The Late Americans
INSTANT NATIONAL BESTSELLER
NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF THE YEAR BY VOGUE, ELLE, OPRAH DAILY, THE WASHINGTON POST, BUZZFEED AND VULTURE
“Erudite, intimate, hilarious, poignant . . . A gorgeously written novel of youth’s promise, of the quest to find one’s tribe and one’s calling.” —Leigh Haber, Oprah Daily
The Booker Prize finalist and widely acclaimed author of Real Life and Filthy Animals returns with a deeply involving new novel of young men and women at a crossroads
In the shared and private spaces of Iowa City, a loose circle of lovers and friends encounter, confront, and provoke one another in a volatile year of self-discovery. Among them are Seamus, a frustrated young poet; Ivan, a dancer turned aspiring banker who dabbles in amateur pornography; Fatima, whose independence and work ethic complicate her relationships with friends and a trusted mentor; and Noah, who “didn’t seek sex out so much as it came up to him like an anxious dog in need of affection.” These four are buffeted by a cast of artists, landlords, meatpacking workers, and mathematicians who populate the cafes, classrooms, and food-service kitchens of the city, sometimes to violent and electrifying consequence. Finally, as each prepares for an uncertain future, the group heads to a cabin to bid goodbye to their former lives—a moment of reckoning that leaves each of them irrevocably altered.
A novel of friendship and chosen family, The Late Americans asks fresh questions about love and sex, ambition and precarity, and about how human beings can bruise one another while trying to find themselves. It is Brandon Taylor’s richest and most involving work of fiction to date, confirming his position as one of our most perceptive chroniclers of contemporary life.
Taylor (Filthy Animals) offers a perceptive chronicle of graduate students and their townie lovers in Iowa City. Seamus, a white poet in the MFA program, is embittered, having been told by his classmates and professor that his poems aren't relevant to the contemporary discourse. After a rough sexual encounter with Bert, an older man whose father is a patient in the hospice where Seamus works as a cook, Seamus throws his energy into a new poem. There's also Fyodor and Timo, two Black men in an on-again/off-again relationship, their tensions sparked by Fyodor's resentment of Timo's comfortable middle-class origins, which put him on a path to study math and music, and by vegetarian Timo's outrage at Fyodor for working in a meatpacking plant. Ivan and Goran, another couple, fight about not having sex anymore, then sleep with other people instead. The various episodes don't quite cohere, but Taylor's characters come to life as they face unbridgeable gaps and their frustrations mount. Though economic privilege drives a wedge in many of the characters' relationships, their sexual desires and shared uncertainty about the future keep them tumbling along together through scenes cut with razor-sharp observations (here's Timo, asked what kind of math he studies: "A pointless grasp at specificity, leading nowhere in particular"). With verve and wit, Taylor pulls off something like Sally Rooney for the Midwest. Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the race of one of the characters.