Fall Fiction PREVIEW: Pauls by Jess Taylor

Paul is not always the same Paul, but could very well be a similar Paul, another Paul in a long line of Pauls. Paul runs through forests, drinks in student housing, flirts with girls, at times is a girl, loves men, makes friends, jumps from buildings, hurts people, gets hurt, climbs up towards the sky, waits for a sunrise, and all those human things.

Pauls, the debut short-story collection by the exciting young writer Jess Taylor, is about people. More specifically, it’s about the things that remain unseen to these people, about how they cope with their unforgettable pasts. It’s also about the different roles they take in each other’s lives, about how they hurt each other, and how they try to heal each other. It’s about the things they want to learn and the things they’ll never discover.

Pauls with grey border

Written while finishing a master’s thesis in creative writing as a kind of relief project from her program’s main thesis, Pauls is a book that Jess Taylor has been writing for the entirety of her twenties (and she’s only twenty-six). What began as a playful, constructive form of procrastination became the opening story “Paul”—Taylor’s first paid publication—and earned her a National Magazine Award in 2013 for its appearance in the uber-smart Little Brother Magazine.

As the title suggests, these stories are full of Pauls—although Paul is not always the main character. At times he is a brother, a roommate, or a friend. On naming characters in her fiction, Taylor writes: “For a while I hesitated to name characters at all, using only a genderless first person, or I would use funny short forms for the names.” By the time she started writing “Paul,” the opening story of the collection (excerpted below), Taylor realized there existed a preponderance of Pauls in her fiction, and decided to go with it. Listen to Jess Taylor talk about naming and Pauls on Bookvacuum with André Babyn and Marcus Creaghan, here.

The stories that make up Pauls play out common scenes of early-twenties life: roommates, part-time jobs, and young love that both blossoms and dies. They are stories about characters who both engage in the world around them and want to escape it. When they engage in the world, they engage fully, and when they escape, they escape to the roof, the woods, the fire escape. In these layered, emotional stories, Taylor harvests hard, uncanny truths from the overgrown flower patches of youthful naiveté.

Available October 1, 2015, BookThug is thrilled to be presenting this bold and authentic debut.

Praise for Pauls:

“A magical and penetrating collection of strange, mundane, traumatized and ecstatic people who are all named Paul. Its simple sentences are little atoms of wonder.” —Heather O’Neill, author of The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and Lullabies for Little Criminals

“Reading a Jess Taylor story is like planting a magic bean and watching, with a flashlight, as it grows overnight into something you’ve never seen before. But then you climb up the stalk of the story and look around and realize there is no magic at all, at least, nothing un-real. These are true stories, illuminated with the wisdom of Flannery O’Connor and the wild leaping logic of Hans Christian Andersen.” —Michael Winter, author of Minister Without Portfolio, long-listed for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize

“I read Jess Taylor’s debut with a kind of childlike enthusiasm. As a writer, she’s thoughtful, compassionate, imaginative and intellectually curious. Her stories tend to establish themselves slowly, like a storm moving in, and they always revolve around a strong emotional centre that pulls you in, some sort of gravity. Don’t resist.” —Guillaume Morissette, author of New Tab, finalist for the 2015 Amazon.ca First Novel Award

Pre-order your copy of Pauls: Stories by Jess Taylor, here

Excerpt from “Paul” by Jess Taylor

ONE STREET OVER from Paul lives another Paul. They grew up together and are good friends. People sometimes describe them as inseparable, refer to them as “The Pauls” or just “Pauls” if they think theyre clever. Paul who lives on Werther Street works at a paper mill, and Paul who lives on Spruce Trail Crescent became an academic.

When the two Pauls were ten, exchanging stories about bike rides and dirty jokes and secrets at the back of the playground, a third Paul was born to a family on the outskirts of town. Paul was a name that ran in his family—his fathers middle name was Paul, and his grandfathers first name was Paul, and his great-grandfathers middle name was Paul, and his great-great grandfathers first name was Paul, and so on. A new Paul was born to the family, and the lights in the hospital hurt his eyes, and the air in the world hurt his lungs, and he wailed and wailed and that hurt his throat.

The two Pauls are twenty-five when this story takes place. One Paul has a stack of books in front of him, and the other Paul brushes fragments of wood from his clothes. New Paul is not so new anymore. He’s fifteen. Paul goes to school, and he doesn’t say much (perhaps part of him remembers how wailing hurt his throat). He comes home, and he goes outside, and he listens to the birds. And he walks into the forest, and he thinks about how every day is a new day, a good day, a strange day, and what a world it is that he lives in. He touches bark on trees. He touches the waxy surface of maple leaves and then touches elm leaves and tries to think about the difference. Sometimes he collects hickory nuts that have fallen onto the moss at the edge of the forest. He pretends to be a gatherer in a hunter/gatherer society, but he feels too old for such games sometimes. Those times he goes deeper into the forest where his cat emerges from bushes, and he follows her through the forest, mostly just to see where she’ll go.

Paper-mill Paul has decided to get married. There’s money in the bank, and there’s a girl that loves him, and he’s not sure what else to do since every day he drives to work and then he works and then he gets paid when two weeks go by and then he puts the money in the bank and takes the girl that loves him on dates and then he goes over to PhD Paul’s house after he’s drunk from dinner wine. And they stay up all night talking about the things they talk about and doing what they do. So Paul proposes and the girl that loves him accepts and starts picking out dresses. Paul sits in front of his computer reading literary theory, and he is alone, and his eyes hurt.

