The World's Thinnest Fat Man
Joe Taylor is a professor of English at the University of West Alabama and directs the Livingston Press there. He has previously published one novel and another collection of short stories, neither of which were widely reviewed. Many of the eighteen pieces in The World's Thinnest Fat Man, presumably fictionalized autobiographical stories, center on a young fatherless Roman Catholic man named Josey growing up in Lexington, Kentucky.
As an editor, Taylor has said that what is most important for him is a voice or style that reads clearly as the author's own. As a writer, he fails to create a very distinctive voice in these stories. Josey, his persona, is well read, but basically just a good ol’ boy at heart, a sophisticated city boy who is really just a hillbilly underneath, sort of like a thin man who is really a fat guy. There is a picture of a trim Taylor on the front cover in a yoga posture reading a book and another picture on the back of a fat Taylor in a garish shirt drinking beer and eating Kentucky Fried Chicken.
With the exception of a couple of engaging stories—“The Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk,” about a guy who tries to get a love potion from a mysterious woman in New Orleans and “Alpha and Omega,” about a man who realizes that the priest who comes to administer last rites to his mother is the same one who molested him as a child—most of these pieces about a guy riding around with a six pack, going to the tracks, coping with divorce, looking for a father, etc., are marred by clichés, exclamations, and folksy expressions.