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A group portrait of young adults enmeshed in desire and violence, a hotly charged, deeply satisfying new work of fiction from the author of Booker Prize finalist Real Life In the series of linked stories at the heart of Filthy Animals, set among young creatives in the American Midwest, a young man treads delicate emotional waters as he navigates a series of sexually fraugh A group portrait of young adults enmeshed in desire and violence, a hotly charged, deeply satisfying new work of fiction from the author of Booker Prize finalist Real Life In the series of linked stories at the heart of Filthy Animals, set among young creatives in the American Midwest, a young man treads delicate emotional waters as he navigates a series of sexually fraught encounters with two dancers in an open relationship, forcing him to weigh his vulnerabilities against his loneliness. In other stories, a young woman battles with the cancers draining her body and her family; menacing undercurrents among a group of teenagers explode in violence on a winter night; a little girl tears through a house like a tornado, driving her babysitter to the brink; and couples feel out the jagged edges of connection, comfort, and cruelty. One of the breakout literary stars of 2020, Brandon Taylor has been hailed by Roxane Gay as "a writer who wields his craft in absolutely unforgettable ways." With Filthy Animals he renews and expands on the promise made in Real Life, training his precise and unsentimental gaze on the tensions among friends and family, lovers and others. Psychologically taut and quietly devastating, Filthy Animals is a tender portrait of the fierce longing for intimacy, the lingering presence of pain, and the desire for love in a world that seems, more often than not, to withhold it.


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A group portrait of young adults enmeshed in desire and violence, a hotly charged, deeply satisfying new work of fiction from the author of Booker Prize finalist Real Life In the series of linked stories at the heart of Filthy Animals, set among young creatives in the American Midwest, a young man treads delicate emotional waters as he navigates a series of sexually fraugh A group portrait of young adults enmeshed in desire and violence, a hotly charged, deeply satisfying new work of fiction from the author of Booker Prize finalist Real Life In the series of linked stories at the heart of Filthy Animals, set among young creatives in the American Midwest, a young man treads delicate emotional waters as he navigates a series of sexually fraught encounters with two dancers in an open relationship, forcing him to weigh his vulnerabilities against his loneliness. In other stories, a young woman battles with the cancers draining her body and her family; menacing undercurrents among a group of teenagers explode in violence on a winter night; a little girl tears through a house like a tornado, driving her babysitter to the brink; and couples feel out the jagged edges of connection, comfort, and cruelty. One of the breakout literary stars of 2020, Brandon Taylor has been hailed by Roxane Gay as "a writer who wields his craft in absolutely unforgettable ways." With Filthy Animals he renews and expands on the promise made in Real Life, training his precise and unsentimental gaze on the tensions among friends and family, lovers and others. Psychologically taut and quietly devastating, Filthy Animals is a tender portrait of the fierce longing for intimacy, the lingering presence of pain, and the desire for love in a world that seems, more often than not, to withhold it.

30 review for Filthy Animals

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    These are meticulously written, melancholic stories. Taylor is a phenomenal writer and captures frailty and longing and the overwhelm of being alive, beautifully. The strongest stories are the interconnected ones which are uncomfortable and fascinating and full of interesting tension. But as a whole, a lot of these stories sound the same, feel the same. There is a lot of name soup and a lot of similar characters. And that’s fine. Let’s be real. I do it too in my fiction. We like what we like as These are meticulously written, melancholic stories. Taylor is a phenomenal writer and captures frailty and longing and the overwhelm of being alive, beautifully. The strongest stories are the interconnected ones which are uncomfortable and fascinating and full of interesting tension. But as a whole, a lot of these stories sound the same, feel the same. There is a lot of name soup and a lot of similar characters. And that’s fine. Let’s be real. I do it too in my fiction. We like what we like as writers. But the collection would have been stronger if it felt more like 11 distinct stories instead of 1. Well worth a read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    Brandon Taylor’s writing is a brilliant gift we don’t deserve. This is an incredible collection of linked stories that examine the ways trauma and violence function as both intake and output into people and those they interact with. The writing is so crisp and perfect, really pulling you into these stories as if an emotional participant in the goings on of these young lives. It becomes an excellent examination on intersections of identity, with much of the insight surrounding queer, Black indivi Brandon Taylor’s writing is a brilliant gift we don’t deserve. This is an incredible collection of linked stories that examine the ways trauma and violence function as both intake and output into people and those they interact with. The writing is so crisp and perfect, really pulling you into these stories as if an emotional participant in the goings on of these young lives. It becomes an excellent examination on intersections of identity, with much of the insight surrounding queer, Black individuals as they navigate society. Full review to come soon but until then please enjoy this video project I made to show my love for the book: https://www.instagram.com/p/CQqltIMno...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    Loved it - Taylor has accomplished something quite interesting here, with alternating stories filling in a 36 hour period for an intriguing set of characters in Madison. The non-connected pieces are often really good (I especially liked "Anne of Cleves"), and the collection's high points (the last story, the story "Proctoring") present the sweeping pleasures of a novel with the intimacy of the short story form. Loved it - Taylor has accomplished something quite interesting here, with alternating stories filling in a 36 hour period for an intriguing set of characters in Madison. The non-connected pieces are often really good (I especially liked "Anne of Cleves"), and the collection's high points (the last story, the story "Proctoring") present the sweeping pleasures of a novel with the intimacy of the short story form.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Blair

