Everyone is constantly admonishing our narrator to keep quiet: “You’re full of bull hockey, college boy…Shut up and drink your beer.” Or, " ‘Shut up,’ Michelle replied. ‘Shut up,’ Michelle repeated.” Or, “Don’t look up. At least don’t shout anything when you do. She’s here, on the balcony.” Or, " ‘Shit.’ Sarah spit this out like a too-hot cinnamon ball, pulled me off the dental chair, and led me to the closet with the skeleton, shushing me with her fingers.” Or, “Hush, be still. Tacete, tacete.” Everyone admonishes him, when all he wants to do is shout the wonders, the horrors, the terrors that he and his older adoptive brother Galen face as one spiritual incursion after another manifests in their lives, moving from trickster poltergeists to forlornly wandering ghosts to intent fetches to avenging revenants. Perhaps, instead of admonishing him, everyone would do better to heed his early, youthful deliberation: “I never heard his voice again after that night. If we humans could always recognize the last words we were ever to hear from each person we knew or even met, our lives would perch as fragile indeed, gathering tragedy every listening moment to lean over a dark cellar, of dark farewells.”
Read Allen Mendenhall’s interview with Joe Taylor about the book.
“Taylor excels at establishing unnerving moods…. The author’s greatest triumph is his protagonist. Even nameless, the narrator is distinctive. Readers, over the course of the stories, watch him move from a Catholic boarding school to college and endure such adolescent woes as his persistent virginity…. Throughout, Taylor has fun avoiding the narrator’s moniker: hobby-shop owner Max Howard of ‘I am the Egg’ sifts through a handful of incorrect names while Sylvia simply calls him Bookstore…. An understated but remarkable lead character.”
“These are in fact all ghost stories, the kind people used to tell around campfires to frighten one another. When reviewing any story collection, I strongly suggest taking one a day, like vitamins, and usually before retiring. In this case, if you are a highly suggestive or sensitive soul, read the stories in broad daylight, not just before retiring.”
“Joe Taylor’s story collection Ghostly Demarcations is a meditation on friendship, growing up in the South and the nature of haunting…. Time after time, Taylor regales the reader with a charming tale of growing up in the New South; and when a comfortable mood is firmly established, the bottom drops out with the arrival of something that is Not of This World…. After continuing to encounter these transformations, one develops a slight tickle in the back of the brain as the story unfolds in stately fashion.
“The combinations of real and unreal, humorous and poignant, full fledged characters and well crafted master storyline, create, in Ghostly Demarcations, an overall delight…. The reader is left with a profound sense that life, with all its unexpectedness and certainty of a tragic end, is well worth the living.”