Real Life
Named one of the most anticipated books of the year by Entertainment Weekly, Harper’s Bazaar, BuzzFeed, and more.A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice. Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends—some dating each other, some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community. Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost.

Real Life Details

TitleReal Life
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 18th, 2020
PublisherRiverhead Books
ISBN-139780525538882
Rating
GenreFiction, LGBT, Contemporary, GLBT, Queer, Adult, Literary Fiction

Real Life Review

  • Roxane
    January 1, 1970
    There is writing so exceptional, so intricately crafted that it demands reverence. The intimate prose of Brandon Taylors exquisite debut novel Real Life offers exactly that kind of writing. He writes so powerfully about so many things--the perils of graduate education, blackness in a predominantly white setting, loneliness, desire, trauma, need. Wallace, the man at the center of this novel, is written with such nuance and tenderness and complexity. He is closed unto himself but wanting to open There is writing so exceptional, so intricately crafted that it demands reverence. The intimate prose of Brandon Taylor’s exquisite debut novel Real Life offers exactly that kind of writing. He writes so powerfully about so many things--the perils of graduate education, blackness in a predominantly white setting, loneliness, desire, trauma, need. Wallace, the man at the center of this novel, is written with such nuance and tenderness and complexity. He is closed unto himself but wanting to open to others even though the people around him may not be fully up to the task. And there is a sharp undercurrent of the erotic throughout. The way Taylor writes about bodies in the physical world is one of the highlights in a novel full of highlights. Truly, this is stunning work from a writer who wields his craft in absolutely unforgettable ways.
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  • Chaima ✨ شيماء
    January 1, 1970
    Reading this book was a religious experience. I dont even want to talk. I need to sit with this. I need to remember this. Full review to come. Reading this book was a religious experience. I don’t even want to talk. I need to sit with this. I need to remember this. Full review to come.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    Contemplative and absorbing, Real Life reflects on what it means to live authentically. Unfolding over the course of a single summer weekend in a Midwestern college town, the story follows Wallace, a reticent biochem grad student, as he nears an existential breakdown. His father has recently passed, he finds academia stultifying, and, as a queer Black man in an overwhelmingly white space, he finds himself estranged from his friends and labmates, subject to constant microaggressions and overt Contemplative and absorbing, Real Life reflects on what it means to live authentically. Unfolding over the course of a single summer weekend in a Midwestern college town, the story follows Wallace, a reticent biochem grad student, as he nears an existential breakdown. His father has recently passed, he finds academia stultifying, and, as a queer Black man in an overwhelmingly white space, he finds himself estranged from his friends and labmates, subject to constant microaggressions and overt racist harassment. Making things even more complicated is his budding romance with a standoffish white peer he formerly resented and thought straight. In mesmerizing prose Taylor fully renders Wallace’s inner life, subtly capturing the ways he manages great stress and searches for a higher purpose in life. There’s a lot in here that’s only lightly sketched, from Wallace’s relationship with his father to the personalities of his friends, but the writing’s compelling and promising.
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  • Paris (parisperusing)
    January 1, 1970
    Brandon Taylors Real Life is indisputably one of the best novels of our generation, and I say this because it is true. Do you know how wonderful it feels to be represented as a gay black man and by one of our own? Next to living, it is precisely the most euphoric feeling in the world, and so it is with immense joy that I could be one of this books earliest champions. Because when it comes to realizing the anxieties and nuances of our humanity, Taylor has given life to a character gay literature Brandon Taylor’s Real Life is indisputably one of the best novels of our generation, and I say this because it is true. Do you know how wonderful it feels to be represented as a gay black man — and by one of our own? Next to living, it is precisely the most euphoric feeling in the world, and so it is with immense joy that I could be one of this book’s earliest champions. Because when it comes to realizing the anxieties and nuances of our humanity, Taylor has given life to a character gay literature has been hellbent on keeping in the shadows.A story as painfully pure as its name, Taylor’s forthcoming debut Real Life illustrates all the grueling battles of so many gay black men like Wallace, the nucleus of this story, who endure the lonesome journey for shelter and mercy under the false claim of acceptance. Wallace learns this lesson as a biochem graduate student in a Midwestern town when he’s forced to face his predominantly white friend group and the peers with whom he encounters in academia, giving rise to a whole scourge of conflicts involving: racism, queerbaiting, tokenism, white mediocrity, fragility, and entitlement. These sufferings all feel a little less intolerable when a benevolent friend makes an unsuspectingly affectionate advance on Wallace, who timidly gives into whims and wants of his own. But friendships, like the embrace of such sudden love, can only be a forcefield for so long until the burden of race, class, and expectation has its way.My entire life, as a gay black boy from the scraps of Michigan, I dreamt of the day I’d write a story, my story—this story. Brandon has beaten me to the punch, but what a glorious sight it is to see another one of us leap across the finish line. Much like the catharsis of Elio in front of that ungodly fireplace in Call Me by Your Name or how briskly my heart dissolved as Jack was slain in Brokeback Mountain, Real Life has the sort of cinematic charm to render any audience hot with tears.Saeed Jones, Danez Smith, and now Brandon Taylor. My Charlie’s Angels. My Destiny’s Child. My beloveds. Thank you all for keeping us alive.If you liked my review, feel free to follow me @parisperusing on Instagram.
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  • Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)
    January 1, 1970
    Longer review to come. Thanks so much to Riverhead Books for the review copy, clearly I adored this book and Im so glad I got to read it. Longer review to come. Thanks so much to Riverhead Books for the review copy, clearly I adored this book and I’m so glad I got to read it.
