Tales of the Times

An expository writing professor at Rutgers University publishes a collection of short stories capturing characters of various ages and geographies.

Courtesy of publisher.

Justin Taylor didn’t set out to write a collection of stories about his generation. “It wasn’t written with a goal or message in mind,” says the Brooklyn-based 27-year-old of his fiction debut, Everything Here Is The Best Thing Ever (Harper Perennial, $13.99).

“The book came together very slowly, over a period of several years,” says Taylor, who teaches Expository Writing 101 (“the bane of generations of freshmen”) and a survey of creative writing at Rutgers. “Each story has its own particular motivations or reasons for being.”

Taylor’s characters vary in age (teens to late twenties) and geography (South Florida to Oregon to Long Island), but all sixteen stories carry the thread of Taylor’s biting humor and candid storytelling.

In “The Jealousy of Angels,” a man whose girlfriend is taken by angels splits a six-pack of beer with Satan. “Whistle Through Your Teeth and Spit” chronicles the commercialization of a neighborhood through the eyes of coffeehouse regulars. In “What Was Once All Yours” (one of Taylor’s favorites), a pure-hearted Southern teenage boy with a zealous Christian mother impregnates his girlfriend.

Taylor acknowledges that collections of short stories are hard to sell. But that didn’t stop him. “No writer worth a damn writes to the market—you write to your own desire, and to the extreme limit of your own ability,” he says.

“A short story is a real high-wire act, sans net. It’s one slip of the pen or keys and you’re hurtling though space.”

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