    So 2021 is going to be another year with a Brandon Taylor book on my best-of list. In years to come, these stories will be classics; what a pleasure to read them when they’re brand new. In Filthy Animals, every other story (or, every story with a one-word title) is part of an interlinked, novella-length narrative circling Charles and Sophie, two dancers in a open relationship, and Lionel, a man who becomes involved with them. The other stories are standalones, but they have a sense of shared conc So 2021 is going to be another year with a Brandon Taylor book on my best-of list. In years to come, these stories will be classics; what a pleasure to read them when they’re brand new. In Filthy Animals, every other story (or, every story with a one-word title) is part of an interlinked, novella-length narrative circling Charles and Sophie, two dancers in a open relationship, and Lionel, a man who becomes involved with them. The other stories are standalones, but they have a sense of shared concerns, portraying young people – in their teens and twenties – navigating intimacy, desire, cruelty, loneliness. As in Real Life, Taylor’s writing hums with some power beyond what books normally possess, causing me to lie awake thinking about his prose, like I’m a teenager and it’s someone I have a crush on. I took the time to read the stories carefully, pausing and taking notes after finishing each one. Filthy Animals most reminded me of Salinger’s For Esme—With Love and Squalor – not what the stories are, particularly, but how I felt reading them. Discovering a new favourite writer at the beginning of their career is a unique delight. I can’t wait to read everything else Taylor is going to write. I especially can’t wait to see how/what he will write about older characters. --- In ‘Potluck’, Lionel attends a party, his natural awkwardness concealing a far more serious trauma in his recent past. He meets a couple, Charles and Sophie, and seems to have chemistry with both of them, so that when someone follows Lionel on his way home and calls his name, the reader is unsure which of them it will turn out to be. I sensed a coldness here that I have seen some others talk about detecting in Real Life, something I felt was completely nullified by the sheer depth of Wallace’s character in the novel; at the same time I think the coldness may be intentional, reflecting the numbness Lionel still carries with him. ‘Little Beast’ opens with an absolute nightmare of a babysitting scene, so palpable I wanted to recoil from it. The narrator is Sylvia, who while navigating this job is thinking about how she's ‘blown up her life’, which is not elaborated on (at least not explicitly), though some other elements of her story are. My initial reaction was to believe that I disliked this story, but after sitting with it for a while I realised that I disliked what it depicted, found it tangibly oppressive, and the reason I felt that way was because it was so effectively described. With ‘Flesh’ I came to the realisation that the stories are linked, as here we meet Charles again, taking a dance class the morning after he met Lionel. (You might be thinking, the very first words of the blurb call it ‘a group portrait’! But truth be told I didn’t read the blurb before I wanted the book or before I started the book. After Real Life, I would’ve read anything with Brandon Taylor’s name on it, sight unseen.) A scene that captures the ripples of tension and desire among the dancers, and the dynamics of a relationship. Things I wrote down while while reading ‘As Though That Were Love’: The spaces between words. Needing to reread dialogue to understand what is not being said. The way sentences are juxtaposed. Taylor is so good at scenes that go on longer than they seem they need to. Me thinking, this character is a cruel man, and then someone in the story says it. Towards the end, strongly reminiscent of Joel Lane – the sex, the darkness. Almost a horror story. With ‘Proctoring’, it begins to seem that Lionel is the protagonist of the book. Here we find him working, then meeting Sophie again. The story has a perfect opening paragraph and so many lines I want to quote. There’s so much here about intimacy – being outside it or within it. Taylor writes awkward moments so well, really captures how they feel rather than simply what they consist of. In ‘Filthy Animals’, Milton heads out to a party with his friends, knowing that soon he will be heading off to an ‘enrichment program’ at the insistence of his parents. This is a story that suits its title – dirty and bloody. Is it an accurate portrayal of American boyhood, red in tooth and claw? I don’t know; I’ve never been a boy. But it feels like one. I kept thinking about this story later, all its menace and murk. ‘Mass’: After a routine visit to the doctor, Alek – one of the dancers from Charles’s class – is told he needs to have a biopsy. The news prompts him to reminisce about his family; he isn’t close to them. Again there is both brutality and softness here; the tyranny of perfectionism, the complications of love. ‘Anne of Cleves’ has another perfect opening paragraph. More perfect sentences. I’m running out of ways to say ‘the writing is perfect’. Marta and Sigrid are on a date, awkward at first, later comfortable; it flows outwards from there. Something about loneliness. Something about how love transforms you. Making me think about how a moment in a story can make you dislike a character, but it’s merely a moment; in reality it would be nothing. ‘Apartment’: Lionel, Charles and Sophie again, our pivotal trio, dancing around one another. This is a situation that becomes something else, or no, is morphing all the time, twisting so that Lionel can’t get his bearings. Unsure where to stand with this one. A lot of uncertainties, intimations of threat, of meanness. ‘What Made Them Made You’ is about Grace, who is sick and staying with her grandfather. Like many characters in this book, she is thinking about what family means, what human connection means, how they are the same, how they are different. This was a story I couldn’t find my footing with at first; when I did, it was magnificent. ‘Meat’ is a final story about Lionel, Charles and Sophie. It has a lot of tense, ambiguous moments; intimacy as unbearable suspense. It didn’t go how I wanted it to. This is not particularly helpful to say in a review, but it made me think about a few books I’ve read recently which I haven’t found satisfying in different ways, and how this story does many of the same things that made me ambivalent about them, yet I feel so differently about it. I really believe in the people Taylor writes, and when they take paths I wouldn’t choose for them, I understand that they are acting not as an author’s puppets, but as real people would act. I received an advance review copy of Filthy Animals from the publisher through Edelweiss. TinyLetter | Linktree

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    These connecting stories were powerful, evocative, and deeply felt. Brandon Taylor sure knows how to capture the tiny fragments of peoples lives while elevating hopes, regrets, dreams and musings. The stories combine insights into how and why each character behaves the way they do—in a world that can be unforgiving-to-thyself. Themes include loneliness, vulnerability, fears, the fragility of mental health, the powerful need to ‘control’ - (a character who had experienced bulimia knew this first h These connecting stories were powerful, evocative, and deeply felt. Brandon Taylor sure knows how to capture the tiny fragments of peoples lives while elevating hopes, regrets, dreams and musings. The stories combine insights into how and why each character behaves the way they do—in a world that can be unforgiving-to-thyself. Themes include loneliness, vulnerability, fears, the fragility of mental health, the powerful need to ‘control’ - (a character who had experienced bulimia knew this first hand)…. Most….. ….the need and desire for intimacy in our lives…. This topic is so real — so deeply profound — it’s a topic that could never be explored enough. Brandon goes where few go… … includes dialogue that is witty and smart…uncomfortable as well…. by the perplexities and haunting of the human conditions ….[suicide thoughts rape, pedophilia, sex are enveloped inside these stories] I have so much respect for Brandon Taylor….for writing about both delicate beauty and torturous suffering…. reminding many of us — we are not alone — even when it feels like we are… and for being able to acknowledge — gifts we’ve been given from our parents - lovers - friends - and community….even when feeling unworthy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    luce

    / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / 4 ¼ stars Taylor has gone and done it again. My poor heart can't take this. “[S]adness drenched them. Sadness at leaving. Sadness at going back to their lives. The sadness of knowing it would never again be this perfect, this easy.” This may not sound like a compliment but I believe that Brandon Taylor has a real knack for making his readers feel uncomfortable and complicit by the violence—both physical & emotional—and cruelty that punctuate his narrative / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / 4 ¼ stars Taylor has gone and done it again. My poor heart can't take this. “[S]adness drenched them. Sadness at leaving. Sadness at going back to their lives. The sadness of knowing it would never again be this perfect, this easy.” This may not sound like a compliment but I believe that Brandon Taylor has a real knack for making his readers feel uncomfortable and complicit by the violence—both physical & emotional—and cruelty that punctuate his narratives. It just so happens that I have a strange, *ahem* masochistic, fondness for these types of anxiety-inducing stories. Taylor excels at writing about things, people, and situations that are bound to make you feel uneasy, exposed even. Throughout this stunning collection of short stories, Taylor demonstrates time and again just how inexorably intertwined our fears and desires are. Taylor reveals the double-edged nature of desire, showing just how often we want that which we are (or should be) afraid of. Within these stories, Taylor explores and challenges the relationship between violence and intimacy, cruelty and compassion, attraction and repulsion, happiness and sorrow, pleasure and pain. Taylor’s characters are painstakingly human, from their murky and unspoken desires/fears to their seemingly perennial indecisiveness. More often than not Taylor’s characters are not ‘nice people’, but, then again, who wants to read exclusively about ‘nice people’? The characters populating Taylor’s stories are messy, confused about what/who they want, unsure of themselves and others. They can be ugly, to themselves, to one another. Their ability to hurt other people doesn’t make them any less human, if anything, I found that it made them all the more believable. “There were a million tiny ways to make someone feel bad about something that didn’t involve saying anything directly.” Taylor navigates self-loathing, loneliness, and longing against ordinary backdrops. Yet, while the environments and scenarios that we encounter in these stories are firmly grounded in realism, the ‘mundane’ trappings of Midwestern life that seem to characterise these narratives belie just how complex, emotionally wrought, and exacting these stories truly are. “He had come up against the thing that felt most frustrating about this—the inability to articulate simply what he felt or what he wanted.” Taylor’s style is deceptively functional, clinical even. He’s brutally concise when it comes to detailing his characters’ surroundings, appearances, and emotions. And it is because his prose is habitually so unsparing that makes those brief lapses into tranquillity feel all the more precious. However rare, those brief glimpses of hope and kinship that we do get are truly touching. As with Real Life, many of these stories are set in or around the academic world and once again Taylor articulates just how insular it can be. College is no safe haven however and the pressure to succeed often feels like a burden. There are many instances in which characters try to outdo one another, be it through personal or academic achievements, and we witness just how petty and competitive academia is. Most of these stories focus on Black queer characters and Taylor once again examines the intersection between sexuality and race. His characters often struggle to reconcile themselves with their identities and are often caught between opposing urges and desires. They seek to form meaningful connections but they are mostly unsuccessful. The relationships within these stories are hindered by unresolved tensions, veiled insults, hurtful barbs, real and perceived slights. Many of these relationships are unhealthy, seeming to bring more pain and suffering than not. Yet, we see that sometimes that is why certain characters decide to pursue certain people as Taylor repeatedly blurs the line between love and hate, passion and violence. “There, he thought, was a truly horrifying possibility: that he was nothing more than another bit of local weather for the two of them, and that what felt to Lionel like the edge of some great change, a sign of his reacclimation to people, to the world, to the easiness of friendship, was nothing but another thing to them, one more thing that happened and was now over.” ‘Potluck’, ‘Flesh’, ‘Proctoring’, ‘Apartment’, and ‘Meat’ are interlinked stories revolving around Lionel, a Black grad student who in recent times attempted suicide, and two white dancers, Charles and Sophie, who are in an open relationship. At a party, Lionel and Charles seem to form a connection of sorts. Lionel is clearly ill at ease, especially given that the host of the party seems intent on making a move on him. With painful clarity, Taylor delineates Lionel’s anxieties and insecurities, and we understand why he would find Charles’ attention to be tempting. Lionel finds himself entangled in Charles and Sophie’s fraught relationship, and it is not always clear who is playing who or who wants whom. My heart really went out to Lionel and it was incredibly saddening to read of how this couple is trying to involve him in their ongoing drama. In one story we read of a babysitter who is exhausted at her young charge, in another a young man’s old wounds are reopened, and in yet another, we witness a boys’ night out that quickly spirals into violence. A running motif, quite fitting given the collection’s title, is that of characters being compared or feeling like ‘beasts’ and ‘animals’. Many seem to struggle with their ‘wilder’ impulses, at times they even attempt to tamp their own desires down. But, as we see over and over again, they are often unsuccessful. Hence the violence and cruelty. Last but not least, Taylor’s dialogues. They are startlingly realistic. From the tentative quality of certain exchanges to the stop-and-start rhythm animating many of the characters’ conversations. “That’s so funny,” Lionel said. “People say that, We talked. But I don’t remember a single thing we said to each other.” Fans of Real Life should definitely get their hands on Filthy Animals as this proved to be just as brilliant. From Taylor’s quietly cinematic style to his nuanced portrayal of human frailty, Filthy Animals is a terrific collection. If I was pressed to choose a favourite, I would probably go with ‘Anne of Cleves’. As I touched upon earlier on, these stories are far from happy, yet, I was nevertheless enthralled by Taylor’s ability to capture with such authenticity and depth such a wide spectrum of emotions.