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 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
“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
“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
“Blackouts is a manifesto and a masterwork—an enthralling, dazzling feat of literary bravura. Justin Torres is the real thing.”
—Rabih Alameddine, author of The Wrong End of the Telescope
“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
“Enigmatic, spine-tingling, imbued with inky atmosphere and radiant disclosures—a book like a magic trick.”
—Jeremy Atherton Lin, author of Gay Bar
“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
“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
Three brothers tear their way through childhood—smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn—he’s Puerto Rican, she’s white—and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times.
Life in this home is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense family unity that surrounds a child to the resilience and permanence of brotherhood to the profound alienation a young man endures as he begins to see himself in the world, this novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sucker-punch powerful. It leaves us reminded that our madness is both caused by, and alleviated by, our families, and that we might not reconcile who we are with who our loved ones see, or who we want to be for them.
Written in magical language with unforgettable images, We the Animals is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.
New York Times Bestseller • Amazon Best Books 2011 • Los Angeles Times Bestseller • Time Out New York Best Books of 2011 • San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller • Boston Globe Bestseller • NPR Bestseller • New York Daily News, Best Under-the-Radar Books 2011 • Indie Bestseller • Esquire, The Best Book You’ll Read This Fall • New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection • A Huffington Post Novel of the Year • San Francisco Chronicle Best Books of 2011 • Kirkus Best Fiction of 2011 • Nylon Magazine Best Books of 2011 • Flavorwire Best Debut Novels of 2011 • NAACP Image Awards Nominee for Outstanding Literary Debut
“Like Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway . . . Torres’s sensitive and hyperobservant narrator, relat[es] this coming-of-age story in a spare and impressionistic style . . . I want more of Torres’s haunting, word-torn world.”
—New York Times Book Review
“We should all be grateful for Justin Torres, a brilliant, ferocious new voice.”
“I was also astonished at the sharp beauty of Torres’s debut novel. It hews as close to the bone of truth as any novel I’ve ever read, both visceral and affectingly raw.”
—Alexandra Styron, Wall Street Journal
“A voice whose uniqueness, power and resonance are evident from the very first page . . . [Readers] will have little choice but to conclude that they are hearing something new, something strong and something very self-assured.”
“Some books quicken your pulse. Some slow it. Some burn you inside and send you tearing off to find the author to see who made this thing that can so burn you and quicken you and slow you all at the same time. A miracle in concentrated pages, you are going to read it again and again.”
“Taut, elegant, lean and it delivers a knockout . . . Told in a series of scenes that burst open like exploding stars, full of violence and light . . . the brilliantly compressed novel reads as though Torres has been writing it his whole life . . . A kind of ode to the bond of brotherhood.”
—NPR, Weekend Edition