by Justin Torres
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Pub Date 2 Nov 2023 | Archive Date 15 Dec 2023
An intimate, emotionally rich novel, in which two men - young and old - reckon with queer histories and their place within them, from the critically acclaimed author of We the Animals.
Juan Gay is on his deathbed. He has decided to spend his last days in The Palace: a monumental, fading institution in the desert, which was an asylum in another lifetime. There, a young man tends to this dying soul - someone who Juan met only once, but who has haunted the edges of his life ever since.
As the end approaches, the two trade stories - resurrecting lost loves, lives, mothers and fathers - and their lives are woven, ineluctably, into a broader story of pathology and oppression. Charged with sifting through Juan's belongings, our narrator uncovers a copy of Sex Variants: A Study in Homosexual Patterns, its pages blacked out, censored, reduced down to poetic dispatches. And, as he sifts through the manuscript, another story is told: that of Jan Gay - a radical, queer anthropologist - whose ground-breaking work was co-opted, and stifled, by the committee she served.
Blackouts is a haunting, dreamlike rumination on memory and erasure, on the ways in which stories sustain histories. Both emotionally and intellectually daring, Justin Torres blends fact with fiction - drawing from historical records, screenplays, testimony and image - force us to look again at the world we have inherited and the narratives we have received.
‘Drawing on documents and images from real-life pioneers, the hugely ambitious Blackouts by Justin Torres [...] is an intimate, playful account of an old and a young man talking; but it builds into a rich, poetic reclamation of cultural inheritance’ Guardian
‘Blackouts gives me what I read fiction for, what I read for at all—the sense of a brilliant mind creating a puzzle in the air in front of me, all intelligence and surprises. Ambitious, disarming, full of a kind of daring that winks as it passes—as if David Wojnarowicz rewrote Nabokov’s Pale Fire and then left it for years in an abandoned building, just for you’ Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
‘Justin Torres is a master of the urgent, surprising sentence. In Blackouts, he pays close attention to every word, crafting a narrative that is as much about what is on the page as what has been painstakingly cut away. This novel is a stunning achievement of re-creation, imagination and tender, tender care. Read it and feel held’ Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House
‘It’s coming. It’s coming. Ring the church bells. Alert the media. The amazing Justin Torres has a new book. We the Animals, his first novel, was so incredible, so impeccably fabulous, that I began a ritual of rereading it every few years, and after every reread I wondered when Torres, one of our great writers, would come out with a second. The wait is over. It’s coming. Gird your loins. I shiver with anticipation’ Rabih Alameddine, author of The Wrong End of the Telescope
‘Erotic and beguiling, Blackouts prowls the negative spaces that surround our identities, our memories, and our desires, inviting us to think about erasure and collage not just as literary techniques, but as psychological processes, and even as radical acts of cultural and sexual reframing. An intelligent, loving, and genuinely subversive work’ Eleanor Catton, author of Birnam Wood
‘Enigmatic, spine-tingling, imbued with inky atmosphere and radiant disclosures — a book like a magic trick’ Jeremy Atherton Lin, author of Gay Bar
‘I’m crushed out on Justin Torres’s writing: charming, sexy, soft, and full of truth. His words cut like Cupid’s arrow’ Brontez Purnell, author of 100 Boyfriends
‘Blackouts is unequivocally brilliant, bold, and structurally inventive. Like its absorbing narrator, who tells stories to keep his friend alive, Justin Torres has written a shamelessly vital novel that reminds us all not to give up on ourselves, on one another, or on our stories’ Angie Cruz, author of Dominicana and How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water
‘Blackouts is a beautiful collage of a novel. Throughout, Justin Torres quenches a thirst one scene, one flashback, one image at a time’ Alejandro Varela, author of The People Who Report More Stress
‘Blackouts is a historic feat of literature. I’ve never read a book so brilliantly inventive. ‘Must-read’ and ‘masterpiece’ don’t do the book justice. A marvel of the human mind’ Javier Zamora, author of Solito
‘Tender, brutal and hypnotic. An instant queer classic’ Kirsty Logan, author of Things We Say in the Dark
‘Deep joy in reading Justin Torres’ new novel of queer histories and erasure, and allowing the book to unfold before me. It’s as much a mystery as it a balm. Testimony and prophecy. I felt a similar magic on first reading Luke Sutherland’s Venus As A Boy almost two decades ago. This is a very different novel – bigger, shapeshifting, and more ambitious - but it’s super special and speaks to where we are now, through our collective queer past. Worth. The. Wait. Bravo’ Niven Govinden, author of Diary of a Film
‘Wonderful. A dexterous, searing exploration of queer lives that leaves you quietly reeling’ Irenosen Okojie, author of Butterfly Fish