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    I cant figure out if its me or the books Ive been reading, but I feel like Im in a bit of a reading slump after a strong beginning in 2020. It took me forever to read Real Life. Its getting a fair bit of attention and is on several books to watch in 2020 lists, but I found it hard to keep focused on the narrative. Wallace is an African American graduate student in biochemistry at a mid western university. He comes from a brutal impoverished family in Alabama. He is gay. His father died recently. I can’t figure out if it’s me or the books I’ve been reading, but I feel like I’m in a bit of a reading slump after a strong beginning in 2020. It took me forever to read Real Life. It’s getting a fair bit of attention and is on several books to watch in 2020 lists, but I found it hard to keep focused on the narrative. Wallace is an African American graduate student in biochemistry at a mid western university. He comes from a brutal impoverished family in Alabama. He is gay. His father died recently. The story focuses on a weekend in Wallace’s life amongst his classmates when his emotional life seems to unravel. He feels out of place and misunderstood. But there are no better places on the horizon. The author paints an intimate portrait of alienation. It’s well written and delves deep into contemporary interpersonal dynamics, but I didn’t feel very engaged by the story or the characters. Perhaps it was too much of a micro-emotional exploration for my current tastes. Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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  • Anna Luce
    January 1, 1970
    ★★★★✰ 4.25 starsIs it into this culture that he is to emerge? Into the narrow, dark water of real life?It had been awhile since I finished a book in one day or since I read a book that made me cry...but once I started Real Life I simply couldn't stop, even if what I was reading made me mad, then sad, then mad again, and then sad all over again. This is one heart-wrenching novel. Reading it was an immersive and all-consuming experience. I felt both secondhand anxiety, embarrassment, and anger, ★★★★✰ 4.25 stars“Is it into this culture that he is to emerge? Into the narrow, dark water of real life?”It had been awhile since I finished a book in one day or since I read a book that made me cry...but once I started Real Life I simply couldn't stop, even if what I was reading made me mad, then sad, then mad again, and then sad all over again. This is one heart-wrenching novel. Reading it was an immersive and all-consuming experience. I felt both secondhand anxiety, embarrassment, and anger, and the more I read the more frustrated I became by my own impotence...still, I kept on reading, desperate to catch a glimpse of hope or happiness...“People can be unpredictable in their cruelty.”Taylor's riveting debut novel chronicles a graduate student’s turbulent weekend. At its heart, this is the Wallace's story. Wallace is gay, black, painfully aware of his almost debilitating anxiety and of what he perceives as his physical and internal flaws. As one the few black men in this unnamed Midwestern city, and the only black man in his course, Wallace knows that he is in a ‘different’ position from his white friends. After a childhood disrupted by poverty and many traumatic experiences, he withdraws into studies, dedicating most of his waking hours to lab tests and projects. Yet, even if he works twice as hard as other students, many still imply—directly and non—that he was accepted into this program only because of his skin colour.“Perhaps friendship is really nothing but controlled cruelty. Maybe that’s all they’re doing, lacerating each other and expecting kindness back.”Real Life has all the trappings of a campus novel. From its confined setting of a university city—in which we follow Wallace as he goes to a popular student hangout by the lake, to his uni's labs, to his or his friends' apartments—to its focus on the shifting alliances and power dynamics between a group of friends. Yet, Taylor's novel also subverts some of this genre's characteristic. The academic world is not as sheltering as one might first imagine. Questioning 'real life vs. student life' becomes a leitmotif in the characters' conversations. Taylor's novel offers a much more less idyllic and romantic vision of the academic world than most other campus novels. If anything we became aware of the way in which 'real life' problems make their way into a student's realm.“Affection always feels this way for him, like an undue burden, like putting weight and expectation onto someone else. As if affection were a kind of cruelty too.” From the very first pages we see Wallace’s environment and ‘friends’ through his alienated lenses. While most of his friends are queer—gay, bisexual, or an unspecified sexuality—they are white and from far more privileged backgrounds. At the beginning of the novel Wallace ‘gives in’ and agrees to meet them by the lake, after having avoided them for a long period of time. What unfolds is deeply uncomfortable to read. In spite of their laughter and smiles, these people do not strike as friends. Their banter is cutting, their off-handed comments have sharp edges, and they are all incredibly and irresolutely selfish. Taylor’s quickly establishes the toxic dynamics between these 'friends'. While they might not be directly aggressive or hostile, they repeatedly hurt, belittle, betray, and undermine one other. The distance Wallace feels from them is overwhelming. Yet, even if he tries to be on the outskirts of their discussions, he finds himself having to deal with their racist or otherwise hurtful remarks. Worst still, he is confronted with his 'friends' cowardice when they feign that they do not say racist or demeaning things. If anything they usually imply that he is the one who is oversensitive. Over this weekend we see time and again just how horribly solipsistic and cowardly Wallace’s friends are. They mask their racism and elitism under a pretence of wokeness. Similarly, one of Wallace’s fellow students, believes that as a feminist she can be openly homophobic and racist, throwing around words such as misogynistic without thought or consequence in order to masquerade her own bigotry.Wallace’s friends’ racism is far more surreptitious. For the most part they pretend that race doesn’t matter, and that is Wallace who makes a ‘big deal’ out of nothing. Yet, when someone say something discriminatory out loud, they do nothing.As he hangs out with his friends he finds himself noticing just how far from perfect they are. A perfect or happy life seems unattainable. Even moments of lightheartedness or contentment give way to arguments and disagreements within this group. Even if what plagues Wallace's mind is far more disturbing than what his friends' rather mundane worries (regarding their future careers, current relationship etc) he often chooses to comfort or simply listen to them, rather than pouring his own heart out. Wallace knows that they couldn't possibly understand his relationship to his family and past.“He misses, maybe, also, other things, the weight of unnamed feelings moving through him. And those feelings were transmuted into something cruel and mean.There was an economy to it, even when you couldn’t see it at first, a shadow calculation running underneath all their lives.” While he may not voice his troubles while he is hanging out with his 'friends', Wallace's mind is often occupied with his own past and future. Taylor does a terrific job in giving us an impression of Wallace's discordant psyche. Moments of dissociation make him further retread within himself, escaping his uncomfortable surroundings. Like Wallace we begin to see his surroundings as unpleasant and claustrophobic. At times the people around him blur together, blending into a sea of white faces, making him feel all the more isolated. Wallace's own insecurities colour most of his thoughts, feelings, and actions. Even when I could not understand him or in his moments of selfishness, I found myself caring for him and deeply affected by his circumstances. What he experiences...is brutal. When his coping mechanism (work/studying) is threatened his mental health spirals out of control. The halting and recursive dialogue is incredibly realistic. Even when discussing seemingly ordinary things there is an underlying tension. And there is almost a stop-start quality to the characters' conversations that struck me for its realism. The way in which their arguments spiral into awkward silences, the tentative words that follow more heated ones, the impact of tone and interpretation. A sense of physicality, of eroticism, pervades Taylor's narrative. Characters are often compared to animals, close attention is paid to their bodies—from their skin to their limbs—and to the way the move and look by themselves and together as a group. This attentiveness towards the body emphasises Wallace's own insecurity about the way he looks. In one of his more brooding moments he finds himself questioning whether he wants to be or be with an attractive guy. His contemplations about same-sex attraction definitely resonated with me. Envy and desire are not mutually exclusive.