The World Out There
by John Talbird
978-1-948692-36-6 paper 20.95
978-1-948692-37-3 ebook 9.99
5½x8½ , 296 pp.
Cover art by Melinda Yale.
The World Out There is set in Gainesville, FL during the early nineteen-nineties and its North-Central Florida setting is important as both physical and psychological space. In addition to Spanish moss, heat-radiating highways, and palmettos, the novel explores the violence beneath the glittering surface of the “Sunshine State”: racial tensions, neofascist violence against “others,” and a string of serial murders acts as an ominous backdrop for the action. The car wreck into Lake Walters, coming within the first pages, is a catalyst for action—the concentric waves radiating from the car dropping through that lake surface like danger reverberating throughout the book. The story follows the lives of three people—Jan, William, and Ray—with the action centered around a used bookstore. Each of these Gen-Xers came to Gainesville to get college degrees and then never left. Each watches his or her grandiose ideas of “success” drift away as they pass through their thirties, replaced with a vagueness of purpose, a nagging anxiety that there is something else they’re supposed to be doing.
John Talbird is the author of the chapbook, A Modicum of Mankind (Norte Maar). His fiction and essays have appeared in Ploughshares, Grain, Juked, The Literary Review, Ambit, Potomac Review and many others. He is on the Editorial Board of Green Hills Literary Lantern and a frequent contributor to Film International. An English professor at Queensborough Community College-CUNY, he lives in New York City with his wife, Melinda Yale.
In one of the (many) compelling and memorable scenes in John Talbird’s debut novel, The World Out There, Jan responds to her fear of an at-large serial killer who’s terrorizing the town. Most of the victims are “petite brunettes with shoulder-length hair,” Jan tells her boss and lover, William, when she asks him to crop her long, dark hair that she then dyes bright yellow. After William runs his fingers through Jan’s short hair, he has her shave his head. The dramatic tension and the sensuality of this moment amplify the reader’s awareness that these are people disguising themselves even as they seek their true identities. Talbird vividly creates the multiple perspectives of contradictory characters and earns sympathy for imperfect men and women struggling to make connection and find love in a violent and unpredictable world.
—Allen Wier, author of Late Night, Early Morning and Tehano
The World Out There is the world we occupy—full of chaos, love, longing, and despair. Talbird takes us to the Florida of the early nineties, a landscape that pulses with violence under the skin of all encounters, and where danger makes itself intimately known. Each of these characters is haunted by their mistakes and the mistakes of others, and by the daily perils of simply being human. It made my heart hurt with the reminder of how hard it is to grow the hell up.
—Erin Flanagan, author of The Usual Mistakes and It’s Not Going to Kill You and Other Stories
John Talbird’s The World Out There thrums with electric energy. Talbird mines and displays our deepest fears, desires, and heartbreaks through his mismatched couple, Jan and William. It’s the swampy 90s and the world hasn’t yet tipped to technology. The World Out There dwells in the loneliness of the indie bookstore, the awkward hipness of the indie record store, the solace of the second-run movie theater, and the futility of the won’t-ever-make-it band playing a nowhere bar. Mainly, it looks fear right in the eyes. Dig in. You’ll crawl out of this book a changed person.
—Sherrie Flick, author of Thank Your Lucky Stars and Whiskey, Etc