First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace was enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends – some dating women, some feigning straightness. But over the course of a late summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight, white classmate conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.
Real Life is a novel of profound and lacerating power, a story that asks if it’s ever really possible to overcome our private wounds, and at what cost.
It’s the first Friday of February! Friday also means another First Impression Friday update. For this week’s update, I am featuring Brandon Taylor’s Real Life. Real Life is Taylor’s debut novel and was one of six novels shortlisted for the 2020 Man Booker Prize. Unfortunately, it fell short of the prize. However, it didn’t fall short of piquing my interest. My interest was further piqued when I learned that Taylor and C Pam Zhang were best friends and both their debut novels (How Much of These Hills is Gold for Zhang) were longlisted for the aforementioned literary award.
Real Life is just my fifth book from the 2020 Man Booker longlist. I was just glad I was able to purchase a copy of the book (which I have been looking forward to for so long). Even though I just received my copy of the book, I didn’t hesitate in delving into the narrative next; my previous read was Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain, the winner of the 2020 Man Booker prize .
Before I started reading Real Life, I barely had an iota on what it was. I knew the basics – the main character, Wallace, was gay and that the story was set in a campus. After reading over a hundred pages, I already know that Wallace was from Alabama and was black. He also moved to a predominantly white midwestern university town to pursue his studies in biochemistry. He was also the first black student in years. His father just recently passed away as well. He has a circle of friends but their bond was not as tight as one would expect.
One thing that I had an inkling of prior to reading the book was that it had some autobiographical elements. The gist of the story, from what I have read so far, is about going out of one’s comfort zone (the campus) to experience “real life”. There were recurring discussions on pursuing a “real life”. The campus setup kind of reminded me of Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom (perhaps because of the laboratories) although, of course, the Gifty and Wallace’s circumstances are different.
Whilst I find the writing evocating, I am currently struggling trying to make a headway into the story. I am also not getting a connection with Wallace or any of the other characters. With the month end closing done, I am hoping I can focus on the story this weekend. I hope that it would live up to the hype. Well, there’s still nearly 200 pages left to overturn my initial impression. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!