Justin Taylor is the author of Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, a collection of stories out now from Harper Perennial. He is a contributor to HTMLGiant.com and his personal website is http://www.justindtaylor.net/.
what are you reading now
Rain by Jon Woodward. My copy of this book is actually a galley that Wave Books sent me a few years ago, to consider for review. Wave publishes some of my favorite poets—Joshua Beckman, Noelle Kocot, Matthew Rohrer, Anthony McCann, &c.—so I love to write about them, but Rain, for whatever reason, failed to register when it was new. I have this kind of hazy memory of not really giving it a close look. But a few weeks ago I ran into Rohrer at an NYU reading, and Woodward came up in conversation. He was emphatic about his love for Rain, so when I got home I scoured my shelves (they’re not organized at all) and was lucky enough to actually find this tiny yellow paperback with a red spine. Better late than never, right? It’s wonderful and vivid and intense.
classic you’ve been meaning to read
I want to read In Search of Lost Time, but I want to do it right, and I don’t think I’m capable right now of giving it the attention it deserves/demands. One day… I also bought a copy of Fitzgerald’s The Odyssey a while back (this edition is Pound's preferred) and it’s been sitting on my shelf, tempting or taunting me—I can’t quite tell. And then there’s Emma, which is almost certainly going to get read before either Proust or Homer. I’m a huge admirer of Austen’s, and Emma is one of the few left I haven’t read. My friend Amy sent it to me over the holidays. This is the one I’m actually going to read. Very soon.
last book you finished in a single sitting
I’m not sure, honestly. My Loose Thread by Dennis Cooper is one I’ve re-read many times, and it usually goes down in one clean shot. Ray by Barry Hannah—that’s a great way to spend an afternoon. The first time I read Jernigan, my teacher David Gates’s first novel, it was in one approximately seven hour marathon session. But I also like to savor books I’m enjoying, so sometimes I’ll force myself to stop and sleep on it, just so I can spend a second day in its company. That’s how I read Tao Lin’s Shoplifting from American Apparel. And A Common Pornography by Kevin Sampsell. And Jernigan, all the times after that first one.
book you borrowed and never returned
Actual Air by David Berman. I stole this from a college roommate and never gave it back. It’s become one of my favorite books in the world, and I wrote an essay about it for The Believer where I went into this whole thing about all the notes that Peter and I had each written in it at different times, and going back over those notes now. On his most recent visit to New York, over New Year’s 2009-->2010, Peter finally succeeded in stealing it back from me, but I guess that’s not the same as me “returning” it, so the answer stands.
most scribble-ridden book in your collection
It would either be the Berman book that I just talked about (which, face it, Peter, is only temporarily on leave from my collection) or else my copy of Donald Barthelme’s Sixty Stories.
collected stories of
Flannery O’Connor. Donald Barthelme, even though they’re spread over three volumes (Sixty Stories, Forty Stories, Flying to America). Amy Hempel. Jim Shepard, though Love and Hydrogen is actually a “new and selected.” Raymond Carver. H.P. Lovecraft. Also, Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy, which is this great old Harper Perennial edition of eight or nine of his novellas plus “Alyosha the Pot.” If it had “Three Hermits” in it, it’d be perfect. Hemingway. Faulkner. Diane Williams. Gary Lutz, when the day comes.
book you’ve planted on a coffee table to impress someone
I started bringing a copy of The Collected Books of Jack Spicer around to the coffee shop by my house because the barista quoted him on her Facebook page. I ended up trading it to her (temporarily) for a collection of Punk Planet interviews, which probably seems like it tells you everything you need to know about us both, and our little friendship. Maybe it does. Anyway, that’s not a story about a coffee table, but I don’t have a coffee table, so it’s kind of the best I can do, and anyway, she was impressed enough that she went out with me—once. (She lives with a guy now; they seem very happy.) The alternate answer—-much simpler, but infinitely more obnoxious—is Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever by Justin Taylor.
if you could subscribe to only one literary journal
The New York Tyrant
best thing you’ve read online recently
The New Republic’s The Book is just fantastic. I’ve been on it almost daily since it launched. They’ve really set a new bar, I think, for what a serious online book review can (and should) be. I link to their stuff all the time on HTMLGiant.
Speaking of which, one of the most recent additions to HTMLGiant is one of my favorite people to read online. She’s also the friend who sent me my about-to-be-read-I-swear-it copy of Emma. Hear that sound? It’s a baseball bouncing off the dining room light fixture and landing on the dinner table—but I don’t care.
Here is everything Amy McDaniel has authored to date for HTMLGiant. I would point readers in particular toward “Some Notes on Affect,” “Is Masocriticism the only way?” “Elitism: An Encomium,” and more recently: “Source Material.” It’s also worth mentioning that her two “Grammar Challenge” posts (on 12/2 and 12/3), which concerned her experience as a student of David Foster Wallace, and included the questions (and on day two, the answers) from a grammar quiz he gave, are the most popular posts in the history of the blog, by a factor of at least ten.
most anticipated upcoming release
Sam Lipsyte - The Ask, a novel (FSG, March). Dawn Raffel - Further Adventures in the Restless Universe, stories (Dzanc, March). Dennis Cooper - Smothered in Hugs, nonfiction (Harper Perennial, June). Dennis Cooper - The Weaklings, poems (Alyson Books, exact date TBA). Have you figured out yet that I’m not good at making choices? More is more is more. Joshua Cohen - Witz, a novel (Dalkey Archive, May). Tao Lin - Richard Yates, a novel (Melville House, fall 2010).
recommended reading list:
Some of my favorite stories exist—in my mind, anyway—in a kind of interstitial zone between the categories novel, novella, and very long short story. In some cases, the author or the publisher specified how the work was to be classified, in other instances that choice was made later by somebody else. Sometimes several somebody elses have made different choices at different times over the years. But what all these works have in common is that each one boasts a marvelous and fruitful tension between the vast vision of the story and the masterful, sometimes ferocious economy with which that vision is rendered. Here then are twenty-two stories – roughly chronological but no promises – which will withstand and transcend any label you give them.
- The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
- Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille
- At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
- "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville
- In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan
- “An Education” (in Bloodshed and Three Novellas) by Cynthia Ozick
- Ray by Barry Hannah
- Travesty by John Hawkes
- Edisto and Edisto Revisited by Padgett Powell
- “Heaven” (in Bad Behavior) by Mary Gaitskill
- “Orbit” (in The Spectacle of the Body) by Noy Holland
- The Name of the World by Denis Johnson
- “The Term Paper Artist” (in Arkansas: Three Novellas) by David Leavitt
- “Bounty” (in CivilWarLand in Bad Decline) by George Saunders
- My Loose Thread and “The Ash Gray Proclamation” (the latter in Ugly Man) by Dennis Cooper
- Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
- Milk by Darcey Steinke
- Project X by Jim Shepard
- Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin