Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever by Justin Taylor [Book Review]

Title: Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever
Author: Justin Taylor
Genre: Short Stories
ISBN: 0061881813
Pages: 185
Year: 2010
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Source: Review Copy provided by Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Plot summary (from publisher):

Justin Taylor’s crystalline, spare, and oddly moving prose cuts to the quick. His characters are guided by misapprehensions that bring them to hilarious but often tragic impasses with reality: a high school boy’s desire to win over a crush leads him to experiment with black magic, a fast-food employee preoccupied by Abu Ghraib becomes obsessed with a coworker, a Tetris player attempts to beat his own record while his girlfriend sleeps and the world outside their window blazes to its end. Fearless and astute, funny and tragic, this collection heralds the arrival of a unique literary talent.

My thoughts:

This collection of stories is not uplifting. It is not a “feel good” book. But it is very, very well-written. Taylor writes in sparse language more akin to Hemingway than Dickens but not really like any author I’ve read before. He captures the hopeless wanderings of his young characters and gives us snapshots of their aimless lives. Some of the stories are very short – just a few pages – like they are just the flicker of an idea of a story.  Others are a bit longer and delve further into the lives of the characters.

My favorite story is one of the shortest: A guy plays Tetris while Armageddon rages outside. While trying to beat level eighteen for the first time, he must decide whether to wake the girlfriend sleeping next to him before the world ends or let her sleep through it.

The only thing that struck me as odd was that almost all of the stories mention Florida – they either take place there or have characters from Florida. Now, I love Florida – it’s my newest home, but it was weird that it was mentioned in every story. I must assume that Taylor grew up there despite the lack of any reference in his bio.

Taylor is obviously a talented young writer and I am looking forward to his future work. Oh, and have I mentioned that successful writers the same age as me make me feel like I haven’t done enough with my life yet?

Memorable Passages:

“I told myself that Kenny languished on the one rung of the social ladder I knew I was above, though in order to believe this I had to first accept the increasingly dubious premise that either of us were on that ladder at all.” p. 27

“Home is not the place you own, or even where you go back to. Home is the place whose exigencies you most fully comprehend and can account for.” p. 61

“Having to explain why things were cool made the fact of their coolness less certain, and certainty was the rock on which she built.” p. 85

“Judge is simply a character on whom I can’t help by dwell come. Something pulls my thoughts back his way.” p. 96

Will I Read This Author Again?: Yes

Other Reviews: If I missed yours, let me know.

Buy It Now: Amazon; Book Depository; Powell’s

Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

2 thoughts on “Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever by Justin Taylor [Book Review]

  1. Meg March 26, 2010 / 3:12 pm

    Wow — sounds pretty unique and, perhaps, moving? I love the cover and title, too; reminds me of an old idyllic painting I would have studied in college.

    And I’m totally with you… successful authors my own age make me feel like frantically returning to my own novel before it’s “too late.” Ha!


  2. Dominique March 28, 2010 / 6:39 am

    I love the title of this one. I’ve heard a lot bout this book lately and have been a bit curious about what it’s like. Glad to read you enjoyed it. 🙂


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