Filthy Animals: Internal states of unrest illuminated

Brandon Taylor’s short stories focus on characters who are sincere not sentimental

Brandon Taylor: The human body proves fickle throughout the stories in his Filthy Animals collection. Photograph: Vivian Le/New York Times

Brandon Taylor: The human body proves fickle throughout the stories in his Filthy Animals collection. Photograph: Vivian Le/New York Times

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own” (John 15:19) reads the epigraph of Brandon Taylor’s first short-story collection. Lionel, the central character of the linked stories that form the backbone of the book, most often does not feel loved by the world. A black queer man, he bears some resemblance to Wallace, the protagonist of Taylor’s 2020 Booker-shortlisted novel Real Life. Both men struggle to feel like they belong in the predominantly white milieu of academia.

A promising mathematician, Lionel has put his doctoral studies on hold following in-patient treatment following a suicide attempt. At a potluck dinner shortly after being discharged from the hospital after another close call, he meets Charles and Sophie, two dancers in an open relationship. Narrated in a close third person that shifts points of view, every other story (demarcated by one-word titles such as Flesh) involves the trio’s love triangle. Charles “was good-looking, in a way that seemed incongruous with ordinary life,” notes Lionel. “But he looked pained, too. All that body had cost him something.”

The Irish Times
Please subscribe or sign in to continue reading.
The Irish Times

How can I keep reading?

You’ve reached an article that is only available to Irish Times subscribers.

Subscribe today and get the full picture for just €1 for the first month.

Subscribe No obligation, cancel any time.