“This is perhaps why people get together in the first place. The sharing of time. The sharing of the responsibility of anchoring oneself in the world. Life is less terrible when you can just rest for a moment, put everything down and wait without having to worry about being washed away.”Taylor often contrasts seemingly opposing feelings. For example, sensual moments are underpinned by a current of danger. Wallace seems to find both force and vulnerability erotic. Taylor’s narrative repeatedly examines the tense boundaries between pleasure and pain, attraction and repulsion, tenderness and violence. Taylor projects Wallace’s anxiety, depression, and discomfort onto his narrative so that a feeling of unease underlines our reading experience.“He had considered himself a Midwesterner at heart, that being in the South and being gay were incompatible, that no two parts of a person could be more incompatible. But standing there, among the boats, shyly waiting to discover the people to whom he felt he would belong, he sensed the foolishness in that.” Taylor's prose could be in turns thoughtful and jarring. There are disturbingly detailed descriptions about Wallace's lab-work, unflinching forays into past traumas, and thrilling evocations of sexual desire. A seemingly ordinary weekend shows us just how inescapable social hierarchies are. The secular world of academia does not entirely succeed in keeping the real world at bay. Depression, anxiety, dysphoria, the lingering effects of abuse all make their way into Wallace's story. We read of his confusing desires, of his 'friends' hypocrisy, of his own appetite for self-destruction...Real Life is not an easy read. There were many horrible moments in which I wanted to jump into the narrative to shake Wallace's friends. Wallace too, pained me. In spite of his observant nature, he remains detached. He picks up on his friends' horrible behaviour but with one or two exceptions he does not oppose them. Yet, I could also see why he remained passive. Being in his position is exhausting.“It is a life spent swimming against the gradient, struggling up the channel of other people’s cruelty. It grates him to consider this, the shutting away of the part of him that now throbs and writhes like a new organ that senses so keenly the limitations of his life.”Even if I craved for a more reassuring ending I still think that this is an impressive debut novel one that strikingly renders what it feels to inhabit a black body in a white-dominated environment. Real Life tackles racism, privilege, cruelty, cultural and power dynamics, and the complexities of sexual desire head on. Wallace's friends are aggravating if not downright despicable. Which is perhaps why when alongside Wallace we glimpse some kindness in them, it makes us all the more upset.Reading Real Life made me uncomfortable, angry, sad. Lines like these, “He typically brings crackers or another form of fiber because his friends are all full of shit and need cleaning out from time to time”, even made me laugh out loud. What I'm trying to say, or write is this: this is a brilliant novel, one you should definitely read (with some caution, of course).Anyhow, I can't wait to read more by Taylor.Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads
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  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    Taylor's debut novel is strong when it focuses on the subtle dynamics of social interactions, when it conveys what it means to live in a white world as a black, homosexual man. Wallace, the protagonist, grew up in Alabama and is now enrolled in a graduate program for biochemistry in the Midwest - the only black student in his year. He falls for his white friend Miller who presents as straight and/or isn't sure whether he is gay. They start a relationship on the low, but, much like Wallace's Taylor's debut novel is strong when it focuses on the subtle dynamics of social interactions, when it conveys what it means to live in a white world as a black, homosexual man. Wallace, the protagonist, grew up in Alabama and is now enrolled in a graduate program for biochemistry in the Midwest - the only black student in his year. He falls for his white friend Miller who presents as straight and/or isn't sure whether he is gay. They start a relationship on the low, but, much like Wallace's interactions with his other friends, it is again and again troubled by reactions and behaviors Wallace has to deal with because he is black, and by his inhibitions fuelled by experiences. One main focus is on the fact that the people who do not speak up, who do not take his side but tell themselves that they carry no responsibilty are as much the problem as those who discriminate against Wallace. The author himself is black, queer, from Alabama and studied science in the Midwest, so in a way, this novel discusses real experiences in a fictional format. While there is loud, obvious racism, it's the quieter kind that unfolds in everyday conversations that underlines what Wallace is up against, how deeply ingrained racism is in the structures he has to inhabit and in the heads of people he has to deal with - and how hard it is to react without becoming the person who ends up being blamed. Taylor makes his readers feel the desperation and claustrophobia that comes with it, and thus gives us a new rendition of the genre of the campus novel. Spanning over just a few pivotal days and interspersed with recollections of childhood trauma, the text packs a real emotional punch.But please, dear authors: When you write a German into a novel, don't make them a chiffre and name them Klaus - it will be extremely hard to find a guy in the year and age group Taylor depicts who is actually named Klaus. It just seems like Taylor carelessly slapped a random name that appeared to be typically German on the character, which reveals a serious amount of cluelessness. This is a book about the struggle for dignity and to find a place for oneself, and how these strifes are made even harder through the effects of trauma and systemic injustice. A fascinating read that requires close attention.
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  • Matthew
    January 1, 1970
    The other day I was at my daughters swim lesson and observed a fellow parent wearing a sweatshirt that said ADULTING IS HARD in obnoxiously large, all-caps print. She spent most of her childs lesson on her phone and/or sipping her Starbucks coffee. When she rose from her seat to greet her child as class concluded, she appeared visibly put out; it seemed as though she were in midst of texting someone else, that retrieving her kid was some monumental disruption to this activity. I felt bad for The other day I was at my daughter’s swim lesson and observed a fellow parent wearing a sweatshirt that said “ADULTING IS HARD” in obnoxiously large, all-caps print. She spent most of her child’s lesson on her phone and/or sipping her Starbucks coffee. When she rose from her seat to greet her child as class concluded, she appeared visibly put out; it seemed as though she were in midst of texting someone else, that retrieving her kid was some monumental disruption to this activity. I felt bad for her. Not because I found her disposition relatable or deserving of empathy, but more so the opposite: that she likely had no clue what “adulting” truly was, that her grasp of real life and all that comes with it was embarrassingly narrow-minded. And that she wasted money on such a stupid fucking sweatshirt. I fully admit I’m projecting, that my observation is unfair (probably). Homegirl’s life may very well be rife with unthinkable misfortunes, the sweatshirt an ironic gesture. But let’s for the sake of this review assume that what I did observe amounts to be some of the more difficult situations this woman has to deal with on a regular basis. Hardly worthy of a sweatshirt lamenting the challenges of being a grown-up, don’t ya think? Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t. To each their own. I’d be willing to bet Wallace, the central figure of Brandon Taylor’s brilliant brilliant brilliant (yes, it’s worthy of not one but THREE brilliants) debut, Real Life, would agree with me. Not to discount other peoples’ problems, but if anyone should be wearing a shirt expressing the difficulties of real life, it would be him. Though I hardly doubt he’d be so keen on literally wearing his problems; it’s difficult enough for Wallace to open up as is.One could hardly blame him given the hand he’d been dealt. Born and raised in Alabama, Wallace is a reticent, gay, black man entering an intense master’s program in biochemistry at an unnamed Midwestern college, the only African American to be accepted into this mostly-white curriculum. As Real Life opens, Taylor introduces Wallace having already assimilated with his fellow post-grads, yet it’s clear he’s still very much struggling with the notion that he’s an outsider looking in, a charity case, an affirmative action poster boy.It doesn’t help Wallace often finds himself on the receiving end of racist barbs and prejudicial accusations from several of his lab-mates. Already insecure about his place within the program, these microaggressions are like paper cuts continually slicing into Wallace’s id, exposing his wounds to fuel a bubbling rage. It’s easy to question why Wallace rarely fights back, yet entirely understandable (better still, relatable) his choice not to. He’s of the mindset his path is one of eggshells rather than hardened terrain. When one of his experiments is compromised – Wallace fears it’s been sabotaged by a “gifted” yet wholly repugnant lab-mate who accuses him of misogyny – and his place within the program is questioned, you want to stand up and fight for Wallace despite knowing it would do little good. “I fucking hate it here.” he laments. Tough to disagree.Adding to Wallace’s inner struggle is his relationship with his immediate group of friends. Having recently learned of his estranged father’s death, Wallace chooses not to divulge this information until weeks after the fact and once he does, it’s shared within the group seemingly within seconds, much to Wallace’s dismay. What’s more, Wallace is called “selfish” for not having shared the news of daddy’s demise – an understandable choice given he and his father's own tumultuous relationship, which Taylor frequently eludes to before ultimately detailing in a singular go-for-broke, first-person chapter that’s as harrowing as a murder scene. Wallace’s tensions rise and he lashes out; secrets he’d become privy to are revealed during one of Real Life’s most powerful moments, a dinner party gone awry. Wallace is teetering on the edge of an emotional and existential breakdown, and it appears as though he’s willing to take others down with him. Even, and perhaps most especially, Miller, another member of their group of friends with whom Wallace begins a sexual relationship. Having started off on the wrong foot, Miller – white, straight – becomes Wallace’s most revered ally, if not a kindred spirit. They share stories, intimacies, privacies; they’re revealing their true selves to one another in ways both passionate and harrowing. Theirs is a relationship founded on tenderness yet fueled by violence, by hurt, by trauma. It’s complicated. It’s disturbing. It’s real. So very real. And it’s so very absorbing. Credit to Brandon Taylor, who through measured, contemplative prose expresses intimacy finer than any debut author – strike that, author in general – I’ve read in a lonnnnnnng time, if not ever. His own background as a gay, black man living in the South certainly plays a role in this, but so too does his unquestionable gift of which we’ve only just begun reaping the benefits. To which I ask: what more do you have up your sleeve, Mr. Taylor? I, for one, cannot wait to find out. So long as said sleeve isn’t part of an ADULTING IS HARD sweatshirt, of course. With Real Life, you pretty well established that.
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  • Jessica Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars.This book is so steeped in loneliness that you cannot help but feel lonely when you read it. It infuses every word on every page and it seeps into you as you read. There are many emotions in this book, but all of them except for loneliness are held by Wallace at arms length, through a fog, through the fog of anhedonia, numbness, and stagnation. It's also through the fog of trauma and loss. The book begins a few weeks after the death of Wallace's father, something Wallace hasn't 3.5 stars.This book is so steeped in loneliness that you cannot help but feel lonely when you read it. It infuses every word on every page and it seeps into you as you read. There are many emotions in this book, but all of them except for loneliness are held by Wallace at arms length, through a fog, through the fog of anhedonia, numbness, and stagnation. It's also through the fog of trauma and loss. The book begins a few weeks after the death of Wallace's father, something Wallace hasn't revealed to anyone. Saying it happened would mean people would express condolences and sympathy, people would push their emotions on to him, and that is the last thing Wallace wants because it might mean he has to consider his own feelings and that is something he definitely doesn't want to do.Wallace is the only Black person at a midwestern university's graduate biosciences program. He grew up poor in rural Alabama and that he is where he is at all is a kind of miracle. His group of friends are the people he started with, a band who are mostly white and mostly men. Wallace does not exactly like his friends, but they are all he has. Similarly, he does not exactly like his work, but it is all he has. He knows no other way than what he has, what he spent so long working for, what he escaped to. The struggle of getting as far as he has, the struggle of keeping up with each day has left him feeling so empty that he is incapable of making choices, of finding happiness. There is more wrapped up here, particularly around Wallace's disgust with his own body and his constant encounters with microaggressions from friends and coworkers, leaving him with no one he can really trust to look out for him, even if everyone says they want him around and want him to succeed. He lives in a world where everyone assumes that he is okay, that he has always been okay, and that he has the resources to continue to be okay, but that has never been true for Wallace and he is unable to admit or express it.It is unsurprising that this novel gets the dynamics and specifics of graduate level lab work perfectly (Taylor spent time pursuing a PhD in Biochemistry) but it's rare that you encounter novelists who really know science and the culture of a lab, the grueling menial work it takes. There's also a lot of great sex writing, which is one of the highest compliments I can give.This is so emotionally resonant and deep, for me it's 3.5 stars just because it's the kind of prose that I get a little lost in. The characters and interaction, especially the group dialogue scenes, were stunningly perfect. It's that because I am me, the reader I am, I had trouble staying connected to the prose when it wasn't in the middle of physical or emotional action. I suspect people who are big lit fic readers will not have this problem.
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  • Darryl Suite
    January 1, 1970
    Book of the Year (that's all I've got for now)
  • Traci at The Stacks
    January 1, 1970
    The writing in this book is beyond. On a sentence level I dont know that it gets much better. Taylor is so incredibly talented as a writer. There are parts of this book that made me hold my breath. He captures the feelings of being human and insecure. He also tackles so so much in this book. He doesnt stick the landing at points, and it does run on in spots. But holy cow, worth a read for sure, especially if youre a lover of contemporary fiction. The writing in this book is beyond. On a sentence level I don’t know that it gets much better. Taylor is so incredibly talented as a writer. There are parts of this book that made me hold my breath. He captures the feelings of being human and insecure. He also tackles so so much in this book. He doesn’t stick the landing at points, and it does run on in spots. But holy cow, worth a read for sure, especially if you’re a lover of contemporary fiction.
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  • Garrard Conley
    January 1, 1970
    Such a great combination of humor and seriousness, w surprising insights on intimacy. Ill be thinking about this one for a long time. Theres also a breathless chapter I dont think Ill ever stop thinking about. An amazing debut. Such a great combination of humor and seriousness, w surprising insights on intimacy. I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time. There’s also a breathless chapter I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking about. An amazing debut.
