts, (I’ve only just gotten started with this book) but it immediately impressed this reader with a nicely chiseled style that’s refreshingly “no bullshit”.  There’s a hurricane lashing the coast, and Taylor’s narrator tells us about Amber, and some other girls, kissing, screwing, maybe hopeful screwing, and invents a deserted suburban landscape that is immediately recognizable. Amber stares out the window, so do we, of course this story is titled; Amber at the Window in Hurricane Season.

By the time you see what’s going on in the second story, In My Heart I Am Already Gone, and you witness it by noticing the cat hair floating through the air, Taylor informs us that Kyle has been hired to kill his cousin’s cat.  There is a kind of arrested development here, that permeates the first three stories, and carries right over into the fourth.  There aren’t many instances where comic books, or Star Wars enters into the picture, but I get the feeling that these men can’t get out of their late teens, or early twenties because they haven’t been giving good examples of how to do it, or chances to forge ahead, they all seem afraid to make mistakes. Kyle looks like he’s breaking out of his youth and doing whatever comes to mind, which is why killing a cat is the only thing that happens to him in this story, and he wants to fuck his cousin. Not an unusual emotion, to be sure, cousins have been going at it for years, but Kyle wants to be cool, and subversive, when it comes to breaking his cousin in. I’m probably shading this a little on the sick side, but Kyle knows he’s never leaving town, so why not let his emotion out. Again, these men don’t know what to do with each other, so they act naturally, which is natural to them, and odd to us.  The chestnuts I spoke of earlier are Carver and Barthelme, who have influenced Taylor with a sparse style, and little bit of quirky taste, but nothing that’s strange. I’ve never had an appetite for Barthelme, but David Gates gives a great quote, and if you’ve read Jernigan, than you’ll love this book.  I’m probably holding back most of my compliments on this collection because the NYT gave away everything except free copies of the book.  As far as affordability goes, you can’t go wrong with this, and oh yeah, I wish I could write like this when I was Mr. Taylor’s age. -JR