Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever"

Justin Taylor's fiction and nonfiction have been widely published in journals, magazines, and Web sites, including The Believer, The Nation, The New York Tyrant, the Brooklyn Rail, Flaunt, and NPR. A coeditor of The Agriculture Reader and a contributor to HTMLGIANT, Taylor lives in Brooklyn and is at work on his first novel.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever, and reported the following:
Page 69 of my book is the first page of the short story "Go Down Swinging." Since this book is a collection of stories (fifteen of them to be exact) a story-beginning seems like it should be suitably representative. You open the book and a story begins. That's pretty much how it's supposed to go, right? Here’s the first paragraph, which is presented as its own self-contained section:
David adjusts his stance so that the distance between his feet equals the span of his shoulders. That’s the way. He cranes his neck to one side, then the other, really stretching his muscles, loving the tiny pops of the vertebrae. He’s imagining: blue helmet, scuffed plastic, padding on the inside worn then; weird thereness of the cup in his underwear; the itchy unfirom. He’s holding a mop handle. He has the music turned way, way up. He’s taking practice swings.
Then there’s a space-break, then this:
Roger is a good-looking guy, and everyone says that’s the worst part. David sort of thinks that’s funny, that it says something about how people are, but what he really means is that he thinks he’s as good-looking as Roger is, though Roger is a runner, strong, toned, rides his bicycle to work and for pleasure.
Because of how the book is laid out, first pages of stories are about half-empty, so prose-wise that’s it for page 69. Not only are these two paragraphs not representative of the book as a whole, they’re downright misleading about this particular story. Judging from the lines quoted, you might reasonably expect a story about two jocks, and maybe a sports injury, but in fact it’s about some very earnest but easily side-tracked anarchists living in a punk rock flophouse. You find out over the next few pages that Roger hurt himself jumping off a roof while on LSD, and David’s “batting practice” has nothing to do with any desire to actually play baseball. Also, “Go Down Swinging” has a stripped-down delivery style that sets it somewhat apart from the rest of the stories, though it appears also in “Estrellas y Rascacielos.” Those are the only two linked stories in the book, and so I wrote them in a style that would be unique to them. On the other hand, almost all the stories in Everything Here are about younger people and their attempts to navigate—or circumvent—relationships, desires, obligations, and the rough, strange terrain of their own hearts. In that sense this is a highly representative story, though again I’m not sure that can be gathered from poor page 69 alone. If you buy the book, though, you get all the pages, and can see for yourself.
Read "Tennessee," a story from Everything Here, at Fifty-two Stories, and learn more about the book and author at Justin Taylor's website.

Writers Read: Justin Taylor.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue