Flings: Stories by Justin Taylor


What are your flings?

Synopsis of Flings by Justin Taylor:  In a new suite of powerful and incisive stories, Justin Taylor captures the lives of men and women unmoored from their pasts and uncertain of their futures.
A man writes his girlfriend a Dear John letter, gets in his car, and just drives. A widowed insomniac is roused from malaise when an alligator appears in her backyard. A group of college friends try to stay close after graduation, but are drawn away from—and back toward—each other by the choices they make. A boy’s friendship with a pair of identical twins undergoes a strange and tragic evolution over the course of adolescence. A promising academic and her fiancée attempt to finish their dissertations, but struggle with writer’s block, a nasty secret, and their own expert knowledge of Freud.

From an East Village rooftop to a cabin in Tennessee, from the Florida suburbs to Hong Kong, Taylor covers a vast emotional and geographic landscape while ushering us into an abiding intimacy with his characters, Flings is a commanding work of fiction that captures the contemporary search for identity, connection, and a place to call home.

My two cents

What a refreshing read! These 12 short stories highlighting the feeling of uncertainty, of drifting, of the question mark that is life. The vignettes are of ordinary, common people -- no superstars here, just superstars in their own little circles, or in their own minds.

I try to capture these pithy stories in a few sentences:

Flings: A recollection of university life, in all its glory and stupidity and vulnerability ... until many many years later, and the reality of life sets in. You can never really recapture the past. Nor should you try to.

Sungold: It all starts with a hapless young man needing to wear an ugly mushroom mascot suit to in an attempt to market a rather bad fastfood restaurant. Then he meets a smart, spunky Polina who doesn't quite fit into the mould of the airheady sexy waitresses ... and things take an upturn.

A Talking Cure: A university couple, with all their PhD know-all and all their talk, decide that their sex lives need a little excitement. And does that "something" work?

Adon Olam: Two childhood friends but one dies of cancer. But the friend has a twin, and sometimes I wonder if he should've died instead. A story about grieving a friendship in childhood, with far-reaching impacts into adulthood.

After Ellen: Poor Ellen. Her boyfriends just ups and goes, no warning. This is what is running through his mind as he takes off. And this what happens after Ellen.

Mike's Song: A man has a "date" with his two adult children to watch a concert. He can't help but marvel about how grown-up his kids are, or the tender feelings he feels towards them. Especially when the band starts playing the song they dubbed as his. 

Poets: They were both poets, and they met in grad school. She loved him, but he was an asshole. They reconnect years later, she with a book of poetry, he with novel ...  with lives lived between them

Carol, Alone: At seventy-two, Carol muses about how she hates growing old. It sucks on so many levels.

Saint Wade: Wade turns babysitter to his waitress neighbour's little daughter. He's a saint in the kid's eyes. Especially since he buys the Flintstones vitamins, not the cheap generic ones. 

A Night Out: Just a night out for Candi, which ends up in a drugged haze, in bed of someone called Caleb. But the days must march on ...

The Happy Valley: A romp through Hong Kong - complete with travelogue and tastes of durian - Danielle's second home.

Gregory's Year: Is it finally Gregory's year? Will he finally become the rockstar he set out to be? Probably not. But who the heck cares?

***

If I'd read this in my 20s I know I would totally fangirl Justin Taylor. So much angst, and the fascination with sex. Being older - ehem - I guess I will still fangirl ;) I thought these stories were pretty special: Taylor is able to get into people's minds and express their feelings and struggles so well. So although the people featured don't seem to be anything special, it's the mundane quality of their stories that makes them shine in their relatability.

These are stories about the flings we all have in life -- the many people we meet and become attached to, the dreams and passions we pursue --  and then we let go, we move on.

Verdict: Oh-so-relatable vignettes of common people, their mundane-ness capturing the "flings" we all have in life. A tight collection of short stories and an author to expect more great things from!


Justin Taylor

About 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 New York City.

Connect with Justin through his website and on Twitter @my19thcentury.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in order to participate in this tour. Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour here.

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4 comments

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    1. This was fantastic! Hope you get a chance to get a copy!

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  2. I forget how much I enjoy short stories until I come across a book like this - I can't wait to read it!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

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    1. I definitely recommend this one, Heather. Thanks for having me!

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall