Puckerbrush Press, Orono, Maine, 1997
In this warm and wise first collection of short stories, Robert Taylor, author of the acclaimed novels, The Innocent and All We Have Is Now, writes movingly of love, loss, and reconciliation past and present in the inimitable style called by novelist Helen Yglesias “prose as clear as running water.” For readers, Revelation will prove just that.
Questions of Revelation
At a reception after a reading, Mary McCarthy was asked, “Oh, Miss McCarthy, where do you get your ideas?” With only a trace of irony, she replied, “It’s magic.”
Robert Taylor knows exactly where he gets his ideas. “The stories are here,” he will say, pointing to somewhere near the crown of his head. Of his writing, particularly fiction, the author of the novels The Innocent and All We Have Is Now, and currently of this first short story collection, says that the more time he spends writing, the more aware and the more confident he becomes of how he wants to write and the way he wants his stories to be. “I hear a voice and do my best to get what I listen to down on paper.” All he has to do is to access that place. Magic?
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What makes a publisher decide that a certain book must be in print? The author’s people, first of all. Characters. What they do, how their actions connect with others; how they look, how they speak, where they live, their era – all the things the 19th century novelists and story writers give to their readers, first with the fervor of engaged inquiry, later out of habit, which ultimately bored and exasperated their descendants. But Modern writers did the same things, more obliquely. Nevertheless, if we can listen, we can see. We know what Leopold Bloom looks like, the details, savory and unsavory, of his existence; what Mrs. Dalloway looks like (“a touch of the bird about her, of the jay”), where she lived (“London in June”), the hours of her day and evening. What don’t we know about Proust’s narrator?
So it is with Taylor’s people. We know about Jason and his love of storms, Trevor and his awful, loving parents, “George by Day, Sonia by Night,” Sally who is psychologically tone deaf. In the title novella, with its superb rendering of dangerous self-righteousness on the part of their opponents, there is nothing we do not know about Paul Andrews and Phillip Simon, including the significance of their names, on their journey towards tragedy and grace.
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Does the power reside in the style? Twentieth and 21st century writers hold language up to a different light, turn it, note vagaries and variations towards desired and sometimes astonishing effect. Robert Taylor’s “style” is so lucid, so clear as to be practically transparent. But then as we hear its imagistic and symbolic reverberations we might be looking into a calm rock pool and seeing all the quivering, free-floating life there. “Complete and consistently structured sentences are excellent in their way, of course,” says Revelation’s author, “but they are not the only method of arranging words, I find. I care most about the rhythm and force and authenticity of the language. Formal gardens are not the only way flowers can grow.” Magic; listening; the fictive art.
Æ Constance Hunting
Publisher, Puckerbrush Press