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Flings: Stories

Review

Flings: Stories

“What is expectation, anyway? A fantasy. A shot in the dark. A wish. What is anything?”

These 12 provocative stories by the author of EVERYTHING HERE IS THE BEST THING EVER (2010) and THE GOSPEL OF ANARCHY(2011) consider the disillusionment of desire and the psychic demands of modern life.

Taylor tells tales of disenchanted twenty- and thirty-somethings falling in and out of lust. In the title story, an impulsive and reckless Rachel “rall[ies] her disappointments into an all-out nihilism spree,” clinging to her old college lover, appreciating his “nonjudgmental ear, seeking the comforts of familiarity, and as much sloppy drunken sex as she [can] stand.” Meanwhile, Danny temporarily regards Rachel as his muse and their coupling as a “manifestation of capital-L Love in all its philosophical, political, artistic, literary, existential, and metaphysical connotations and ramifications.”

"Penetrating and unsentimental, Taylor’s stories often depict people seeking gratification and their stubborn pursuit of love."

Like Danny, the narrator in the story “Sungold,” admittedly confesses, his “worldview could stand some realignment.” Brian manages a restaurant franchise for a “self-sabotaging trust fund maniac” who can be found after hours smoking blunts or deep-throating the Jagerator spigot. While Brian’s job requires bookkeeping, scheduling and incidental waiting, his duties also include parading in a furry purple mushroom mascot suit attracting the attention of passing drivers on street corners. And his job perks include getting paid under the table, skimming from the till, and working with (and aching for) the radiant 18-year-old waitresses sporting daisy dukes.

Taylor’s characters desperately seek change and escape. “After Ellen” opens with Scott struggling to compose a “Dear John” letter in his head while packing duffels and Hefty bags full of clothes into his car. Seeing his life mapped out before his eyes --- from the proposal and wedding to the kids, school and aging pets --- leaves him gut-sick. He jots down on a yellow pad, “I wasn’t ready and am so sorry but swear this will have been the right thing for us,” then signs it leaving space to add “Love” in closing, but isn’t sure if it’s appropriate or not.

In “Gregory’s Year,” a “higher-up in the lower echelon of a medical copy writing firm in West Chelsea” expresses his dissatisfaction in a ranting monologue: “I moved to this…city to become a rock star. Instead I’m an office drone and, increasingly, a raving Communist, only the only times I have time to rave I’m too drunk or too sleepy and the people who need raving at aren’t around, or they are but they’re holding my leash. Sometimes when I can’t sleep I search Craigslist for sublets in Canadian cities. Square footage alone has brought me to the verge of weeping joy.”

Penetrating and unsentimental, Taylor’s stories often depict people seeking gratification and their stubborn pursuit of love.

Reviewed by Miriam Tuliao on August 22, 2014

Flings: Stories
by Justin Taylor

  • Publication Date: August 19, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0062310151
  • ISBN-13: 9780062310156