Welcome to my very first blog tour post! I’m so excited to have been invited by TLC Book Tours to be a part of promoting Justin Taylor’s new collection of short stories, Flings.
Flings is a collection of stories about characters caught at some kind of turning point or crossroads. There’s a group of friends just graduated from college, a pair of boys whose friendship changes dramatically over the course of adolescence, an elderly woman who finds herself more alone than she ever wanted to be, among others. All of these snapshots of life share the theme of dealing with a changing present as well as an uncertain future. Some characters get stories that feel somewhat finished, most leave you wondering what they might be up to now. All of them are wonderfully imagined and beautifully written. (A favorite line: “Sometimes I feel like the hole in my life is even larger than my life ever was and that I live inside it; potted like a houseplant in the soil of my grief.” UGH. I wish I wrote that line!)
This is my first experience with Justin Taylor’s writing, as well as the first (maybe second) short story collection I’ve read all the way through. He is also the author of a novel, The Gospel of Anarchy, and another short story collection, Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever. Having read this collection, I’m very interested to read his other works. He has a knack for sinking deep into his character’s highly flawed heads. Even those characters who are not the focus of a story feel like real people, pieces of the puzzle that is the current tale being told. Short stories are difficult for most people, because they tend to be a slice of life and it can be hard to establish a realistic character without spending too much time on backstory or following them all the way to the end of their life. But Justin Taylor’s characters never feel like anything other than real people. Within ten pages, he introduces you to a person, lets you get to know them intimately, and makes you care about them and what they’re going through.
As a recent college graduate facing a relatively uncertain future of my own, the theme was definitely something that resonated with me as well. Sometimes in life, things just happen and you don’t always see them coming and maybe because of them, you end up somewhere unexpected. Somehow, even though they’re not real people, these characters make me feel better about not knowing how things in my life are going to turn out.
If you’re into short stories, or interested in becoming so, I definitely recommend Flings. The stories are intellectually as well as emotionally engaging. I defy you to stop in the middle of one, it’s pretty much impossible. I found myself racing through each story, eager to find out what was coming next or completely caught up in the thoughts and feelings of the narrator. Great stuff!