Sunday, October 11, 2015
Jess Taylor will read with Kevin Hardcastle in the ebar on Thursday October 15th at 7:00pm.
Maybe you were one of those Matthews or Sarahs who in school had to share your name with another squirt or squirts in your class. I can recall at that age being confused that someone else could have your name. Your name was what individuated you, made you you. But where I was confused, all the Matthews and Sarahs were thoroughly chafed. At school they weren't just themselves, but sort of versions of themselves, divvied up by last names, or numbers, or qualities; members of some group by default. I'm sure this must make for some sub-phase in the steps of Lacanian maturation.
Pauls populate Jess Taylor's fist collection, Pauls. They show up as main characters or friends, men or women, with nothing more than their first names immediately in common. The inclusion of all these Pauls might seem arbitrary at first. The Pauls throughout these 10 stories – some of them fleeting, a few of them recurring – do not share any psychic connection or are members of some shady Paul cabal, nor do they combine at any point to create some megazord-type Paul. They're just regular Pauls. And it's this unremarkableness that makes them special.
The stories they dapple are ones of angst and strife and fancy, mostly experienced by the young. The characters, Pauls or otherwise, are at the age or in a place in their life, where what they're going through feels unique, as though they're the first people to struggle with relationships, with health, with getting older. But the simple presence of a Paul serves to ground whatever the experience, tether it to something bigger. Like all those Matthews and Sarahs in everyone's elementary school, the Pauls in Pauls appear as a reminder that as much as we are ourselves, we're also a moving piece inconceivable machination, whether we want to be or not.
Each Paul, too, serves as a sort of symbol of regularness. (Sorry all you remarkable, dazzling Pauls out there, but you've got a very ordinary name.) The world of Taylor's stories is not odd or quirky, but the banal and brutal place that the world just is. It's how that world is viewed in Taylor's stories that rotoscopes poetry onto the reality. In this way, Taylor's stories recall the early work of Amy Hempel and Lorrie Moore, where life is just regular old, Paulful life enlivened and distorted by how each character experiences it, where a secondary, narrative tension is created by the ways in which the world always seems to fight against our want for it to be something more, something a little less Paul-y.