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Real Life: A Novel av Brandon Taylor

Real Life: A Novel (utgåvan 2021)

av Brandon Taylor (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygDiskussioner / Omnämnanden
4201545,364 (3.84)1 / 32
Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is studying for a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, he has kept a distance even from his own 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 defences, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.… (mer)
Titel:Real Life: A Novel
Författare:Brandon Taylor (Författare)
Info:Riverhead Books (2021), 336 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


Real Life av Brandon Taylor


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Visa 1-5 av 15 (nästa | visa alla)
Saying this book is bleak is like saying living next door to someone who practices playing the digeridoo several hours every day (true story) is irritating. Its a true statement, but such a stunning understatement that it ends up being false. This is bleak for the sake of being bleak. Into every life a little sunshine must fall, except for Wallace. Nothing pleasing ever happens to him or if it does he covers it in shit and tears.

I love great prose and Taylor's writing, at the sentence level, is some of the best I have ever read. Like,Tolstoy good, in parts. He conjures a scene beautifully, uses metaphor creatively and seamlessly, dazzles with the use of simple declarative language that sounds both exactly like and nothing like things you have read before. 5 stars for language-craft (other than dialogue, but more about that later.) I have thought about this, and the book's shortcomings may become clearer with time, but here are the things I think are primarily to blame for this not being a great read.

Wallace is humorless and has a personality as flat as a pancake. We are all friendly with people at work because we work with them, but often we don't really like them, and I think everyone in Wallace's work based "friend group" dislikes him and doesn't want to admit it. Wallace's friends do all sorts of things together and don't invite him. He understands it is because he often declines and that appears to be against the rules. Perhaps that is part of the reason, but mostly I imagine it is because he is unpleasant to be around. I get that he is shaped by the horrors of his childhood, by the casual and sometimes subconscious racism and homophobia he faces every day in academia, by living in a place alien to him, where he does not know the rules of engagement. That is all heartbreaking, and likely quite real, but the primary problem is that Wallace is a big fat bummer all the time. He never says anything clever or funny or insightful or provocative or caring or intended to incite a conversation. Mostly he says nothing, and when he does speak what he says is hurtful or disruptive or bitchy and self-involved. Because he sees things, always, in a way that suits his dark world view he is a pretty unreliable narrator, and that made me wonder if perhaps he was not very good at his job. He certainly does not seem even remotely excited by the work he is doing, and behaves more like a lab tech than a doctoral student most of the time. I am not downplaying how imposter syndrome and the steady flow of microaggressions might negatively impact his performance. (I am old, and was the only female attorney at my firm for a number of years. I was regularly asked to get coffee and not given juicy matters because they would take me away from my fiancé/husband. This damaged my career and my sense of self. The partners' assumptions that I was there to serve rather than advance, that my intimate relationship was my first priority so I must have lacked professional drive, became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I know personally that this is real, and exponentially more intense for black professionals than it is/was for women.) If that is what was happening in the story I don't think Taylor wrote it well. I think he wanted the reader to think Wallace was incredibly talented, and that the low-key racists and bitchy feminists with all their talk of misogyny were out to get him. All I have to say to that is, why? What was the motivation? Did they just want to hold on to their racism? Doctoral programs are competitive, but come on! Again, I know that racism pervades the experience of black academics (I work in that setting) but graduate students actively going after fellow researchers out of sheer overt racism and then being able to convince faculty to join in? I have not seen that. So I was thinking perhaps Wallace was not great at the work they all valued so very highly and which was central to their lives, that he had a crummy and sometimes mean demeanor, but mostly was just like gray paint. I couldn't believe anyone ever invited him anywhere.

That leads to the next issue which is that Taylor can't write dialogue. He just can't. No one has ever had a conversation that sounds like any conversation here. Relatedly, I am not sure Taylor has friends, but friends do not behave like these freinds do. It was really inauthentic.

The third major problem was Miller. I am going to stay away from the discussion of violence here, and its not because domestic violence is not deadly serious. I was pleased to see a look at intimate partner violence in the context of relationships between gay men. Its common and underreported and needs to see the light. But my primary issue with Miller for purposes of this review is simply... why? Why this weekend, after knowing each other and being in the same social and professional whirl for a long time, did Miller suddenly decide/realize/accept that he was bisexual, and more importantly, why was he suddenly passionately attracted to Wallace? It was baffling. There was no setup. I understood what drew and repelled Wallace in the relationship - self-loathing and loneliness are solid foundations for horrible relationships the world over, and given its opening weekend this relationship was going to epically horrible. What though would have drawn Miller to Wallace? Its a mystery and one Taylor never addresses.

