Blackouts, the long-awaited second book from Justin Torres, uses words and images to attempt to recover and illuminate stories of queer people living in the 20th century. Blackouts doesn't give its secrets away easily, or for free. Torres demands your time and focus, and earns your respect and awe. This is an experimental and moving book, sure to be read and reread in the years to come. Recommended By Adam P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From the bestselling author of We the Animals, Blackouts mines lost histories — personal and collective.
Out in the desert in a place called the Palace, a young man tends to a dying soul, someone he once knew briefly, but who has haunted the edges of his life. Juan Gay — playful raconteur, child lost and found and lost, guardian of the institutionalized — has a project to pass along to this new narrator. It is inspired by a true artifact of a book, Sex Variants: A Study in Homosexual Patterns, which contains stories collected in the early twentieth century from queer subjects by a queer researcher, Jan Gay, whose groundbreaking work was then co-opted by a committee, her name buried. As Juan waits for his end, he and the narrator trade stories — moments of joy and oblivion — and resurrect lost loves, lives, mothers, fathers, minor heroes. The past is with us, beside us, ahead of us; what are we to create from its gaps and erasures?
Inspired by Kiss of the Spider Woman, Pedro Páramo, Voodoo Macbeth, the book at its own center and the woman who created it, oral histories, and many more texts, images, and influences, Justin Torres's Blackouts is a work of fiction that sees through the inventions of history and narrative. An extraordinary work of creative imagination, it insists that we look long and steady at the world we have inherited and the world we have made — a world full of ghostly shadows and flashing moments of truth.
"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 How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water
"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
"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
About the Author
Justin Torres is the author of We the Animals, which won the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, was translated into fifteen languages, and was adapted into a feature film. He was named a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35," a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and a Cullman Center Fellow at the New York Public Library. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Granta, Tin House, and The Washington Post. He lives in Los Angeles, and teaches at UCLA.