The Late Americans

Books on Tape. May 2023. 9:17 hrs. ISBN 9780593671818. $76. F
Taylor’s second novel (following Real Life) centers on a circle of artists living in Iowa City during their last year of graduate school. The novel follows a kaleidoscopic range of characters—different individuals who orbit the art world, making films, writing poetry, dancing, engaging in sex and complicated relationships, and trying to find their place in the world. Some of the students are from well-off families; others have side jobs or, in one case, create artsy erotic films to make ends meet. Between hook-ups and writing workshops are questions about what art is and who gets to make it. Some characters, such as poet Seamus, have unique voices, but many central characters get lost in a general pall of introspection and melancholy. While Taylor’s characters tend to blend together, narrator Kevin R. Free, who also narrated Taylor’s debut, admirably provides distinctive character voices and expressive personalities to match.
VERDICT With its shifting cast of characters, this reads more like a series of interconnected stories than a novel. Share with readers who appreciate meandering character studies in the vein of Miaojin Qiu’s Notes of a Crocodile.
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