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    As humans, we fear intimacy. For to be truly intimate with others requires vulnerability, honesty, submission. Moreover, it demands we let our collective guards down to reveal our true selves. So often do we find these true selves to be opposite to the fronts we’ve chosen, fronts whose purpose are to provide restraint, to deflect truths, to cover flaws. We are but knights in armor equal parts shiny and tarnished. I’ve donned my own suit for years. Suits plural, to be more accurate. I’ve hidden b As humans, we fear intimacy. For to be truly intimate with others requires vulnerability, honesty, submission. Moreover, it demands we let our collective guards down to reveal our true selves. So often do we find these true selves to be opposite to the fronts we’ve chosen, fronts whose purpose are to provide restraint, to deflect truths, to cover flaws. We are but knights in armor equal parts shiny and tarnished. I’ve donned my own suit for years. Suits plural, to be more accurate. I’ve hidden behind truths about myself (and my family, and my friends) for years, purporting a normalcy synonymous with middle class Midwesterners. On the surface one would imagine happiness, healthiness, harmony. And for the most part they would imagine correctly. But it was not without effort; time dedicated to our cause. That said after a while one gets so used to their armor it becomes old hat, second fiddle – easier to execute than the real life it is being used to cover up. That is until real life becomes too overwhelming, too ruthless, too real to handle. We are practically forced to revert to the skin and bones and brain and heart we had been initially provided. We are left naked, helpless, wounded. I lost my mom this week. Father’s Day in fact, a cruel twist of fate I am trying not to perseverate over yet can’t help but consider to be a sign. As parents we don proverbial suits of armor to protect our children, to shield them from the bad and filter in the good (and only the good). My mother was a textbook example; she hid her disease(s) by instead asserting a façade of innocence and selflessness. Questions of “how are you feeling?” were always met with short answers like “oh fine!” or “doin’ ok!” before the questions would be turned back on us, questions which went deeper, further away from her own truths. I didn’t quite notice this until after I’d experienced all of the discomforts and discretions of my own youth and later became a parent myself. It was as a young adult I began to learn about what real life was all about – and about how real my life wasn’t up until that time. There were times I felt duped; better still, I was angry with myself for not recognizing the differences between what was real and what was manufactured. But such differences are so subtle, so carefully constructed and subsequently honed they are all but designed for indistinguishability. Soon, we not only become the guises we’ve created, we believe in the identities associated alongside these guises. Does this make us a society of liars? Not entirely. But I would argue it makes us one filled with fear. My suit has been on the floor of my master bedroom since Sunday morning. I didn’t even bother putting it on upon learning the news of my mother’s passing the moment I arose. It seemed silly to do so; disingenuous even. Why try and deflect the pain and suffering? Such an act seemed more exhausting to me than what caused it to begin with. That said I knew I was leaving myself wide open, perhaps as vulnerable as I had ever been. My insides felt entirely exposed; yet I had no intention of letting anyone see me as anything other than someone who had been devastated. People told me to “stay strong” and I wanted to laugh in their face. Stay strong? For what? They would have been better off saying “stay real.” Because shit has never been realer for me than it is right now. And yeah, it hurts; it gouges and scrapes and sullies. But I feel it, whereas before what I had been feeling had been founded upon falsehoods: layers which concealed the cracks, kept things together, provided momentary reprieve. Most of all, mired in fear. What kind of life is that? Tragedy begets truth. How one signifies tragedy is subjective, yes, but the results are often the same. It strips us to our very cores, renders us more human than the act of childbirth. What’s more, facing these truths also brings tension; we have spent so much of our lives assuming individualities designed to refract these conflicts we hardly know how to confront them once they’ve made their presence known. It leads to some heavy moments. In the last six days alone, I have had more of these than the previous six years of my life. It’s left me raw if not ravaged, susceptible to bouts of sadness and elation alike. I feel both dead and alive. Less affected, more real. And, I suppose, more ready than I would ever be to take on Brandon Taylor’s new short story collection, Filthy Animals. For to truly experience the brilliance of Filthy Animals one must expose themselves by peeling off whatever protective device they’ve put on. No author can elicit the rawness of humanity better than Taylor, first demonstrated in his triumphant (and fittingly titled) debut, Real Life. However, in this collection he pushes it further, asks more of his characters (and readers), requiring each to bare their souls (or lack thereof) so that they resemble something less than human, something primal, animalistic, driven both by impulse and the will to survive. The results are as sublime as they are stunning. Dialogue betwixt characters is subtle if not simplistic, weighted by the moments of which it scripts. Taylor ingeniously dissects these subtleties not only to provide context but also depth; there’s nary an extraneous detail nor innocuous comment. He presents his ensemble as damaged, deranged, deplorable. It’s riveting. It’s also anxiety-inducing from its very beginning. Opening story “Potluck” sets the tone whereupon we’re introduced to Lionel, a once promising and emotionally fraught mathematician making his first social appearance since returning from a psychiatric hospital. Taylor paints his scene with pinpoint precision; there was never a moment where I didn’t feel entirely inside Lionel’s head, as if I were invading his thoughts. We learn of his relationship to the host, his lack of connection to anyone else in attendance. Lionel may as well have arrived at the party fully nude. As if sensing this vulnerability, he’s all but preyed upon by Charles, a cocky yet compelling dancer who wants to be at the party even less than Lionel. They bond over this shared sentiment but it’s clear who’s in control of the conversation; Charles is domineering in every possible sense. This is exposed even further when interacting with his girlfriend, Sophia; she’s the good cop to Charles’s bad, one who is far less obtuse with Lionel. And yet he’s attracted to each figure, so desperate is Lionel for connection on any level, be it plutonic, romantic or both. Such quests for connection resonate throughout Filthy Animals; Taylor revisits the triumvirate in later stories (“Flesh,” “Proctoring,” “Apartment,” and closing story “Meat”), all the while weaving their shared intimacies amidst the collection’s additional standalone tales and applying them like foundation. It makes for a sorry sack of characters, yet one that’s relatable and altogether real. These are people staring in the face of the cruelties of life: disease, disapproval, adultery, adolescence. Each story is a contest of wills. Yet each contest is fixed. Cruelty wins out. “Little Beast” posits a young woman who has “blown up her life” juxtaposed against a nightmarish situation while babysitting; she’s ready to snap at any given moment, and you want to snap along with her. “Mass” finds Alek, a young dancer from Charles’s program, coming to grips with having a biopsy; the taut uncertainty of its results lingers within every sentence. “What Made Them Love You” touches upon both sickness and sexuality; Grace, dying of cancer, seeks solace from a family which has done nothing but disappoint and disapprove. The titular story details the primal nature of American boyhood; toxic masculinity is pitted against animalistic desire in a knockdown, drag out fight for the ages. It left me breathless, battered and bruised. For I took every punch Filthy Animals had to give; suffice to say Brandon Taylor provided many and landed every single one of them. What’s more, it offered a poignant examination of the intricacies of intimacy, how we as humans both fear and flourish when stripped of our armor and become exposed for whom we truly are. Reality can be a bitter pill to swallow; Filthy Animals is but the liquid courage necessary to choke it down.