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  • BookOfCinz
    January 1, 1970
    WOW Brandon Taylor's debut novel Real Life left me with such a bookish hangover. After finishing the book, I felt like my world was rocked, I had to sit with that feeling for a moment.In Real Life we meet Wallace, originally from Alabama, he moved to the Midwest to pursue a degree in biochem. As a black gay man from the South, Wallace took the first opportunity given to put some distance between him and his barely there family. An introvert at heart Wallace tries to come out of his comfort WOW Brandon Taylor's debut novel Real Life left me with such a bookish hangover. After finishing the book, I felt like my world was rocked, I had to sit with that feeling for a moment.In Real Life we meet Wallace, originally from Alabama, he moved to the Midwest to pursue a degree in biochem. As a black gay man from the South, Wallace took the first opportunity given to put some distance between him and his barely there family. An introvert at heart Wallace tries to come out of his comfort zone by trying to be a part of a circle of friends, majority of which are white, all are trying to live some semblance of a "real life".Brandon Taylor knows how to write. For a debut novel he came out swinging. He brought the character of Wallace to life in the most tender, unique, vulnerable and honest way. I believed the story Brandon Taylor was telling even though it was fiction. He writes with authority on loneliness, racism, trying to find yourself, performing for people and trying to fit in. It was so real. I found myself getting so riled up at various scenes where Wallace was treated badly or gaslighted. I felt so much for the character Wallace because I have around some Wallaces in my life. A well written book that deserves to be read with awe. I cannot stop singing praises to this book.
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  • Dominic
    January 1, 1970
    I tend to get a little personal in my book reviews, considering reading is a highly personal act for me. I typically read not for "escape" but for self-illumination. But when books like the upcoming novel by Brandon Taylor, *Real Life*books so in tune with how I live and fear and lovecome along, I almost freeze up to talk about it.My immediate response when I started reading was that Taylor writes amazing dialogue between men. The restraint, often amid great emotional feeling, of many of the I tend to get a little personal in my book reviews, considering reading is a highly personal act for me. I typically read not for "escape" but for self-illumination. But when books like the upcoming novel by Brandon Taylor, *Real Life*—books so in tune with how I live and fear and love—come along, I almost freeze up to talk about it.My immediate response when I started reading was that Taylor writes amazing dialogue between men. The restraint, often amid great emotional feeling, of many of the male characters is rendered in an almost painfully real way.But the book's most tremendous power, though, lies in the interiority of its main character, Wallace. Those who know me know that *A Little Life* is my favourite contemporary novel, and much of that comes from the brutal and bold examination of Jude St. Francis' traumatized psyche. Taylor does similar, equally powerful work with his introverted graduate student Wallace, who must learn how to make sense of the past, face racism and homophobia and fear of failure, and live in the "real" world amongst friends and potential lovers.Both *Life* novels are books about the male body, but Taylor's book goes farther than anything I've read—a visceral examination of the queer male body and how it can sabotage and complicate a queer male heart.*Real Life* was a heartbreaker but also a JOY to read—mostly because it's so damn relatable: the way we fail as friends and lovers, the way we sell ourselves short, and the way we don't make room for the stories of the people in our lives out of fear of connection and the way telling those stories can, to a large extent, set ourselves free.
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  • Allison
    January 1, 1970
    PERFECT BOOK. REAL LIFE was my most anticipated novel of 2020. I feel like Ive been reading Brandon Taylors work forever, and remember clearly the day on Twitter when he got into Iowa. This debut novel exceeded my expectations. Its a stunner.REAL LIFE follows Wallace, an introverted biology grad student in the Midwest, a Southern gay black man navigating the predominately white higher ed, over the course of a single late summer weekend. The writing is profound & beautiful. Wallace, Miller, PERFECT BOOK. REAL LIFE was my most anticipated novel of 2020. I feel like I’ve been reading Brandon Taylor’s work forever, and remember clearly the day on Twitter when he got into Iowa. This debut novel exceeded my expectations. It’s a stunner.REAL LIFE follows Wallace, an introverted biology grad student in the Midwest, a Southern gay black man navigating the predominately white higher ed, over the course of a single late summer weekend. The writing is profound & beautiful. Wallace, Miller, and their friend group & colleagues are characters I’ll be thinking about forever. The book hangover is real with this one. Taylor writes so beautifully about loneliness in a room full of people, about desire for a life other than the one you’re in, and this novel brings up haunting questions of who we are given our pain, our pasts, the hurt we hold onto & project onto others. I could go on & on. REAL LIFE comes out in February & I HIGHLY recommend you preordering it.
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  • Jonathan
    January 1, 1970
    Real Life was an unmerciful novel that tore down the walls of the fiction we have all come to know and love. Brandon Taylor manages to navigate pinpoint dialogue in the way only Rachel Cusk can currently do, and also descriptively break you by constant heartache and feelings towards his protagonist reminiscent of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin. A feverish novel that literally takes place over three days but managed to open my eyes to a lifetime of misfortunes and unheralded simple everyday Real Life was an unmerciful novel that tore down the walls of the fiction we have all come to know and love. Brandon Taylor manages to navigate pinpoint dialogue in the way only Rachel Cusk can currently do, and also descriptively break you by constant heartache and feelings towards his protagonist reminiscent of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin. A feverish novel that literally takes place over three days but managed to open my eyes to a lifetime of misfortunes and unheralded simple everyday injustices towards certain minority groups by people they consider allies. This was an uncomfortable read at times for me as a white man but that was the point, to show the other side, the life I don’t live, the privilege I’m awarded everyday waking up white and straight. That aspect alone was enough to cause a sadness deep within while transgressing the journey of this novel..Wallace is the main character, a grad student from Alabama getting a biochem degree in a midwestern college town dominated by white people. His entire friend group is white and the racial disparity is glaring. Time after time Wallace seems to be the scapegoat to his friend groups problems, and at the same time a confidant they want to confide in, yet never really care to learn about him or see how he’s doing, any problem is just him “overreacting” or being dramatic. He was almost like a placebo his friends would abuse to temporarily feel better about themselves, a pill to swallow and then feel relief, never questioning their disloyalties and effortlessly placing him back on the shelf once they’ve used him, but never genuinely solving any problem.As we dive deeper Wallace begins to have a romantic relationship with an apparent friend named Miller whose feigning his sexuality and they begin to swim in the deep end of each others lives, testing the waters of what they can and can’t trust. Desire gives way to toxic and traumatic pasts we are finally shown the true people these two are, along with everyone else surrounding them. This novel by Taylor was an excellent case study on the dynamic of a friend group, the toxic friendships and race problems in this world, and the general lack of empathy in todays generation. A true genius work that will mark the beginning of an illustrious career of a wonderful man and writer.Also added bonus points bc Brandon is a huge Knausgaard fan and named one of his characters after Knausgaards brother from his my struggle series. A fun connection made between him and I. And again Brandon thank you for writing this novel and being candid with me while I read it.
