Flings by Justin Taylor

Flings by Justin TaylorFlings: Stories by Justin Taylor
Published by Harper on August 19, 2014
Genres: Short Stories
Pages: 240
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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two-stars

The acclaimed author of Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever and The Gospel of Anarchy makes his hardcover debut with a piercing collection of short fiction that illuminates our struggle to find love, comfort, and identity
"A master of the modern snapshot." -Los Angeles Times
"A contemporary voice that this new generation of skeptics has long awaited-a young champion of literature." -New York Press
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.

 

Justin Taylor’s Flings, a collection of short stories, started out on a high note for me. Each story is a brief glimpse into one moment in a relationship. Taylor brings you into his characters’ thoughts and feelings, making it easy to connect with them.

To be honest… That’s how I felt during the first few stories. Then I started to feel more and more like I was reading variations on a theme, where the variations all sound just a little too similar. Eventually I found myself fighting to hold interest, working too hard to read instead of skim. Just when I was planning to set the book aside, “Carol, Alone,” about an elderly woman adjusting to life after her husband’s death, pulled me back in (as did “Saint Wade”). I gained some momentum, only to have it fizzle out again.

Would I have a different impression if I hadn’t read the stories back to back? Should a short story collection require its reader to  take breaks between stories in order to stay fresh? I tend to feel that each story should make me want to read more, not think about setting the collection aside. The stories in Flings that stuck with me were gems, but it wasn’t enough to clear my overall disappointment.

How do you approach short story collections? Do you tend to read them straight through (if they are a reasonable length), or do you read a couple, set the book aside, and read something else before coming back to the collection?

two-stars