The feet of snow and unforgiving cold are enough to damper anyone’s mood, but uplifting spirits is a specialty of John Evans’.
In his debut novella, “All the Best Things”, that is exactly what he does. Through beautiful prose and imagery that tickles the mind’s eye, Evans, an English major at Manhattan College, constructs a narrative devoted to the condition of the youth in turmoil.
“All the Best Things” may be the first publication for Evans, but it is not his first story, and it is certainly not his last. The novella charts the beginnings of two aspiring young musicians as they struggle to preserve the bond of the band in the face of that notorious obstacle: love.
“I wanted to write something a little more like Gatsby, except Rock and Roll,” said Evans.
The story is loosely based on Evans’ own life. Notably, the character of John in the story reflects the perspective of Evans himself which is that of a blind man.
Blindness, for Evans, is more than just a deficiency in vision. When he was in elementary school, Evans learned the alphabet in Braille. Learning to feel bumps and understand them as letters and words is no easy task, but for Evans, the challenge of interpreting texts in Braille brought him closer to literature and fostered a passion within him.
“I ended up falling in love with trying to fight it and to read more,” said Evans of learning Braille.
Though he says the core of the book is very much himself, “All the Best Things” is structured in the form of two perspectives. There is the character of John, based off of Evans himself, but the other half of the novella is told from the perspective of Mark, based off of Evans’ bandmate and close personal friend.
Early in the story the character of Grace is introduced. Grace is Mark’s femme fatale ex-girlfriend who comes to visit Mark for reasons that aren’t clear until almost the end of the story. It’s clear that Mark is still in love with her, but as the band starts getting acclaim, John starts getting to know Grace.
As the story progresses, the divide between Mark and John becomes wider, driven by the wedge that is Grace and her irresistible charm. John, originally the impetus behind moving the band forward, increasingly becomes more engrossed in Grace, at the same rate that Mark distances himself from the two and starts focusing more on his music.
The dichotomy of the two opposing forces, love and ambition, is what drives the narrative, as well as what makes it such a relatable work. In this way, Evans captures much of the essence of being young.
“When he writes fiction, like slice of life kind of stuff it is just that,” said Samantha Moe, a Junior English major, as well as a friend and collaborator of Evans’. “There’s romance involved, it’s quirky and funny.”
Humor is one of the most noticeable aspects of Evans’ writing. Particularly between John and Mark, the heavy use of sarcasm and wit betrays the true John Evans, one who seems to weave tragedy and doom into his works for the sake of literary effect more than any indication of himself.
“I think anybody that reads this text to its fruition will find, to their delight, that there’s a lot more to it than most people will feel on the first read,” said Evans.
Although Evans describes his novella as a love story at its center, his prose addresses everything from camaraderie to religious intolerance.
In an exchange between John and Mark about a book John is working on, Evans wrote the character of John saying, “Nobody wanted to touch the mess. Apparently, deep stories don’t make money these days, only trashy romances.”