  8. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    Booker Prize Longlist author Brandon Taylor comes to us in 2021 with a collection of short stories called FILTHY ANIMALS. The stories in this collection are interconnected so you get different perspectives on what is happening. In some ways it works but overall, it made the collection felt so same. When I think of a collection of short stories it means different distinct stories in one go. I think I was not prepared to read about one character in one story and then hear about them in another. In Booker Prize Longlist author Brandon Taylor comes to us in 2021 with a collection of short stories called FILTHY ANIMALS. The stories in this collection are interconnected so you get different perspectives on what is happening. In some ways it works but overall, it made the collection felt so same. When I think of a collection of short stories it means different distinct stories in one go. I think I was not prepared to read about one character in one story and then hear about them in another. In some ways it made the collection feel bit underwhelming and boring in some instances. I felt the first story was strong and a great opener, I did enjoy the story called MASS I thought Taylor really captured sibling dynamic. This collection did not do it for me at all- I felt the author should have just done a full story or a novella or just write 11 distinct story. Yeah…. This did not work.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Larry H

    4.5 stars Brandon Taylor's new collection, Filthy Animals , contains beautifully written, powerful, periodically bleak short stories about the human condition and the need for connection. I’m a short story fan. In the right hands, short stories can wield even greater power than novels and leave more searing memories. Of course, they’re not always good—sometimes they’re gimmicky, too short, or too long—and they can leave you wanting. But Filthy Animals is really strong. What’s amazing is that 4.5 stars Brandon Taylor's new collection, Filthy Animals , contains beautifully written, powerful, periodically bleak short stories about the human condition and the need for connection. I’m a short story fan. In the right hands, short stories can wield even greater power than novels and leave more searing memories. Of course, they’re not always good—sometimes they’re gimmicky, too short, or too long—and they can leave you wanting. But Filthy Animals is really strong. What’s amazing is that in many stories nothing explosive happens yet I felt moved. That’s the beauty of Taylor’s storytelling—he writes about ordinary feelings, events, interactions—but they take on more power. Several of the stories in the collection (and among my favorites) are interconnected and take place over the course of two days or so. They follow Lionel, a former graduate student dealing with some serious mental health issues, as he finds himself intertwined with Charles and Sophie, a pair of dancers with a unique relationship. I loved the push-and-pull that existed in these stories. Other stories I enjoyed focused on a woman in her first same-sex relationship, the dynamics between brothers, and a woman trying to keep the peace in her family while dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Whenever I post about story collections I do hear from many people that have never read any or aren’t fans. This collection is definitely one of the examples of why I love short stories. Check out my list of the best books I read in 2020 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2020.html. See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com. Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.

  10. 5 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    Boring. I could not get through this at all. I made it to 49% and threw in the towel. I've never read any Brandon Taylor, missed the Real Life craze, though I was sent a friendly message informing me not to read Real Life lest I lose my mind. This reads like Sally Rooney's Normal People and though the show is interesting on television, I could barely get through that book as well. I realize that I can't with the everyday monotony-type stories about people's lives who really have nothing of impor Boring. I could not get through this at all. I made it to 49% and threw in the towel. I've never read any Brandon Taylor, missed the Real Life craze, though I was sent a friendly message informing me not to read Real Life lest I lose my mind. This reads like Sally Rooney's Normal People and though the show is interesting on television, I could barely get through that book as well. I realize that I can't with the everyday monotony-type stories about people's lives who really have nothing of importance to share with me. If I want to enjoy a conversation about nothing I can always just call a friend on the phone. The love-triangle, depressive-dancer thing left me like: okay, and? This story was dry, and a little too self-absorbed. I found that it was non-communicative in the dialogue, and read as fake-pensive, which I fucking hate, so I refused to finish. DNF & moving on.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Darryl Suite

    Oh my, I loved this one. It’s so tragic and tender. All of these characters are yearning for some sort of release. There’s so much emotion and devastation and pain and melancholia and depth in these stories. These are quiet stories, but there’s an anxious tension always looming in the peripheral. Taylor sure has his types though: he loves writing about complicated attractions to aloof men, aaaaand his protagonists are mostly brooding loners who feel alienated from the rest of the world. But, hey Oh my, I loved this one. It’s so tragic and tender. All of these characters are yearning for some sort of release. There’s so much emotion and devastation and pain and melancholia and depth in these stories. These are quiet stories, but there’s an anxious tension always looming in the peripheral. Taylor sure has his types though: he loves writing about complicated attractions to aloof men, aaaaand his protagonists are mostly brooding loners who feel alienated from the rest of the world. But, hey, if it works it works. IT WORKS. Bonus: My reading experience was kind of a romantic one: I read it at a picnic, at outside brunch, on the morning of a wedding, in a suit, in my PJs, in just a towel, so this book will definitely linger for those reasons. Not gonna lie, it kind of made me feel like a tragically romantic figure in one of Brandon Taylor’s stories.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Paris (parisperusing)

    He's done it again. Thoughts soon. He's done it again. Thoughts soon.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer M.