There’s a girl in Paul’s math class that has a crush on him, and she writes his name in the margins of her notebook, Paulpaulpaulpaul, and she tries really hard not to think about his last name. The way it would look after her first name. Besides, her older sister told her the other day on the phone from university that not all girls want to get married, and not all guys do either. Sometimes its okay to not want those things and to be a Strong Independent Woman instead. And the girl thought that maybe thats how she should be. “But are we still able to love someone and be independent?”

“Of course. Its loving the right way. Still being your own person. That’s what I have with Rebecca. Don’t tell Mom.

So the girl writes Paul over and over and walks home behind him with wistful eyes. Paul never looks back. When the girl gets home from school, she writes different things about him, a boy named Paul. She remembers a Paul her mother once mentioned, one of her old friends, she remembers her sister once had a friend named Paul.

A Comprehensive List of Pauls

Paul 15. Boy in my class. I like him. He sits across the classroom, and he’s really good at math. The other day the English teacher called on him in class, and he didn’t even hear him. He’s always far away in his head. Its impossible for me to know where he goes.

Paul19. One of my sister’s best friends in high school. They kissed once at the back of the soccer field, but then he moved away.

Paul Deceased. Would be 50. Man my mother knew in university. He got very sick with ALS after he graduated. My mother gets really sad when she talks about it, and then she has too many glasses of wine and goes to bed early.

Paul Fictional. 20. Main character in my favourite movie. The movie is beautiful—the colours all have a blue tint. Its about a young man, and he falls in love with a young girl even though he only ever sees glimpses of her (the side of her face, her hand brushing back her hair, her back walking in front of him) and follows her through the city, and eventually they meet on a bridge, and the sky is blue, the water is blue, the bridge is blue, even their skin looks blue. Blue, blue, blue. But then he walks away.

Paul Fictional. 22. Character in a story I wrote. The story is too much like the movie. I don’t want to talk about the story.

Paul35. First name of one of my teachers. My favourite teacher. I was in grade five, and he gave me my first adult book to read. To Kill A Mockingbird.

It didn’t make much sense to me, but I liked the characters of Scout and Dill, and I liked the fact that he thought I was smart enough to read it, even though I probably wasn’t.

After making this list, the girl isn’t anywhere closer to understanding Paul, who he is, his motivations. The next day in class, she sends him a letter asking him to hang out after school. She chews on the end of her pen and watches as the boy next to Paul passes him the letter and points to her. She waves. Paul reads the note and searches out her eyes. His are a faded sort of blue (blue, blue, blue) that don’t quite make contact with hers. He nods. She smiles, but he’s already gone back to his work.

 

Upcoming events with Jess Taylor

Tuesday October 13, 2015
BookThug Fall 2015 Book Launch and Party: Launching new books by Jess Taylor, Jean Marc Ah-Sen, Josh Massey, Liz Worth, Shannon Maguire, Brian Dedora, Samuel Andreyev, Steven Ross Smith and Chantal Neveu.

Where: The Garrison
Address: 1197 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON
Time: Doors open at 7:30 PM. Readings begin at 8:30 PM.
Free. Books will be for sale.
For more info or to RSVP, visit https://www.facebook.com/BookThug?fref=ts

Thursday October 15, 2015
The Bookshelf, in partnership with BookThug and Biblioasis, presents an evening with Jess Taylor, author of Pauls, and Kevin Hardcastle, author of Debris (Biblioasis)

Where: The Bookshelf
Address: 41 Quebec Street, Guelph, ON
Time: 7:00 PM
Free
More info coming soon.

Thursday October 22, 2015
The London Public Library, in partnership with BookThug, Biblioasis and Coach House Books, presents an evening with Jess Taylor, author of Pauls, Kevin Hardcastle, author of Debris (Biblioasis), and Andrew Battershill, author of Pillow (Coach House Books)

Where: London Public Library, Landon Branch
Address:  167 Wortley Road, London, ON
Time: 7:00 PM
Free
More info coming soon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
The International Festival of Authors (IFOA) presents “A Celebration of BookThug,” featuring short readings and Q&A with Kate Hargreaves, Martí Sales, Mike Steeves, Jess Taylor, and Liz Worth. Q&A hosted and moderated by Emily M. Keeler.

Address: 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON M5J 2G8
When: 8:30 PM
Free
For more info, visit http://ifoa.org/events/a-celebration-of-bookthug

Friday, November 6, 2015
BookThug presents the Toronto launch of Pauls, the debut short story collection by Jess Taylor.
Where: The Steady Cafe
Address: 1051 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON
Time: 7–10:00 PM
Free
For more info or to RSVP, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/895139877220151/

Wednesday November 11, 2015
Brockton Writers Series presents Jess Taylor, author of Pauls

Also reading: TBA
Where: Full of Beans Coffee House and Roastery
Address: 1348 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON
Time: 7:00 PM
Free
For more info, visit https://brocktonwritersseries.wordpress.com/next-event/

Photo credit:

Photo credit: Angela Lewis

Jess Taylor is a writer and poet based in Toronto, Ontario. She is the founder of the Emerging Writers Reading Series and is the fiction editor of Little Brother Magazine. Her work has been published in a variety of journals, magazines, and newspapers, including This Magazine, CNQ, and The National Post. Her first pamphlet chapbook, And Then Everyone (Picture Window Press), was released in April 2014, and was followed by her first full-length chapbook, Never Stop (Anstruther Press) in October 2014. Jess also received the Gold 2013 National Magazine Award in Fiction for her short story, “Paul.” Pauls is her fiction debut.

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