Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever
Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever:
by Justin Taylor
$13.99 List Price
A subtle misanthropy pervades Justin Taylor's debut story collection, Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever. Taylor's heroes—mostly males ranging from twitchy kids to restless thirty-somethings—are reliably uncomfortable in their own skins, embracing risk in an attempt to salvage some sense of themselves. The nameless narrator of "Jewels Flashing in the Night of Time" works in a small-town sandwich shop and offers an unnerving soliloquy about deli meat: Ham is "pink as a boiled baby and is 11 percent water and comes wrapped in this plastic with a red criss-cross design on it and when you slice it open a stream of orange-gray liquid spills out and then you pull the whole wrapping off and it makes a wet huck noise." His discourse is jumbled together with equally visceral musings about sex, his oblivious young coworker, and the torture at Abu Ghraib—though it's the expertise with which he feeds flesh into the slicer that's the most unsettling, as well as the most intimate.
Taylor probes the ways time shifts our perceptions, how people forestall the future and fixate on the past. The moving, understated "What Was Once All Yours" circles around Cass and Troy, a casual high school couple trying to gauge the scale of their feelings against the unknown years ahead. In "Somewhere I Have Heard This Before," eleven-year-old Stan's older female cousin schools him in music and awkward groping. "Anything was possible with Mandy, who smelled sour in a sort of good way and that was only the tip of the iceberg of how she was strange," Taylor writes.
Best when a little sly, Taylor occasionally