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The Late Americans

by Brandon Taylor

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2004138,638 (2.92)7
"In the shared and private spaces of Iowa City, a social circle of lovers and friends navigate tangled webs of connection as they try to figure out what they want, and who they are"--

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» See also 7 mentions

Showing 4 of 4
Stopped reading about one-third of the way through. Strong first chapter, then tedium and tedious characters. Might have gotten better, but I had had enough. ( )
  Kalapana | Jan 22, 2024 |
I liked this a lot. Taylor takes a cast of characters, most but not all MFA students in the arts and writing programs, most but not all young queer guys, most—no, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say all—in the process of figuring out who they are and what they want. Which sounds like it could be the insipid framework of any number of that kind of story, but it's not at all. Taylor's a lovely writer, observant of people and their circumstances, and of the human spirit, and he really cares about his characters—which makes the reader (this reader, anyway) feel generous toward them too, even when they're difficult. It's not a plotty book, and some of the characters show up and then just drift out of the frame. But that's life, which is what this very warm book is about, and I'm good with that. ( )
1 vote lisapeet | Jan 11, 2024 |
The Late Americans was an interesting reading experience for me. I went out and bought it on the basis of a local bookstore billing it as “the book everyone is fighting about on Twitter”. I haven’t been able to find any evidence of this fighting but I also didn’t look too hard and was mostly just glad this possibly apocryphal designation got me to read the thing.

This is a novel about a series of vaguely interconnected grad students in a liberal arts college in Iowa. Everyone is more or less unhappy and messed up in their own unique ways and while the plot doesn’t move forward so much as wander, meander, mosey, and turn around and ask for directions, I still found it to be a very compellingly propulsive experience. Each character felt like a real individual, with all the complexity, irrationality, and banality that comes with being human. I wanted to know more about these characters, to spend more time in their heads even as part of me craved a more traditional story pacing. The author’s evident skill was certainly an asset in this roaming narrative, the prose was sparse yet utterly well-crafted with frequent beautiful sentences.

Taylor manages to capture the misunderstanding and jagged emotions around things like race, sexuality, and class, and the whole book thrums with the tension of those elements as they’re represented in a single, loose knit, friend group. Without seeming to truly take sides, the author shows you the lived reality of all these disparate characters and how they understand, and misunderstand, each other. The novel struck me as an ultimately hopeful mediation on the importance of connection, even, or maybe especially, the tenuous connections we form as we’re starting to embark on our adult lives.
( )
  Autolycus21 | Oct 10, 2023 |
The Late Americans is called a novel, but is very nearly a connection of linked short stories, following a group of graduate students from about October to the spring of their final year in Iowa. Some are poets, some are dancers, all of them are horny and still figuring out this thing called life.

The story begins with Seamus in a class critiquing a poem, and ends with Daw, Noah, Fatima, and several others that we've met along the way having a party before they all go their separate ways. Most of the characters are gay men and there's sex or masturbation in just about every chapter, which was a lot for me, personally (though it didn't seem to be particularly sexy, more about the age and stage in life they were in?). There's not a lot by way of plot, but each chapter gives sort of a character study of one or more of the grad students. And Taylor can write: some of his sentences and observations are perfection, and that, ultimately is what kept me reading. ( )
  bell7 | Jul 6, 2023 |
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You know how you'd receive a god.
What if it was
a portion of his flesh? What if you
were terribly hungry?

-Dustin Austin
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In seminar, grad students on plastic folding chairs: seven women, two men.
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"In the shared and private spaces of Iowa City, a social circle of lovers and friends navigate tangled webs of connection as they try to figure out what they want, and who they are"--

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