So I really enjoyed the words here, but the story was not there and the main character, in this character driven novel had a compelling past, but was not at all compelling in the present. And also, the relentlessness of the bleakness here was a huge issue. There were more moments of ease in Sophie's Choice, The Naked and the Dead, and The Handmaid's Tale. Blood Meridian was, comparatively, a comic novel. You get my drift. 5 for prose craftsmanship, 1 for story, tone and character development. ( )
  Narshkite | May 9, 2021 |
Wallace ist Doktorand an einer vorwiegend von Weißen besuchten Universität im Mittleren Westen. Als Schwarzer aus Alabama hat er sich vom ersten Tag an als Außenseiter gefühlt, nicht nur im Labor, in dem er mit Nematoden arbeitet, sondern auch in seinem kleinen Freundeskreis. Er befindet sich an einem Scheideweg, stellt seine Arbeit in Frage, für die er scheinbar gänzlich ungeeignet ist und die ihm auch bei weitem nicht so wichtig ist wie seinen Mitdoktoranden, aber auch privat ist er unglücklich. Beziehungen sind schwierig, er hat eine Art Affäre mit Miller, der jedoch sein homosexuelles Dasein öffentlich leugnet. Zu dieser ungünstigen emotionalen Gemengelage kommt Wallace’ permanentes Gefühl, Rassismus ausgesetzt zu sein. Er hat diverse Erlebnisse, die ihn aufgrund seiner Hautfarbe klar in eine Schublade stecken und herabwürdigen, zugleich hat dies in ihm eine provokante Haltung befördert, mit der er aneckt und so wiederum neue Konflikte heraufbeschwört. Er wird zu einer tickenden Zeitbombe, es ist nur nicht klar, ob er explodieren oder implodieren wird.

„Eigentlich wollte er nicht die Universität verlassen, sondern sein Leben.“

Gerade von Vertreter:innen der queeren Scene in den USA ist Brandon Taylors Debütroman mit großer Begeisterung aufgenommen worden. Die Stärke von „Real Life“ liegt zweifelsohne in der Darstellung der Zerrissenheit und Isolation des Protagonisten. Der Autor überlagert verschiedene Narrative von Diskriminierung, indem Wallace sowohl als Schwarzer wie auch als Homosexueller und zudem aus einer sozial- wie finanzschwachen Familie stammt, ist er in vielerlei Hinsicht Außenseiter und Randfigur in seinem eigenen Leben. Auch für ihn selbst ist nicht immer eindeutig zuzuordnen, wogegen sich die Angriffe gerade richten, die er erlebt.

„Wallace räusperte sich. « Ich weiß würde nicht sagen, dass ich alles hinschmeißen will, aber ja, ich habe darüber nachgedacht. »
« Warum solltest du so was tun? Du weißt schon, bei den Aussichten für… für Schwarze? »“

Vom ersten Tag an ist die Universität nicht der befreiende Ort, den Wallace erwartet hatte. Immer wieder hat er Begegnungen, die wohlmeinend als unsensibel oder offengesagt als rassistisch einzuordnen sind. An seinen fachlichen Defiziten kann er arbeiten, aber irgendwann wird ihm klar, dass er nie passend sein wird für sein professionelles Umfeld, da er das Defizit Schwarzer zu sein, schlichtweg nicht ändern kann. Dies kann er ebenso wenig abstreifen wie seine Vergangenheit, die er hinter sich lassen wollte.

Die Schwierigkeiten, Vertrauen zu fassen und funktionierende Beziehungen zu führen, sind seiner Kindheit und den Erlebnissen zu jener Zeit geschuldet. Seine Eltern konnten ihm kein Vertrauen vermitteln, was seine Grundfähigkeit, sich anderen Menschen gegenüber zu öffnen und an das Gute zu glauben nachhaltig erschüttert ist. Zeigt er sich einerseits devot, immer bereit, seine Schuld einzugestehen, auch wenn es dafür keinen Grund gibt, kann er andererseits extrem provozieren und natürlich auch enttäuschen.