    Overall, I felt kinda meh about this book. Not necessarily bad, but not particularly memorable either. Giving it 2.5/5 Stars.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    I wanted to give Taylor another shot after reading Real Life and finding it vastly overrated, but this is honesty more of the same. I do slightly prefer this, but aside from the linked stories (easily the strongest part of Filthy Animals), it’s a lot of very familiar thematic material to Real Life. Isolation, loss, sexual frustration. Set in the Midwest. All the action taking place over a weekend. It never reaches its full potential, as many of the stories here feel workshopped to death—there’s I wanted to give Taylor another shot after reading Real Life and finding it vastly overrated, but this is honesty more of the same. I do slightly prefer this, but aside from the linked stories (easily the strongest part of Filthy Animals), it’s a lot of very familiar thematic material to Real Life. Isolation, loss, sexual frustration. Set in the Midwest. All the action taking place over a weekend. It never reaches its full potential, as many of the stories here feel workshopped to death—there’s no room to just let the writing breathe. Everything has to be full of detailed description and implied meaning. Many readers will likely enjoy this, and I certainly find Taylor a skilled writer, but I continue to be baffled at the overwhelming positive response to his work. 3/5

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I read Taylor's short story Anne of Cleves ages ago (which appears in this collection), and I quickly fell in love. In some ways it's a melancholic, heavy story, but there's also a playfulness to it, and I found that tone so refreshing that I was sure that Filthy Animals was going to end up as one of my favorite books of the year. Instead, this book is unendingly bleak. Anne of Cleves offers a brief respite from the misery, but it's otherwise a weightier collection than I had expected. Every alt I read Taylor's short story Anne of Cleves ages ago (which appears in this collection), and I quickly fell in love. In some ways it's a melancholic, heavy story, but there's also a playfulness to it, and I found that tone so refreshing that I was sure that Filthy Animals was going to end up as one of my favorite books of the year. Instead, this book is unendingly bleak. Anne of Cleves offers a brief respite from the misery, but it's otherwise a weightier collection than I had expected. Every alternating story in this collection follows the same narrative: a depressed Black man named Lionel has just met a white couple at a party, Charles and Sophie, who are in an open relationship; he hooks up with Charles and then gets drawn into their lives. I loved the choice to anchor the collection to a single narrative, and without fail these stories were my favorites and the ones where Taylor most succeeded at accessing the characters' complex emotional landscapes.  The other stories left less of an impression on me, and I think it's because we just don't spend enough time with the characters to fully earn the emotional impact that Taylor is aiming for, and that he nails so well with Wallace's story in Real Life. I finished this a week ago and Lionel's story is really the only one that has stuck in my mind since then. I still really enjoyed reading this--a discussed, I love Taylor's writing--and I would wholeheartedly recommend it. It's a skillful exploration of the intersection of loneliness, trauma, and intimacy--it just wasn't entirely what I needed it to be. But that is a-okay! Will still devour whatever Taylor publishes next.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sebastian

    Brandon Taylor does not shy away from difficult topics. Suicide, aggression, open relationships, racial discrimination, cancer - it all and many more can be found in this short story collection. He also is not afraid of punching his readers hard in their stomachs with his carefully selected words and presented events and make their breathing much harder due to instant surge of negative or uncomfortable feelings. It was all pretty visible in his first, Booker shortlisted novel, ‘Real Life’, and i Brandon Taylor does not shy away from difficult topics. Suicide, aggression, open relationships, racial discrimination, cancer - it all and many more can be found in this short story collection. He also is not afraid of punching his readers hard in their stomachs with his carefully selected words and presented events and make their breathing much harder due to instant surge of negative or uncomfortable feelings. It was all pretty visible in his first, Booker shortlisted novel, ‘Real Life’, and it is even more visible in this much more varied collection of short stories. But I strongly appreciate and admire this approach to writing, the desire to present life as it is, not more colorful or brighter, but beautiful and at the same time often painful. My favorite stories are the ones depicting the thorny love triangle between Lionel, Charles and Sophie. The complex relationship between the three of them unravels at multiple moments in this collection with its deprived of closure final story, suggesting it is not the end, there will be much more happening between those troubled three characters. I also adored ‘Anne of Cleves’ – the story about desperate search for love and being understood, of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Already after reading ‘Real life’ I put Brandon Taylor among the most interesting new voices of literary fiction. With his recent short story collection he assured me that he will be the one to watch (and read) for a long time.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joachim Stoop

    3,5 Not that extraordinary. I'm sure there are around 687 better story collections out there 3,5 Not that extraordinary. I'm sure there are around 687 better story collections out there

  18. 5 out of 5

    shruti

    Brandon Taylor's writing is everything!! need to sit with this one and think about it without constantly comparing it with Real Life Brandon Taylor's writing is everything!! need to sit with this one and think about it without constantly comparing it with Real Life

  19. 4 out of 5

    Oscreads

    Loved reading this book. Such an interesting structure that I haven’t seen done that much. This could be read as one single story and I loved that. I do need to say that Taylor’s writing is so beautiful. The details he brings to these stories is unmatched. I’m obsessed!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Levi Huxton

    “There were a million tiny ways to make someone feel bad about something that didn’t involve saying anything directly,” realises Lionel, a recurring character in Brandon Taylor’s short stories. That realisation is a minor breakthrough. Taylor’s characters go through life (or come close to ending it) unaware of the million tiny micro-aggressions that have worn their hearts down to polished stone, unaware perhaps because they live in a world where macro-aggressions - from systemic racism to sexism “There were a million tiny ways to make someone feel bad about something that didn’t involve saying anything directly,” realises Lionel, a recurring character in Brandon Taylor’s short stories. That realisation is a minor breakthrough. Taylor’s characters go through life (or come close to ending it) unaware of the million tiny micro-aggressions that have worn their hearts down to polished stone, unaware perhaps because they live in a world where macro-aggressions - from systemic racism to sexism, homophobia and social injustice – are so tolerated as to form part of the natural order. Taylor is a master at capturing the moment when an act of tenderness exposes this invisible violence for what it is - providing an alternative one didn’t know existed - and the reverberations of this lightning strike as it very briefly illuminates new territory stretching as far as the eye can see. Like Brian Washington, Taylor deftly describes life-changing epiphanies and the characters who badly need them, but not always on the same page. Life is harsh and unfair and can pass you by, sometimes mere seconds before you’re aware, just slow enough that you see your chance coming and vanishing, perhaps for ever. In this world, a tiny moment of human warmth, often prompted by unforeseen desire, can reverberate with earth-shattering intensity. When a character knows to reach for it, a small vibration travels from Taylor’s words right into the reader’s soul, lodging there for a while, until it is forgotten. Filthy Animals charts the boundaries between the self and this cruel world, boundaries too often breached without consent, without awareness that consent is even an option. With empathy, he describes intimacy as a fluid exchange of permissions that allow these boundaries to become porous, the exchange revealing new possibilities for happiness, but also vulnerability and pain. Sometimes those penetrations are physical - cold through a broken window, fingers inserted into a mouth – sometimes emotional. They both reveal and help erase past injuries, inviting the sketching of a new map, the boundaries of a new self, part of the process of acknowledging trauma, of healing, of growing up.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Loflin

    A perfect collection to me. It’s a masterclass in the mortifying ordeal of being known. Loved every story, had several sentences and paragraphs fully punch me in the gut, the last scene left me feeling like a giant bell being hit by a hammer. #ShortStorySummer is officially upon us, my friends.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    After Brandon Taylor’s brilliant debut, Real Life, last year, FILTHY ANIMALS is a tremendous follow-up. This collection of short stories are woven together with themes of identity and pain. A thread through many of the stories are the characters of Lionel, Charles, and Sophie, who meet at a potluck at the beginning of the book. Taylor has the ability to write about lives, almost in real time, over hours or days, and taking the mundane aspects of life and transforming them into something meaningfu After Brandon Taylor’s brilliant debut, Real Life, last year, FILTHY ANIMALS is a tremendous follow-up. This collection of short stories are woven together with themes of identity and pain. A thread through many of the stories are the characters of Lionel, Charles, and Sophie, who meet at a potluck at the beginning of the book. Taylor has the ability to write about lives, almost in real time, over hours or days, and taking the mundane aspects of life and transforming them into something meaningful. His prose is excellent. For me, reading his books in a fully immersive experience, it’s almost as if I’m living it. The book explores themes of identity, relationships, pain. Several of the characters are ballet dancers with pain and skill centered in their body. This makes the book much more visceral. Some of the characters deal with trauma like abuse, or self-harm, or a cancer diagnosis. Many of the stories deal with complicated relationships that are non-traditional or at least not widely portrayed in fiction. I loved that this book captures moments in the lives of these characters like a snapshot, brief, ephemeral. At the same time, full characters and whole worlds are developed with an ease that astounds me. I can’t recommend this book enough. Mark your calendars for the publication date of June 22 in the US.▪️ ⚠️ Abuse, Self Harm, Cancer

  23. 5 out of 5

    Camryn

    Brandon Taylor has a thing for writing emotionally unavailable/pretty cruel white men! Which I think is him making a statement. Any time I read something Brandon has written, I feel like I’m not smart enough, but I can’t stop reading anyway. I can’t believe I read this in two days. Sometimes I dreaded picking it up but just had to finish. And it surprisingly didn’t get as dark as I thought it would — mind you, it’s very melancholy, but It didn’t make me want to kill myself like A Little Life. The Brandon Taylor has a thing for writing emotionally unavailable/pretty cruel white men! Which I think is him making a statement. Any time I read something Brandon has written, I feel like I’m not smart enough, but I can’t stop reading anyway. I can’t believe I read this in two days. Sometimes I dreaded picking it up but just had to finish. And it surprisingly didn’t get as dark as I thought it would — mind you, it’s very melancholy, but It didn’t make me want to kill myself like A Little Life. These stories felt like work a teacher would assign to class that I would read while no one else did because I was into it. My favorite story was Anne of Cleaves. It was beautiful and... lovely in a way not many of Brandon’s stories are. I think there’s a lot of space for melancholy — I think it’s what gets awarded most often. But it’s a lot! This book had a lot of death and fighting and violence and weird sex stuff. I think maybe I’ll read one of the stories again when I’m older snd feel differently about it. Maybe not. But it’s obvious Brandon Taylor is an amazing writer.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Took a while to get into this collection of connected short stories but the last four stories are fantastic and really captivated my attention. Not quite as lovely as Real Life but affirms Taylor as a force to reckon with.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

    I really, really liked Real Life so I was very excited to get my hands on an arc of this book. And these stories...goddamn. You get repeated characters and motifs throughout, and they feel very cohesive, even the layout of them. Once I started reading a story I couldn't put it down, and I found myself dreaming of the landscapes that they held. I will be pushing this collection on everyone when it comes out and eagerly anticipating whatever Taylor puts out in the future. I really, really liked Real Life so I was very excited to get my hands on an arc of this book. And these stories...goddamn. You get repeated characters and motifs throughout, and they feel very cohesive, even the layout of them. Once I started reading a story I couldn't put it down, and I found myself dreaming of the landscapes that they held. I will be pushing this collection on everyone when it comes out and eagerly anticipating whatever Taylor puts out in the future.

  26. 5 out of 5

    CJ Alberts

    Incredible. Taylor is cemented as one of my favorite authors. He writes fraught relationships so well, wether romantic, familial or platonic. I feel like his prose is the perfect amount of removed and observational while still feeling intimate and accessing the interiority of his characters. My favorite of the collection is the on the book is named for, Filthy Animals. So heartbreaking and raw.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Deedi Brown (DeediReads)

