Real Life by Brandon Taylor
It is a rare thing: to find a book that simply lays itself out, seduces, moves forward, never falters, and lands with a deft final step. The good read that Goodreads is named for. Taylor’s novel is simple on the surface, complex beneath, steady, heady, marvelous in the way it reveals and reveals. Taylor has many gifts. He can choose the perfect moment to show a character inside and out; he writes dialog that is precise, that lands in a territory of conflict without feeling pushed, that has none of that quality of bickering that overwhelms so much television and movies. He creates a nest of people who push and pull at one another because that is the place they inhabit and the age at which they find themselves. He writes about things I don’t know, like examining nematodes under a microscope or playing tennis on a warm afternoon, with such clarity that I follow his narrative moment by moment. His writing is the definition of effortless. The charater Wallace makes me ache, makes me want to defend him from Roman, from Vincent, from Dana. Wallace and Miller are so vivid and harsh in they way they come together and tear at one another. The feeling of the vulnerability they all have, here in this graduate program, with real life stretching ahead of them, has a tangible quality that kept me reading with the deepest interest. This novel can’t be simplified to a discussion of books about gayness or books about race, though it is profoundly true in the way it touches on those and other subjects. The ending at first felt abrupt but quickly enough I understood that by pulling the camera backward to the moment that Wallace met all these people, Taylor is returning us to a glimpse of innocence, when they are all possible; and when after all their turmoil and strife and pain I see them in that early moment toasting to life, I can believe the sincerity of it. I only find a book that does all this now and then. I’m so grateful to have found this one.