Book Review: Flings, by Justin Taylor

Originally published in Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission. If you don't already receive it, sign up here to receive a bi-weekly dose of readerly goodness in your inbox.


Justin Taylor's second collection of stories, Flings, centers on human relationships, particularly romantic ones, and the myriad ways they define and redefine us. The leading story, "Flings," sets the overall tone for the volume: recent college graduates make big life decisions--what job to take, what city to live in--based on what their friends and significant others are doing, only to find that none of these relationships are what they once seemed. "A Talking Cure" introduces two newlyweds who struggle to define marriage, and wonder whether or not it matters if their definition matches the rest of the world's. In "Carol, Alone," a lonely widow finds odd companionship with an alligator lurking in her backyard.

All of the stories in Taylor's collection are direct, though they sometimes lack enough description that they leave the reader with questions about motivation. In "Poets," for example, a couple breaks up, gets back together, breaks up again--and it is never clear exactly why any of this happens. The characters in "Sungold" are so deadpan as to feel flat, though the story overall is humorous in its absurdity. As in relationships, though, sometimes the less-successful moments make the good ones shine even brighter, and the gems here make Flings well worth one's time. Taylor's insightful stories illuminate the many ways we fall in love--and out of it--and how romances shape our identity both while they last and long after they conclude.

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A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review.
Flings: Stories | Justin Taylor | Harper | Hardcover | August 2014
 

4 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this collection!

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  2. As the Crowe FliesAugust 31, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    I've not seen this collection. I find so many contemporary short story collections to be hit or miss, and I'm not a fan of the kind most likely to be found in, say, The New Yorker.

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  3. The stories here were a bit hit or miss. But I have read some really amazing collections that came out this year: Heaven of Animal, Redeployment, and currently working on See You in Paradise by J. Robert Lennon (out in Nov).

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  4. I really liked some of the stories... A few had me scratching my head. But they all hung together well as a collection.

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