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  • Reggie Snead
    January 1, 1970
    I got an early copy of this from my bookseller, who couldn't make up her mind about it. I get that this book has a lot of in-crowd support right now, but it just feels tedious and self-congratulatory, mostly interested in its own cleverness. Wallace can't make up his mind about anything, and it feels like the author is wringing him dry for the sake of the story, rather than that pain coming from the character. It's also a book where very little happens--there's a lot of looking back--and that I got an early copy of this from my bookseller, who couldn't make up her mind about it. I get that this book has a lot of in-crowd support right now, but it just feels tedious and self-congratulatory, mostly interested in its own cleverness. Wallace can't make up his mind about anything, and it feels like the author is wringing him dry for the sake of the story, rather than that pain coming from the character. It's also a book where very little happens--there's a lot of looking back--and that doesn't help things. The prose is, you know, like, "burnished" or something, very proud of itself.
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  • Karen (idleutopia_reads)
    January 1, 1970
    I was drained after reading Real Life as I accompanied Wallace on a weekend that was filled with micro and macroaggressions, entitlement, perceived acceptance, impostor syndrome, science (written in such a way that is so understandable), and academia (and all the hurdles that accompany Black people and POCs in it). It was tiring to accompany a Black gay man surrounded by white people and having to watch as the unperceived (by them) slights were hurled his way. Tiring because I was on the outside I was drained after reading Real Life as I accompanied Wallace on a weekend that was filled with micro and macroaggressions, entitlement, perceived acceptance, impostor syndrome, science (written in such a way that is so understandable), and academia (and all the hurdles that accompany Black people and POCs in it). It was tiring to accompany a Black gay man surrounded by white people and having to watch as the unperceived (by them) slights were hurled his way. Tiring because I was on the outside and couldn’t do anything except quietly rage. It felt too much like having to swim against the stream and I was immersed in the experience with Wallace and I watched as he thought about how much it wasn’t worth to speak his thoughts out loud. It just took too much wasted energy on words and thoughts that wouldn’t be heard. Wallace is a much better person than I am though because he sees people’s humanity. He sees beyond generalizations of straight, white, male and sees the person behind it all. My favorite parts of Real Life were when Wallace is alone and he shares his thoughts with the reader. The literary voyeur in me felt special in having Wallace share such intimate parts of himself that he kept hidden from the rest of the world. I couldn’t help but think of A Little Life when reading this story because I felt as protective of Wallace as I did of Jude. There was a shared trauma that is carried over in this book and that was hard to bear but harder to have Wallace carry it. I felt so much rage, such deep seated rage against the people that antagonized Wallace and I wanted to seriously conjure magic to go into the book to beat everyone up. Yet, I know that what Wallace experienced is a reality for so many and he’s not telling his story waiting on you to save him. He just wants you to listen, he wants someone to look at him and see Wallace. I want to thank Wallace (and my booksta friend) for hearing me out even when I was wrong, for fighting for Miller and for the love story that filled this book. Brandon Taylor is a captivating writer, the nuances shown in his writing are ones that you won’t want to miss. This book will hook you, it will heighten emotions in you and it will show you an experience that is a reality for so many. Taylor’s use of animals throughout his book as mirrors to depict emotions and experiences felt in the book reminded me of Guadalupe Nettel’s “Natural Histories”. I felt it was beautifully woven and executed in the book. It’s definitely the book of 2020 and I can’t wait for everyone to read it.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own.This debut novel is a gift to the world of novels. It is so quietly stirring that you wont know what hit you by the end. Following an introverted PhD candidate named Wallace in close third person, Taylor skillfully weaves a story of friendship and superficiality, the subtle and ubiquitous ways in which white supremacy plays out in a white-dominant Midwestern friend group, queer love and queer infatuation. I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own.This debut novel is a gift to the world of novels. It is so quietly stirring that you won’t know what hit you by the end. Following an introverted PhD candidate named Wallace in close third person, Taylor skillfully weaves a story of friendship and superficiality, the subtle and ubiquitous ways in which white supremacy plays out in a white-dominant Midwestern friend group, queer love and queer infatuation. It’s also the best portrayal of an introvert’s inner and outer life I've ever read. It takes place over the course of a single weekend, but the emotional depths of Wallace's character unfold with such precision and nuance that the very scary violence taking place in both the past and the present almost feel distant. By that I mean, Wallace is very good at repression as a mechanism of survival, and the prose is written so smoothly as to put the reader in that exact place with him -- a place where distance must be maintained from the myriad of violences. Real Life is one of those timeless stories that also perfectly captures a generational moment. I highly recommend it.
