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.
[An] impressive first collection ... Although each of the stories here can be read as a stand-alone work, over half of them are perhaps best described as chapters of a novella-length piece ... the cloistered world of student life offers Taylor the perfect canvas for the emotionally charged interplay between an insular cast. Most significantly though, these stories provide further evidence that intimacy is Taylor’s great subject ... moments of connection that pepper these stories feel so miraculous. But welcoming relief involves acknowledging the true depth of the void that’s been filled ... Taylor also dares to show us how violence can be an act of terrible intimacy.
Taylor follows his Booker shortlisted Real Life with a sharp, surprising collection ... Taylor’s language sparks with the tension of beauty and cruelty, conveying a sense of desire and the pleasures of food and sex complicated by capricious behavior. The author has an impressive range, and his depictions of complex characters trapped in untenable situations are hard to forget.
A story collection full of vital insight into murky human interactions ... The settings here are bleak—alienated suburbs; petty college campuses—and the mood unsparing. But the daring in these stories is bracing ... Taylor tackles a variety of taboos and articulates the comfortless sides of the soul, and it's thrilling to watch.