BY Terence Trouillot in Opinion | 09 JUN 23

Editor's Picks: Brandon Taylor’s ‘The Late Americans’

Other highlights include Martine Syms’s art-school satire and a nostalgic glance back at the indomitable Tina Turner

BY Terence Trouillot in Opinion | 09 JUN 23

Frieze Editor’s Picks is a fortnightly column in which a frieze editor shares their recommendations for what to watch, read and listen to.

Brandon Taylor, The Late Americans (2023)

I recently picked up Brandon Taylor’s highly anticipated third novel, which came out in the US last month and will be released in the UK on 22 June. Much like his debut novel Real Life (2020), The Late Americans takes its setting from academia, and revolves around a large cast of characters – including poets, dancers and mathematicians ­– intertwined in a tale of friendship, love and sex in Iowa City.  Although at times it’s hard to keep up with the various names and relationships that surface – characters come and go without warning – the writing is devilishly clever, fun and salacious. Admittedly, I’m a bigger fan of Taylor’s critical essays, but The Late Americans takes you on a wonderous ride through the doldrums and raptures of youth.

The Late Americans, 2023, Brandon Taylor
Brandon Taylor, The Late Americans, 2023, book cover. Courtesy: Riverhead Books

Martine Syms, The African Desperate (2022)

Last week, I finally took the time to watch Martine Syms’s first feature film, currently available to stream on MUBI. The African Desperate, which was widely released last October after a successful film festival run, follows young Black artist Palace Bryant – played to perfection by the artist Diamond Stingily – on her last day as an MFA student at an art school in upstate New York. The film, which sees Palace navigate an uncomfortable final crit and later consume a litany of drugs at a party, acts as blistering satire of the art world and, more pointedly, its MFA system. The result is at once outlandishly cringeworthy, hilarious and disturbingly real. I absolutely love it.

Martine Syms
Martine Syms, The African Desperate, 2022. Courtesy: MUBI

Tina Turner, ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’

Much like my colleague Sean Burns, I’ve been listening to the 'Queen of Rock ‘n' Roll' on repeat since her passing last month. As a child of the 1980s, Tina’s songs, boisterous energy and blond shock of hair are seared into my memory, as if she has become part of my DNA. Hits such as ‘I Can’t Stand the Rain’ (1984), ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ (1984) and ‘The Best’ (1989) have an uncanny ability to transport me back to parts of my childhood I thought were long forgotten.

Tina Turner In 'Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome'
Tina Turner in a scene from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, 1985. Courtesy: Warner Brothers/Getty Images

But one song seems to invade my soul with such urgency and grit that I can’t stop myself from listening to it again and again: ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’ (1985). The song, from the film soundtrack for Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) – in which Turner also stars ­– is a triumphant ballad that, despite its allusions to the postapocalyptic universe of Mad Max, reaffirms selfhood and self-expression. It’s a song that has gotten me through some hard times and tremendous heartbreak.

Main image: Des Moines skyline and Iowa State Capitol Building at sunset. Courtesy: Getty Images

Terence Trouillot is senior editor of frieze. He lives in New York, USA.