The author follows up his award-winning debut with more unflinching scenes of social commentary.

By Seija Rankin
June 17, 2021 at 04:00 PM EDT
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Brandon Taylor
Credit: Bill Adams

Brandon Taylor is in it for the long haul. "You see the hot, flashy author who gets a million-dollar advance and then disappears after one book - I knew I didn't want that," says Taylor about his explosive debut novel, 2020's Real Life (in development for a film adaptation starring Kid Cudi). "I want to do this for the rest of my life."

He's certainly laying the groundwork: The Booker Prize finalist will soon release a new story collection, Filthy Animals (out June 22), which mostly follows young creatives in Madison, Wis., and builds on the themes of his first novel. Social situations like potluck dinners - what Taylor calls "sites of collision" - and the awkward or fraught moments that ensue, often as a result of misunderstandings or microaggressions, are at its core, especially in the central tale about a young dancer caught in the middle of a love triangle.

Filthy Animals: Stories by Brandon Taylor
Credit: Riverhead Books

Taylor, 32, seeks to write all of his work into an oeuvre: meditations on capitalism and art, and, at least for now, compendiums of complex Black and queer characters who often abut difficult encounters. When writing Real Life, he knew he wanted the novel to fit into a larger body of work - even if he wasn't sure exactly what that would look like - and so he sought out a publisher (Riverhead) to help be a partner in that vision.

Animals continues that project, part of what he laughingly refers to as his "Midwestern novels." Taylor originally hails from Alabama but moved to Madison to attend a Ph.D. program - he eventually decided to become a writer instead - and continues to be drawn to the setting in his literature: "It's where I figured out the kind of person that I wanted to be." His next novel will move slightly south and west to Iowa City (where he attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop) but follow his pattern of featuring young protagonists with artistic sensibilities.

Taylor began writing in the first place because he couldn't find books that felt familiar to him; the novels about Black, gay people that he and his friends wanted to read. It's this literary purpose that is able to offer him peace of mind, a guiding light to remind him why he does all this in the first place." That doesn't mean I'm writing characters who are just like me, or that I'm trying to explain my existential context or prove the humanity of Black people," he says. "I'm trying to capture some of what it's like to live in the world as a person like me, and what I see when I look at the world."

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