June 4, 2021
by Sarah Gerard
I want to shout out my friend Justin Taylor’s memoir Riding With the Ghost, which takes place partially in Florida (Justin grew up in Miami), and is coming out in paperback this July. For over a decade, I’ve admired Justin as a writer, thinker, teacher, and human being—this memoir holds so much love in it. Justin’s love for his family, the artists who have influenced him, and his students, whom he cares for like surrogate children. I especially recommend this book for fans of the singer-songwriter Jason Molina. His work has meant a great deal to me personally, more than I’ve been able to put into words, really. Riding With the Ghost is the first book I’ve read by another writer for whom Molina’s work has been as important.
Here’s a description and some praise for Justin’s book. Preorder it in paperback here.
“Taylor’s memoir is an admirable quest to answer a question that, for many children of parents who struggle against darkness, is almost unanswerable. ‘How do you save a drowning man who doesn’t want a life preserver?’ . . . It’s a story told with heart and deep self-reflection, steeped in philosophy and questions about faith.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Taylor jumps back and forth in time, treading carefully and precisely through the delicate territory of his father’s suicidal depression, never veering into the sentimental as he works toward understanding.”—BuzzFeed
“This is a book about life, dedicated to the joining of what’s been separated—the Jewish past and the American present, art and academia, fathers and sons—which in these pages become as mutually reliant as lyrics and music. This, come to think of it, might be the secret form to which all of Justin’s work aspires: that divine recombined form of story and memoir called ‘song.’”—Joshua Cohen, Jewish Currents
“As a memoirist, Taylor is thoughtful, measured, and unflinching.”—Full Stop
“One of the year’s most impressive books.”—Largehearted Boy
“Justin Taylor’s relentless, peripatetic, and tender search for reconciliation with his late troubled father blooms into a full-throated song of joy about his own life lived through music, teaching, travel, and literature. Riding with the Ghost is gorgeously layered and deeply felt.”—Lauren Groff, author of Florida
“An atmospheric, openhearted memoir of great range and ambition. Like his literary hero Denis Johnson, Taylor fearlessly swings from the gutter to the stars and back again in this precisely observed meditation on love and loss.”—Jenny Offill, author of Weather
“In propulsive readable prose, Justin Taylor does something that most people would find impossible: He delves through grief and trauma to find the true story of his own troubled, brilliant father, and to trace the ways that his father’s influence shaped and warped his life and his family. Without being at all polemical, Riding with the Ghost has much to teach us about masculinity, patriarchy, and family in America.”—Emily Gould, author of Perfect Tunes
“From the East Coast to the West Coast to the Gulf Coast, Riding with the Ghost is a classic American road narrative, an intimate portrait of a father, the story of an artist’s coming-of-age, a statement of faith, and a requiem for all those who have touched our lives yet left too soon. Justin Taylor is a master storyteller, and his voice resounds.”—Sarah Gerard, author of True Love
“In this deeply reflective, sensitive narrative . . . there’s plenty of additional insightful observations about the stories we tell ourselves and the differences between the way we shape a story and the way we live our lives. A greater literary achievement than Taylor’s impressive fiction.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)