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Real Life: Book summary and reviews of Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Real Life

by Brandon Taylor

Real Life by Brandon Taylor X
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
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  • Published in USA  Feb 2020
    336 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

A novel of startling intimacy, violence, and mercy among friends in a Midwestern university town, from an electric new voice.

A novel of rare emotional power that excavates the social intricacies of a late-summer weekend—and a lifetime of buried pain. Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is working toward a biochem degree. 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 a series of confrontations with colleagues, and an unexpected encounter with a young straight man, conspire to fracture his defenses, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.

Real Life is a gut punch of a novel, a story that asks if it's ever really possible to overcome our private wounds and buried histories—and at what cost.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Breathlessly physical...steadily exciting and affecting...[a] charged experience." - Booklist (starred review)

"Taylor's perceptive, challenging exploration of the many kinds of emotional costs will resonate with readers looking for complex characters and rich prose." - Publishers Weekly

"The novel, by a staff writer at Lit Hub, has generated a lot of buzz, and its unflinching forays into our culture wars are cleareyed. Beyond its status as a testament of political injustice, though, it deserves accolades for its insights into the ways trauma hollows out a person's soul." - Kirkus Reviews

"Real Life asks questions many of us shy from: Who is entitled to pain? How useful is an apology? Can sharing our feelings free us from them? ...Amid the flurry of new novels drifting down like so many balloons, Real Life is the one weighted with confetti." - The Paris Review

"Luminous, from the very first sentence to the last...a stunning novel that won't be easily forgotten." - Electric Literature

"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 nuance and tenderness and complexity...Truly, this is stunning work from a writer who wields his craft in absolutely unforgettable ways." - Roxane Gay

"This book blew my head and heart off. For a debut novelist to disentangle and rebraid intimacy, terror, and joy this finely seems like a myth. But that, and so much more, is what Brandon Taylor has done in Real Life. The future of the novel is here and Brandon Taylor is that future's name." - Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

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Author Information

Brandon Taylor

Brandon Taylor is the senior editor of Electric Literature's Recommended Reading and a staff writer at Literary Hub. His writing has earned him fellowships from Lambda Literary Foundation, Kimbilio Fiction, and the Tin House Summer Writer's Workshop. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa, where he was an Iowa Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in fiction.

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