Wallace ist keine einfache, sympathische Figur. Seine destruktive Grundhaltung macht es schwer, einen Zugang zu ihm zu finden. Aber so wenig wie der Leser ist er in seinem Leben beheimatet und sicher. Man kann seine Perspektive vor dem Hintergrund seiner Erfahrungen verstehen, auch wenn sie befremdlich sind, insofern öffnet der Autor eine fremde Welt für den Leser, deren Denkstrukturen vielfach näher an jener Wallace‘ Antagonisten sein dürfte. Sein Rückzug ist nachvollziehbar, zugleich jedoch auch ein Zeichen seines eigenen Egoismus und ein Stück weit auch der Verachtung, die er anderen gegenüber hegt: als nämlich seine asiatische Kollegin von ihren eigenen Rassismuserfahrungen berichtet, negiert er diese.

Ein Roman voller Emotionen, der bereichern wie auch abstoßen kann. Mit gutem Grund stand der Roman auf der Shortlist des 2020 Booker Prize, ein literarischer Beitrag zur hochaktuellen Diskussion. ( )
  miss.mesmerized | May 3, 2021 |
This was devastating. I had to take a break in the middle because I needed an emotional reprieve, but I am glad I finished it. Great writing, particularly good monologues ( )
  Abiquail | Apr 24, 2021 |
2. Real Life by Brandon Taylor
reader: Kevin R. Free
published: 2020
format: 9:25 audible audiobook (329 pages in hardcover)
acquired: December21
listened: Dec 22 – Jan 6
rating: 4
locations: UW Madison
about the author: from rural Alabama, born 1989

My sixth book on the 2020 Booker longlist, and while I didn't exactly love this book or find it fun, I liked it a lot and particularly enjoyed all the layers happening simultaneously. Wallace, black, gay, from rural Alabama, is a biochemistry grad student in the very very white University of Wisconsin, in very very white Madison, WI (neither the school or city are mentioned by name). He is desperately searching for and wanting some kind of intimate connection, while doing everything conceivably possible to avoid or limit this. He's lonely, unexpressive, unwilling to let anyone see any part of what's inside of him, and he presents an outwardly milk toast faux-cheerful calm, an armor of dullness. He's constantly aroused by men around him, and in a constant battle not to feel that, not to feel any emotion. Also, he's a good, but mediocre grad student with that defeated aspect that grad students typically have hanging over him, while surrounded by a bunch of fellow grad students in roughly that same empty mental place. (Being in grad school, and hanging out with grad students is sometimes a weird experience of being surrounded by smart interesting people you more or less admire and hating everything about it. That is vividly captured here.) But Wallace is extra-self-defeating. His contradictions, the racism, the homosexuality and the defeat run through this novel.

Taylor claims he wrote this book in five weeks, which is interesting because of how much he put into it. At five weeks an author doesn't have time to struggle with doubt, or rethink. He must have had all this in mind at the start and carried it out. What I really like is he conveys all this stuff above without talking about it. He just goes through a weekend, and a series of interesting enough things are happening on the surface, but these atmospheres (plural intended) pervade and mix.

In a so far disappointing Booker longlist of monotonous and overly-long texts, this stands out.

https://www.librarything.com/topic/328037#7385936 ( )
1 rösta dchaikin | Jan 14, 2021 |
My casting for the characters in this book is reflective of the incredibly brilliant television show Sex Education. Ncuti Gwana, who plays Eric in the show, would portray Wallace in this book; Wallace's counterpart, Miller, would be played by Connor Swindell, or Adam in Sex Ed. ( )
  sjanke | Dec 9, 2020 |
Visa 1-5 av 15 (nästa | visa alla)
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.
tillagd av karenb | ändraBookPage, 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.
tillagd av karenb | ändraTIME, 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.

» Lägg till fler författare (2 möjliga)

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Brandon Taylorprimär författarealla utgåvorberäknat
Free, Kevin R.Berättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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Almost everything about Wallace, an introverted African-American transplant from Alabama, is at odds with the lakeside Midwestern university town where he is studying for a biochem degree. For reasons of self-preservation, he has kept a distance even from his own 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 defences, while revealing hidden currents of resentment and desire that threaten the equilibrium of their community.

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