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  • Fatma
    January 1, 1970
    A lot of the times I'll read literary fiction that proves unbearably irritating because it is so intent on blowing every single one of its moments out of proportion: every word of dialogue, every glance, every movement becomes imbued with monumental implications, the author somehow gleaning paragraphs and paragraphs' worth of information out of a moment that seems, to put it simply, Not That Deep. Oftentimes this kind of attempt to make a novel brim with meaning backfires and instead makes it A lot of the times I'll read literary fiction that proves unbearably irritating because it is so intent on blowing every single one of its moments out of proportion: every word of dialogue, every glance, every movement becomes imbued with monumental implications, the author somehow gleaning paragraphs and paragraphs' worth of information out of a moment that seems, to put it simply, Not That Deep. Oftentimes this kind of attempt to make a novel brim with meaning backfires and instead makes it painfully caught up in its own forced significance. Real Life is a novel that resists all the trappings of this attempt at artificial meaning-making, a novel that in fact pays the right amount of attention to the minute."Off to the side, a man is eating something from a cardboard bowl. He has the sort of lean face in which the muscles of his jaws are visible as they work. Wallace watches the muscles slide and shift beneath the man's skin, which is olive colored. There is also the thickening muscle in his neck as he swallows, the food passing down and down through his throat and into the darkness of his body. This is an ordinary act, so commonplace as to seem invisible, but when any such act is considered, there is a wild strangeness to it. Consider how the eyelid slides down over the eyeball and back, the world cast into an instant of darkness with every blink. Consider the act of breathing, which comes regularly and without effort--and yet the great surge of air that must enter and exit the body is an almost violent event, tissues pushed and compressed and slid apart and opened and closed, so much blood all over the whole business of it. Ordinary acts take on strange shadows when viewed up close."To me, that last line is almost the thesis of the whole novel: "Ordinary acts take on strange shadows when viewed up close." This statement takes on different inflections throughout the novel, depending on the context in which it becomes salient: relationships with friends, with romantic and/or sexual partners, with classmates, with professors and advisors. Taylor exerts such a careful control on his writing in this novel that despite their ostensible ordinariness, acts are rendered in substantial and yet not unnecessary detail; these acts matter not just (and not always) because they represent some huge, monumental thing, but also because of the fact that they are, in the end, still ordinary. I am thinking especially of the ways in which Real Life pays attention to the pervasiveness of the microaggressions that Wallace, as a Black man, has to experience in his almost exclusively white campus. Taylor depicts an environment in which microaggressions proliferate and fester, creating a milieu that is suffocating in its insistence to let them go unchecked and indeed actively unacknowledged. Microaggressions, here, operate as a kind of act that seems ordinary to those who are not on the receiving end of them, those who were never meant to be the targets of these microaggressions to begin with."And there is the other thing--the shadow pain, he calls it, because he cannot say its real name. Because to say its real name would be to cause trouble, to make waves. To draw attention to it, as though it weren't in everything already."Again there is this idea of a "shadow" that lies beneath what is on the surface of an interaction. If "ordinary acts take on strange shadows when viewed up close," then microaggressions are ordinary acts whose marginalizing effects stem from them being and staying in those shadows. Microaggressions are significant precisely because they are ordinary, because they are, as Wallace says, "in everything." They are also the acts that those who don't experience them refuse to acknowledge. Put another way, the ordinary is important not just because it represents something bigger, in this case implicit racism, but also precisely because it is ordinary, because that implicit racism takes shape and thrives in commonplace occurrences.And this is not to mention that all of this is coming from people who are supposed to be Wallace's friends. Needless to say, these microaggressions (and in some cases overt racism) take their toll on Wallace, leaving him exhausted, frustrated, or else resigned to their inevitability. Taylor builds this kind of environment so intricately and precisely, laying one brick atop another until in the end you're faced with the sheer overwhelming height of an inherently racist structure. It infuriated me on behalf of Wallace; I honestly don't remember the last time a novel angered me this much.I also think it's important to underline the fact that Wallace is more than the marginalization he faces; things don't just happen to him. He's a fascinating, instropective, relatable and yet oftentimes entirely elusive character. He's always so alert to his world, attuned to the lines of connection (or tension) that thrum within his friend group. I have so much else to say, but I'm going to stop here, as I think I've written plenty already. That being said, Real Life is a novel that explores so many more topics with tact and insight: sexual abuse, trauma, sex, grad school--I've only touched the tip of the iceberg here. More broadly, it's a novel that intricately and deftly examines the textures of relationships and interactions, the ways in which they often operate as a push and pull. I loved this one so much.
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  • Adrian Chiem
    January 1, 1970
    It feels clichéd to draw comparisons to Baldwin but Wallace feels like an extension of Rufus in Another Country, of characters so intimately acquainted with their depression and so unmoored. It is isolation that Wallace feels. He is punctured by the sharp crags of being black and queer, being poor, and being a survivor in the unforgiving world of academia and whiteness, so focused on minutiae, so stuck, so married to rationality and production as means of progress. I hope he finds peace beyond It feels clichéd to draw comparisons to Baldwin but Wallace feels like an extension of Rufus in Another Country, of characters so intimately acquainted with their depression and so unmoored. It is isolation that Wallace feels. He is punctured by the sharp crags of being black and queer, being poor, and being a survivor in the unforgiving world of academia and whiteness, so focused on minutiae, so stuck, so married to rationality and production as means of progress. I hope he finds peace beyond the covers of this book. All I can say is that Brandon Taylor is incredible. His sentences wreck me. He writes depression a little too well. Can’t wait for his next.
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  • Charlie Smith
    January 1, 1970
    I finished this only five minutes ago.There are novels you read which transcend "reading", and, instead, vibrate and resonate so deeply in your soul, you feel connected to the world in a way you had not before, because you can say of the author, "Ah, there is someone who understands my experience, my life, my heart, the very marrow of my bones, my substance."Brandon Taylor's debut novel explores the bloodcurdling-ly terrifying experience of learning to live with one's pain, one's damage, one's I finished this only five minutes ago.There are novels you read which transcend "reading", and, instead, vibrate and resonate so deeply in your soul, you feel connected to the world in a way you had not before, because you can say of the author, "Ah, there is someone who understands my experience, my life, my heart, the very marrow of my bones, my substance."Brandon Taylor's debut novel explores the bloodcurdling-ly terrifying experience of learning to live with one's pain, one's damage, one's past, in a world where no one else seems ever to understand the weight of carrying that baggage, and how it informs EVERY interaction, every thought, every relationship. He writes brilliantly about navigating that razor's edge of when to trust, when to reveal, and who to trust and reveal to --- in particular, when one is unsure of what actually hides beyond the wall of self-protection one has lived so long behind.I recognized myself. And I marveled at Brandon Taylor's ability to relentlessly examine what was ugly and fearful in his characters, to write with such a sure hand about people who were so unsure of who they were; what a gift. While much of the novel may be about fears that limit, Brandon Taylor has written fearlessly, confronting difficult and awkward realities of modern life and culture with elegant ferocity, exquisite brutality, and fine-grained prose that compels the reader to devour the novel in one sitting.But, caution, slow down to appreciate the skillful literary and emotional treasure that is Brandon Taylor's debut novel, REAL LIFE.
