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.
About the Author
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.
“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 “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
“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 “Real Life is a gorgeous work of art, and the introduction of a singular new voice. Through Wallace, the book explores the tension of a person trying to become himself while surrounded by people who can see him only as their own projection. Even as Brandon Taylor dives beneath the level of polite surface interaction and into the ache of what people conceal from one another, or reveal only as weaponry, his sharply rendered observations make it a true pleasure to spend time in this book’s world.” —Danielle Evans, author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
“Real Life is one of the finest fiction debuts I've read in the last decade—elegant and brutal, handled by an author whose attention to the heart is unlike any other's. A magnificent novel.” —Esmé Weijun Wang, New York Times–bestselling author of The Collected Schizophrenias and The Border of Paradise
“A few summer days, a group of friends, a difficult intimacy—with the simplest materials, Real Life reveals the knives we pocket in good intentions, our constant, communal sabotage of love. Brandon Taylor’s genius lies in the elaboration of ever more revelatory gradations of feeling; in his extraordinary debut he invents new tools for navigating the human dark in which we know one another. He is a brilliant writer, and this is a beautiful book.” —Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You