The regular reading series at Pete’s Candy Store opened with Justin Torres who has been making the rounds (he read at NYU two days earlier and elsewhere, I’m sure). The reading tour coincides with the release of Torres’s debut novel, We the Animals. Given that the book had literally just been release, I took the time to read through it before the event.
The opening chapters struck me as independent short stories artificially congealed into a novel with the stroke of a ball peen hammer. Several times I stopped reading to confirm and then reconfirm that this book was actually in fact marketed as a novel and not just a story collection. But as the narrative progresses, the detachment of each story begins to pull together into a coherent plot rather than merely an episodic assemblage edited for commercial purposes. Still, the final twists at the end seem somewhat artificial and lack the kind of foreshadowing to properly prepare readers.
Torres’s performance at the reading was solid, though not exceptional, and he tended towards that long, monotone cadence so common with young readers where the the final syllable of every sentence is drawn out as if for dramatic effect. It is the kind of performance that requires diligence on the part of the audience.