There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
David A. Taylor’s debut collection, Success: Stories, literally goes all over the place: Among the locales where his characters wrestle with their demons are Scotland, Sri Lanka, northwest Africa, China, Kathmandu, and Laurel Park race track. Using that last setting, “Pelagro” lays bare the increasingly awkward relationship between a father and son, exemplifying some of Taylor’s talents: Straightforward prose that performs plenty of emotional and foreshadowing work (“I used to like the races,” it begins), tight, convincing dialogue, and an eye for apt metaphors within the places his characters inhabit. (“Catapult, no!” cries a man at the track bar bemoaning the fate of his chosen horse.) As with many first-time story writers, Taylor’s pieces sometimes feel carefully engineered—“Bottle,” for instance, can’t help but oversell the connection between an alcoholic man and his newborn baby, who he’s traveling by train to see. Even that story, though, has a pair of fine character studies in its hero and the blowsy drunk who enables him, and Taylor’s usually finds ways to avoid a workshopped, mannered posture: “Coral, From the Sea” is a striking, subtle study of class resentment as told by a deaf locksmith, and “Angelina Before the Throne of Heaven” ends its tale of a mail-order bride and outsider art with a final turn that’s as strong as anything in the Raymond Carver playbook, without ripping off the minimalist master. Taylor, a local travel writer, appears here with Brandel France de Bravo. TAYLOR DISCUSSES AND SIGNS COPIES OF HIS WORK AT 6:30 P.M. MONDAY, NOVEMBER 24, AT BUSBOYS & POETS, 2021 14TH ST. NW. FREE. (202) 387-7638.