Book Title: 'Everything Here Is The Best Thing Ever' (But It's Not)

I was reading aloud from the first story.

"Your name was Patrick. You were still away, maybe out somewhere with your new friends or jerking off in some bathroom thinking about Marissa, who you never told Amber about, and who, you should never forget, I had before you did."

"Yeah, you're going to like this book," my wife said, shaking her head, as wives will do after a decade of marriage.

"True, my darling, but not for the reason you think," I wanted to say, but didn't because, as husbands tend to feel after a decade of marriage, I don't like talking to her back. And yes, it is true that I like reading about sex, as I like to read about most primary human activities, but equally --- and this, after a decade of marriage, you know, my pet --- I like to read a really fine sentence.

In the twists and turns of that particular sentence, I found myself responding with uncharacteristic warmth to a young writer who approaches the lives of young people with the same bemused skepticism you expect from the writers of, say, Gawker. Yes, there are many young writers who type with their tongues in the cheeks --- it's just that in the 16 very short stories in Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever, Justin Taylor does irony and snark and thwarted idealism uncommonly well.

Most of the stories are about kids of no visible abilities. They're not scholars. They're not artists. They're cut from the cloth of suburbia; they know a lot, have few opportunities and, for lack of anything better to do, major in hanging out.

"In my heart I am not a student in junior college," one tells us. "In my heart I have left this miserable town behind for a place and future so bright with promise I cannot look directly at it." Sweet thought --- in this story, his uncle is paying him to kill the ancient, clearly failing family cat.

In another story, kids who were once best friends drift apart, then reunite: "We'd pick up drive-through burgers or Taco Bell, head back to their place and get ripped."

But there are exceptions to all rules and appearances. The class slut turns out to be the school's most serious student: "She understood that grades could be the ticket out, and was only ever stumped by one question, which was why nobody else seemed to understand the same." And of course somebody goes to Iraq: "We buried what they sent home."

My pen underlined often.

"...thighs like a foyer."

"When she's naked the tattoos lose their enormous power."

"Everybody gets what they've got coming, and when they don't that just means the injustice of undeserved suffering is the very thing that's deserved."

"The future is whatever you submit to."

When I started reading, I thought these stories were about lost kids and found drugs. If only it were that simple.

[Cross-posted from ]