The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor is about a cast of interlinking characters in Iowa City as they navigate grad school at the University of Iowa and life. One of them is a poet that despises his classmates, another is a dancer who then decides to become an investment banker, another is an older closeted man. There are others too that all intermingle and conflict during their tenure. The novel is heavily queer, though in a sense that emboldens and questions the masculinity of its characters. It comments on capitalism, parental wants, love, sex, and art. The characters and its dialogue, whether in a café or bar or classroom, are filled with tension and longing. It has an airy type of quality to it, and seems in some respects to be in conversation and conflict with Lan Samantha Chang’s All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost. Overall, a decent and dramatic read.
Final Rating: 3.5/5
Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor is a novel consisting of stories, some interlinked and some roughly sewn together, which mainly follows Lionel in his encounters with a sexually adventurous couple. Lionel is a proctor who is stalling in his career in mathematics, and so finds himself at a university party where he is out of his depths. There, he meets Charles, a dancer, who pursues him, and they hook up that night. Throughout the stories, Lionel becomes slightly enchanted and slightly put off by the couple’s dynamic, which draws up raw emotions from his childhood.
My favorite part of the book, which was not related to the main plot line, was the story, ‘Filthy Animals’, in which two friends, Nolan and Milton, go to a party for Milton’s birthday. The whole time, Milton questions whether he should tell Nolan his parents are sending him to Idaho in a few months. Though, when they encounter Abe, a notorious jerk, at the party, they get in a mess when Nolan smashes Abe’s head in with a rock. The novel and stories are brilliantly written, with a strong eye for contentious relationships. Its language was accommodating and, at the end of it, I wanted to know more about Lionel and his past.
Final Rating: 4/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.