The Late Americans

Brandon Taylor's The Late Americans offers an insightful and razor-sharp portrait of the interconnected lives of a cohort of writers, dancers, and thinkers living in the contemporary American Midwest. Seamus is a white, aspiring poet but his holier-than-thou writer's MFA workshop makes him viscerally sick. Ivan is an ex-dancer building a career in finance on the back of money raised by his pornography. And Fyodor is a mixed-race worker in a beef processing plant who can't stop pushing away his partner. Together with a whirlwind of other figures who swirl in and out of each other's lives in Iowa City, these characters share friendships and emotional fallouts, triumphs, and betrayals, forever grappling across the fault lines of race, sexuality, and class.

Like other works by Taylor (Real Life; Filthy Animals), The Late Americans demonstrates a nuanced understanding of not only individual characters but the social worlds that tie them inextricably together. Taylor's characters unfold through specific, recognizable details, like Fyodor's tenderness toward the meat he cuts, "which was rather soft and delicate, like cloth or dough. You had to respect its natural geometry"; or Seamus's particularly acute yet distant experiences of pain: "There was a faint rattle in his chest when he breathed.... His shoulder ached. He put his thumb into his mouth and bit hard on the gristle at its edge. There was a sharp prick of pain, and then only dull heat." But it's the way these people interact with each other, from new perspectives and in new contexts, like chemicals transforming in solutions, that results in a deeply evocative portrait of anxiety and vulnerability, ambition, and intimacy. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

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