Sunday, August 24, 2014

Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor is the author of the story collection Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever and the novel The Gospel of Anarchy. He lives in Brooklyn.

His new book is Flings: Stories.

A couple of weeks ago I asked the author about what he was reading. Taylor's reply:
This has been a good summer for getting to stuff I should have gotten to a long time ago. Up until recently, I was the last person I knew who hadn't read a Roberto Bolaño book. Not like I had anything against the guy; I just missed the bandwagon when it left. But then this whole Knausgaard thing hit, and in the course of ignoring that I wound up picking up a copy of The Savage Detectives, while on vacation in Norway, no less! Take that Knausgaard! Not that I have anything against him, by the way, it's just that I like to keep myself two steps behind the cultural zeitgeist whenever possible--which unfortunately means no Elena Ferrante for me until 2017 or '18, probably. Anyway, I liked Savage Detectives, particularly the sections with Quim Font, Amadeo Salvatierra, and Xóchitl García, and of course the sword duel on the beach with the literary critic. When I finished the Savage Detectives I turned to Mavis Gallant's collection Varieties of Exile (NYRB, selected by Russell Banks); another legendary figure who was to me an almost total unknown--I think I'd read some of her journals excerpted in the New Yorker but that was it. Anyway Varieties turned out to be the ideal palette follow-up to Bolaño: dry instead of humid, controlled and astringent instead of boisterous and insane. Stories instead of a novel. Very calming, Gallant's cool sentences and crisp images; though she's not without her severity too. It was a good book to read while traveling, on trains and planes.

Anyway we got home from the trip. One ancillary benefit of having read The Savage Detectives was that it made me feel properly prepared--and curious--to read Advice From 1 Disciple of Marx To 1 Heidegger Fanatic (Wave Books, 2013), a longish poem by Mario Santiago Papasquairo, who is credited as the main model for Bolaño's Ulises Lima. So I'm reading that now.

Another poet I recently read for the first time is the poet Frank Stanford, though in typical-for-me fashion I started with a collection of his "tales" called Conditions Uncertain and Likely To Pass Away. Incredibly bizarre and dreamy and feral. I loved it, and so picked up the first collection of his poetry I could get my hands on, a thin little volume called You that my friends at Berl's Poetry Shop happened to have in stock.

Speaking of story collections--and of friends, and of the dreamy and bizarre--I'm reading a galley of Shelly Oria's New York 1, Tel Aviv 0, which is coming out from FSG in November. It's a hard book to describe. The language is very precise but there's a kind of bright haze that permeates it, like all the characters are walking slowly through some luminous fog, which, come to think of it, is itself an image bootlegged from one of the stories, which I guess in a way is the best case-in-point for what I'm trying to put across here, which is that the stories have great collective energy, a strikingly original and slightly hypnotizing sense of mood. Shades of Rebecca Curtis and Richard Brautigan, a kind of gentle insistence (like waves lapping a boat hull, but insistently) that identity and being and sexuality and self--and, too, degrees of so-called realism in fiction--are, or ought to be, or desire to be, fluid.
Visit Justin Taylor's website and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever: Stories.

Writers Read: Justin Taylor (March 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue