Andrew Sullivan, 179 pgs, Arbeiter Ring Publishing, arpbooks.org, $16.95
There’s a beautiful black-and-white picture of two vicious dogs snapping at each other on the cover of Andrew Sullivan’s debut short story collection, and that’s exactly what this book delivers: glimpses of violence and desperation wrapped up in a beautiful package. It’s Raymond Carver meets Raymond Chandler, tales of hard living rendered in poetic prose stripped down to the essentials.
The stories in All We Want Is Everything follow characters leading desperate lives, but who refuse to be quiet about it. Sullivan’s characters are people with moral centers, people you care about even as they commit horrific acts — acts of violence, acts of neglect, acts of self-sabotage. Amongst all the desperation, Sullivan never loses sight of the one trait that makes us all truly human: kindness.
By the very first story you know you’re in good hands. The cinematic writing plunges you right into the middle of the characters’ lives. Throughout the book descriptions of people and places are concrete and very visual: “Floor covered in puke, the McDonald’s fries still holding their shape and consistency amongst the orange sludge, except they’re white like bones and for a minute we think maybe the Magician ate a mouse whole or something.”
All We Want Is Everything is the debut of a major talent. Sullivan writes so well I wanted to grab his book and run out onto the streets with a big ol’ Town Crier-style bell shouting “Hear ye! Hear ye! Read this book NOW!” But no need for all the hubbub, bub — just buy the book, take the ride and enjoy. (AG Pasquella)