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Real Life

by Brandon Taylor

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7062328,289 (3.77)1 / 42
"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"--… (more)
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» See also 42 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Repetitively painful, cant understand how it received a Booker nomination. Get on with your "real life", in the laboratory. Also get "real friends". ( )
  bergs47 | Dec 30, 2022 |
When I look at the ratings people have given this book I feel like I must have been listening to a different book. Despite the title the plot of this book is about as far from "real life' as I could ever imagine. The main character, Wallace, is a gay black man working on his doctoral thesis in a predominately white university town. The premise sounds good but it didn't work for me. Wallace may or may not finish his lab work for his thesis but he doesn't seem too worried about all the problems he encounters. He may or may not be in love with Miller who may or may not be heterosexual. He may or may not be grieving for his recently deceased father. He just didn't seem to have any firm feelings or beliefs so he didn't seem "real" to me. ( )
1 vote gypsysmom | Jun 19, 2022 |
Wallace leads a life completely alien to my own experience yet Taylor's choice to not single out any one aspect of Wallace's identity created a multidimensional, relatable protagonist. I felt the author captured that time in life where you are headed down a road and begin to see that there may a fork in the not-to-distant future. ( )
1 vote ccayne | May 22, 2022 |
I loved the first three-quarters of this book and was full of anticipation about where Taylor was going to go with it, but in the last quarter it lost me and turned me off.

Wallace, the protagonist, is mentally sliding into a bleak place over the course of the weekend that the book is centred around. A minority black and gay man in a predominantly white Midwestern US grad school, his feelings of not belonging - both socially and academically - come to a head in a weekend of despair and confusion as he puts the barriers up higher between himself and his closest circle of friends, all the while embarking on a new sexual relationship with one of his straight male friends.

Yes, I know this is supposedly a novel of great depth about wounds and being fractured and being on the outside looking in, but in the end I grew tired of being 'told' by the main character of his great inability to fit in and his terrible childhood trauma, all in the midst of a bizarre sudden intense relationship with the rough, straight guy that he gets on with the least out of his friends.

I could feel no sympathy for Wallace by the end of Taylor's handling. He was a depressed guy who wasn't happy with where he was and knew of no other direction to go in, but I really couldn't have cared either way by the end. It all felt a bit directionless and flat.

3.5 stars - a strong start but lost my attention somewhere along the way. ( )
  AlisonY | Apr 2, 2022 |
Content Note: child sexual abuse, sexualized violence, (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Wallace works on his doctorate in Chemistry at a small Midwestern university. His life is spent mostly in the lab, with occasional meet-ups with his friends, most of whom are also pre-docs in Chemistry. Wallace, being the only Black person in the lab, coming from a poor background and being one of the few queer people at university, doesn’t feel like he belongs, but so far he has muddled through. But over the course of one weekend, the balance he has found in his life shifts considerably, though.

I expected Real Life to not be a happy book, but I didn’t quite anticipate just how heavy it would be (content notes in the book would have been nice). That being said, it is a sign of how well-structured and well-written it is to make you feel this weight. And it is certainly worth subjecting yourself to it.

Read more on my blog: https://kalafudra.com/2022/03/22/real-life-brandon-taylor/ ( )
  kalafudra | Mar 22, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Real Life will undoubtedly unsettle some readers, but it will do the opposite for others, offering relief and validation at finally having their own experiences and truths recognized and reflected in a novel, and artfully so. Taylor’s language is breathtaking in its precision and poetry, and he has a real talent for writing beautifully about ugly, brutal things. The result is a book that can only be described as the perfect union of the two—brutiful—and should be considered essential reading for all.
added by karenb | editBookPage, Stephenie Harrison (Feb 19, 2020)
 
Taylor’s book isn’t about overcoming trauma or the perils of academia or even just the experience of inhabiting a black body in a white space, even as Real Life does cover these subjects. Taylor is also tackling loneliness, desire and — more than anything — finding purpose, meaning and happiness in one’s own life. What makes it most special, though, is that Real Life is told from the perspective of Wallace, who, like so many other gay black men I know, understands how such a quest is further complicated by racism, poverty and homophobia. Such is often the case with publishing itself, an industry that is only now releasing works from queer black men. How fortunate we are for Real Life, another stunning contribution from a community long deserving of the chance to tell its stories.
added by karenb | editTIME, Michael Arcenaux (Feb 18, 2020)
 
In Taylor’s stunning debut, “Real Life,” quiet diligence toward one’s goals mutates into a spiral that leaves the mind and body bruised as if survivors of a psychic war zone.
 

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Taylor, Brandonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Free, Kevin R.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"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"--

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