his TDR interview, Derek Hayes describes the characters in his short story collection, The Maladjusted (Thistledown, 2011), as people "who suffer from anxiety or whose thinking is a bit distorted."
My Oxford Concise dictionary defines maladjusted as "(of a person) unable to adapt to or cope with the demands of a social environment."
Judged by that definition, Hayes' description of his book is bang on. This is not a noir collection of stories about people from the wrong side of the tracks or an exploration of marginal sub-cultures. These stories are character sketches of people who view reality through a prism slightly (or more) askew.
Now everyone's perspective is different, so what I'm trying to get at here is more than simply subjectivity. What Hayes' characters have, rather, is a self-awareness about their relationship with others and how a conflict within themselves prevents them from sharing common ground with others, or connecting deeply with others, or feeling "a part of it" (feeling apart from it), or being able to manage, per the dictionary definition, "the demands of a social environment."
Yes, there is a David Foster Wallace-ness to these stories, though Hayes' characters are more ... what should one say? Real? Less extremely different, perhaps?
The Maladjusted packs 16 stories into just over 200 pages. The stories also take place around the globe and the narrators speak a multitude of voices: different races, different genders, different ages, different intellectual and emotional capacities.
Anxiety knows no boundaries.
The diversity of the collection is abundant and rewarding, and the ease of the storytelling is deceptively simple, though the stories are often anything but.
A debut collection worth checking out.