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  • The Artisan Geek
    January 1, 1970
    30/11/19A sincere thank you to Riverhead Books for gifting me a copy of Real Life :)You can find me onYoutube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website
  • Erik
    January 1, 1970
    Looking out at life as a fish does, caught in captivity in a tank, afraid of what might happen if we let ourselves go wild: it's scary, but is it worth it? Brandon Taylor in "Real Life" asks just this question: how do we escape from our own self-imposed, and others-imposed, internal prisons in order to live?"Real Life" tells the story of Wallace, a gay, black man in graduate school at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Constantly confronted by racist lab mates and professors, white friends who Looking out at life as a fish does, caught in captivity in a tank, afraid of what might happen if we let ourselves go wild: it's scary, but is it worth it? Brandon Taylor in "Real Life" asks just this question: how do we escape from our own self-imposed, and others-imposed, internal prisons in order to live?"Real Life" tells the story of Wallace, a gay, black man in graduate school at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Constantly confronted by racist lab mates and professors, white friends who won't speak up when he is being attacked, and a past that won't seem to let go its grips on him, Wallace struggles to find his place in a whitewashed world that doesn't seem to have any space for him. As he falls in love with one of his friends and struggles to open himself up to vulnerability, Wallace's story is left open-ended.Not since "A Little Life" have I found a cast of characters I despised as much as those that fill the pages of "Real Life." Though the characters certainly have sympathetic moments, each of them is perverted by their own individual forms of selfishness - even Wallace, the protagonist who is himself most often the focal point for empathy and sympathy. But it is this character issue that drives the book forward and makes you relate so deeply: this book turns a mirror to you, the reader, and reveals how your own selfishnesses are rooted in insecurities that keep you contained, safe, and held back from real life.
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  • Vincent Scarpa
    January 1, 1970
    This too could be his life, Wallace thinks. This thing with Miller, eating fish in the middle of the night, watching the gray air of the night sky over the roof next door. This could be their life together, each moment shared, passed back and forth between each other to alleviate the pressure, the awful pressure of having to hold on to time for oneself. This is perhaps why people get together in the first place. The sharing of time. The sharing of the responsibility of anchoring oneself in the “This too could be his life, Wallace thinks. This thing with Miller, eating fish in the middle of the night, watching the gray air of the night sky over the roof next door. This could be their life together, each moment shared, passed back and forth between each other to alleviate the pressure, the awful pressure of having to hold on to time for oneself. This is perhaps why people get together in the first place. The sharing of time. The sharing of the responsibility of anchoring oneself in the world.”I mean. Golden. One of the best debut novels I’ve read in ages. Prepare yourselves.
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  • Lori
    January 1, 1970
    Ah man, if I heard "I am sorry" one more time....I really looked forward to listening to this one. I follow the author on twitter and love reading his feed. You'd have to be living under a rock to not have seen all of the positive reviews it's garnered, and it's received so much social media attention, and ok, yes, I should have stopped right there. That should have been a big red flag for me, because me and books that the general public rave about, we rarely get on well. I swear, this is one of Ah man, if I heard "I am sorry" one more time....I really looked forward to listening to this one. I follow the author on twitter and love reading his feed. You'd have to be living under a rock to not have seen all of the positive reviews it's garnered, and it's received so much social media attention, and ok, yes, I should have stopped right there. That should have been a big red flag for me, because me and books that the general public rave about, we rarely get on well. I swear, this is one of those times I take a pause, and look around at everyone, and ask "Am I the only one who thought holy hell dude, this relationship is hella toxic and you're going to die? And stop fucking apologizing for every single little thing, because I know you're not really sorry and you're only doing it to keep the dudes temper at bay, and for fuck's sake, stop being so passive aggressive". omg. omg. omg. This BOOK! I kept thinking to myself, Wallace, I swear to god if you say sorry one. more. time. I will bitch slap you and beat your ass myself!And so yeah, on the other hand, I'm all like, nice job Brandon. You got me all riled up and feeling some shit over here, and maybe in the end, I don't HAVE to like the characters, and I don't HAVE to like the decisions the characters made or the shit the characters are doing because really, it made me FEEL something and that SOMETHING will probably, most likely, make the book more memorable than the ones I liked and felt really ok about. But goddamn.You know?
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  • Monet
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book as a first draft and just finished the ARC. What strikes me between those two pieces of work is the way BT has shaved down the language to the sharpest most poignant themes. Theres no getting away from the harsh truths in this novel: cruelty, (feigned) intimacy, racism, family and friendship. I understand Wallace probably as well as I understand myself. Sometimes hes wrong and sometimes hes absolutely right about the way he sees the world.Heres my interview with Brandon at The I read this book as a first draft and just finished the ARC. What strikes me between those two pieces of work is the way BT has shaved down the language to the sharpest most poignant themes. There’s no getting away from the harsh truths in this novel: cruelty, (feigned) intimacy, racism, family and friendship. I understand Wallace probably as well as I understand myself. Sometimes he’s wrong and sometimes he’s absolutely right about the way he sees the world.Here’s my interview with Brandon at The Rumpus: https://therumpus.net/2020/02/the-rum...
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  • Steph
    January 1, 1970
    Grim, grim, grim. But also honest, insightful & true. A provocative and provoking read, one that was akin to worrying your tongue over a raw socket where a tooth was once rooted, slippery and jellied, tender yet intoxicating in a hurts so good kind of way. Taylor tackles brutal topics in beautiful ways... the very definition of brutiful. Definitely has shades of A LITTLE LIFE but more grounded and introspective (and woke, I suppose). An impressive debut that will leave you shook. Grim, grim, grim. But also honest, insightful & true. A provocative and provoking read, one that was akin to worrying your tongue over a raw socket where a tooth was once rooted, slippery and jellied, tender yet intoxicating in a hurts so good kind of way. Taylor tackles brutal topics in beautiful ways... the very definition of brutiful. Definitely has shades of A LITTLE LIFE but more grounded and introspective (and “woke”, I suppose). An impressive debut that will leave you shook.
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  • Beth M.
    January 1, 1970
    In his debut novel, Taylor creates a beautiful, at times heartbreaking, at times tender, character-driven story. Wallace is an introvert who has moved far away from home for the first time to attend graduate school in the Midwest. Despite developing a central group of friends, he feels on the outside (and understandably so) as a Black man among a primarily White friend group, a gay man in a part of the country that isnt always friendly. Taylor unspools his tale across one weekend at summers end, In his debut novel, Taylor creates a beautiful, at times heartbreaking, at times tender, character-driven story. Wallace is an introvert who has moved far away from home for the first time to attend graduate school in the Midwest. Despite developing a central group of friends, he feels on the outside (and understandably so) as a Black man among a primarily White friend group, a gay man in a part of the country that isn’t always friendly. Taylor unspools his tale across one weekend at summer’s end, creating a feel that the events are occurring as if in real time. As Wallace falls into an unexpected relationship, he is simultaneously uplifted and forced to face his life, both past and present, head-on in a way he has not before.Wallace is so richly developed that you will immediately fall in love with him. Taylor’s prose is direct, but striking; the book a difficult read not in terms of the writing style, but because of the content. Taylor so deftly displays scenes that you feel like you are watching real life unfold in front of you. (No pun intended, promise. The story and the tone and the characters are just that genuine.)
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