    All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/. TL;DR REVIEW: Filthy Animals is, as we expect from Brandon Taylor, a masterful collection of stories; I especially loved the linked ones. This book more than lives up to the hype. For you if: You like queer short stories and excellent character-driven writing. FULL REVIEW: First, thank you to Riverhead for granting me a review copy of this collection on NetGalley! Filthy Animals is one of the most anticipated books of the year, and it absolutel All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/. TL;DR REVIEW: Filthy Animals is, as we expect from Brandon Taylor, a masterful collection of stories; I especially loved the linked ones. This book more than lives up to the hype. For you if: You like queer short stories and excellent character-driven writing. FULL REVIEW: First, thank you to Riverhead for granting me a review copy of this collection on NetGalley! Filthy Animals is one of the most anticipated books of the year, and it absolutely lives up to the hype. The collection opens with a story about a man named Lionel, who has hit a particularly difficult point in his life, and who meets two dancers in an open relationship at a friend’s potluck dinner. Every alternating story in the collection returns to these three characters, which, strung together, could have even become a novella. I really liked this format, the promise that we will come back and learn more about them, return to the near-tangible tension between them, see what happens next. But all the other stories in the collection are incredible, too, as one would expect from Brandon Taylor. I feel, now, that I could recognize Taylor’s writing anywhere, just by the level of detail he includes on every page. His writing zooms in on practically everything, which draws meaning and poignancy out of the otherwise mundane. Reading his stories, I feel like I could be an ant inside them, viewing every surface, every facial expression, every moment from close up. And then he zooms out when it comes to dialogue, letting every word ring and echo in hollow space. The result is both quiet and loud. This is one of those books where I think the back-cover blurb is especially on the nose: “Psychologically taut and quietly devastating,” and “a tender portrait of the fierce longing for intimacy, the lingering presence of pain, and the desire for love in a world that seems, more often than not, to withhold it.” I really can’t sum it up any better than that. CONTENT WARNINGS: Description of suicide attempt and suicidal thoughts (central theme); Rape (off screen/recounted later); Pedophilia (briefly remembered); Bulimia (described in the past); Terminal illness; Racism and homophobia

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alanna Why

    “The meat of the world is full of bones.” Filthy Animals is American writer Brandon Taylor’s second book. His first was a novel published during the winter of 2020 called Real Life, which I read exactly a year ago. Reading that novel, I found myself challenged by the uber-slow pacing and quiet characterization of the protagonist Wallace, a Black gay man in his late 20s who spends a weekend coming to terms with the death of his father and deciding to drop out of grad school. It was one of those b “The meat of the world is full of bones.” Filthy Animals is American writer Brandon Taylor’s second book. His first was a novel published during the winter of 2020 called Real Life, which I read exactly a year ago. Reading that novel, I found myself challenged by the uber-slow pacing and quiet characterization of the protagonist Wallace, a Black gay man in his late 20s who spends a weekend coming to terms with the death of his father and deciding to drop out of grad school. It was one of those books that I struggled with reading, but in the months after, came to appreciate more for its biting voice and perspective. Filthy Animals, Taylor’s first short story collection is, in my opinion, a better introduction to his writing style. The collection has a series of intertwined stories about the sexual relationship between grad students Lionel, Charles and Sophie, as well as standalone stories about a young woman dying of cancer and a group of teens at a party that goes terribly wrong. It’s definitely not easy stuff in terms of subject matter. Still, I think the collection does a great job at highlighting cruelty and violence present in relationships, as well as how differences can estrange us from those we should be closest to. I think Taylor is super skilled at dialogue, and his prose has a slow and old-school style to it, which makes tons of sense once you learn that his favourite writer is Patricia Highsmith. My favourite story was by far the titular “Filthy Animals,” but I also loved all the stories between Lionel, Charles and Sophie (interconnected short stories are the best IMO). This is definitely not a light read, but it’s a great place to start with his work and I’d recommend this collection if you’re a fan of The Price of Salt, Giovanni’s Room, Less Than Zero or Cruel Intentions.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Troy Walker

    Brandon Taylor’s prose is so achingly gorgeous and emotionally precise. So many times in the midst of reading the stories in Filthy Animals I found myself awe-struck at his carefully constructed sentences that conjure physical and emotional atmospheres so colorful and vivid. Less concerned with plot, the characters of these stories are constantly trying to figure out who they are, how to inhabit world around them, and navigate complex relationships. Each story in this collection was profound and Brandon Taylor’s prose is so achingly gorgeous and emotionally precise. So many times in the midst of reading the stories in Filthy Animals I found myself awe-struck at his carefully constructed sentences that conjure physical and emotional atmospheres so colorful and vivid. Less concerned with plot, the characters of these stories are constantly trying to figure out who they are, how to inhabit world around them, and navigate complex relationships. Each story in this collection was profound and moving in its own way. There was this constant internal struggle between how the characters feel they are obligated to act and their more primal and intrinsic desires. It was not lost on me realizing how much time in our lives is wasted in this struggle and how much of ourselves we lose based on the expectations that others have placed on us. The toll it takes on our spirit. Brandon Taylor articulates so well that specific millennial condition where our mental and physical health often "have to" take a back seat. When taking care of ourselves feels like an inconvenience to our friends, families, jobs, obligations, and society at large… even though taking care of ourselves should be our primary obligation. Filthy Animals was also uniquely structured – I’ve read short story collections with recurring characters before, but not this particular way with a consistent and recognizable chronological timeline from story to story. It was like a novella interwoven with other stories. Favorite stories: As Though That Were Love; Anne of Cleves

  30. 5 out of 5

    Misha

    "Letting people be who they are now. Not holding them to account so hard, so much. Letting them change. Grow. Mutate." "But it had to be true that life could be discarded when it was no longer of use. It had to be true that a person could ball their life up and throw it out with trash if they found they had no desire to go on. Some lives, Lionel thought, had to be ordinary ugly or painful. Ending your life had to be on the table." In 2021, Brandon Taylor does it again. In a collection of mostly int "Letting people be who they are now. Not holding them to account so hard, so much. Letting them change. Grow. Mutate." "But it had to be true that life could be discarded when it was no longer of use. It had to be true that a person could ball their life up and throw it out with trash if they found they had no desire to go on. Some lives, Lionel thought, had to be ordinary ugly or painful. Ending your life had to be on the table." In 2021, Brandon Taylor does it again. In a collection of mostly interlinked stories (and some standalones), the author portrays young people on the brink of their lives... lonely, heartbroken, lost, confused, desirous, in so much pain. Navigating the small moments and complexities of relationships. I love how the author depicts the quietness, the white spaces, in interactions; the most critical things happen in these moments. And I love how Taylor can dive into the most uncomfortable and awkward bits of the characters' psyche and make you feel like you are inhabiting these very real peoples' brains. Above all, there is so much sensitivity and softness to the way he portrays masculinity. This collection will linger with me a long time. Visit my Bookstagram for more book reviews: Literarianism

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