Flings: Sto­ries

  • Review
By – February 13, 2015

Being alive is enough to make you feel lost, espe­cial­ly when paired with an impo­tent Lib­er­al Arts degree or end­ing your clos­est rela­tion­ships. A person’s cur­rent sta­tion may feel unre­al on account of its remote­ness from the person’s roots. Justin Tay­lor explores a vibrant vari­ety of cir­cum­stances in which peo­ple con­front their dis­tance from what they con­sid­er home. Of par­tic­u­lar intrigue through­out Taylor’s sto­ries are the unique and rec­og­niz­able ways in which peo­ple work to gen­er­ate mean­ing in cir­cum­stances old and new.

Taylor’s pro­tag­o­nists are of all dif­fer­ent ages, and share artic­u­late imag­i­na­tions that make their first-per­son nar­ra­tions shock­ing­ly expos­i­to­ry, yet relat­able. We receive these gen­er­ous, self-aware out­pours from char­ac­ters in all dif­fer­ent posi­tions. Some of these intel­li­gent peo­ple find them­selves in odd, menial sinecures, e.g. dressed as a mush­room to pro­mote a restau­rant, while some of them pur­sue seem­ing­ly more appro­pri­ate appli­ca­tions of their men­tal prowess, like work­ing toward MFAs or Ph.Ds. But none of them gets too caught up in their work, or mired in feel­ings of being adrift, to cre­ate new expe­ri­ences with oth­er peo­ple around.

Tay­lor also shows the incred­i­ble close­ness between two peo­ple who, per­haps amid their per­son­al feel­ings of being lost, have at least found the oth­er. As des­per­ate as a human being can feel in a peri­od of detach­ment from the peo­ple in his or her life, he or she can feel equal­ly con­tent in the car­ing com­pa­ny of the likeminded.

Some char­ac­ters demon­strate the sub­tle ways in which expo­sure to reli­gious tra­di­tion can empow­er someone’s self-expres­sion. One char­ac­ter, under­stand­ing none of the words, belts a Hebrew song learned at Jew­ish sum­mer camp to ease his mind in a pri­vate moment. (Speak­ing of Jew­ish sum­mer camp, Tay­lor reports deft­ly on the rela­tion­ships formed there, illic­it and otherwise.)

Char­ac­ters craft new lives for them­selves right after their old ones come to an abrupt end. Even though their old selves were so solid­i­fied over a long time, they are aban­doned with some­times scary ease. New lives become real lives fast.

Taylor’s col­lec­tion is about how flings usu­al­ly aren’t flings: any rela­tion­ship, no mat­ter how seem­ing­ly cir­cum­stan­tial and dis­crete, can alter a person’s frame of mind or life tra­jec­to­ry, or resur­face down the line sig­nif­i­cant­ly and unex­pect­ed­ly. Alter­na­tive­ly, some­times, an affair’s great­est impact on a per­son is col­or­ing his or mem­o­ries in some small way. And some­times, call­ing a rela­tion­ship a fling gives some­one the strength to start over.

Relat­ed content:

Ben­jamin Abramowitz is an MFA stu­dent at Sarah Lawrence Col­lege and Fic­tion Edi­tor of the lit­er­ary mag­a­zine Con­struc­tion.

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