Blackouts: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Epic in concept, and deftly executed. Torres demands attentive readership, which rewards itself with sensual beauty, wonderful historical discovery, and most importantly a sense of queer intergenerational kinship. I read and re-read this book.

— Iris


Long-listed for the National Book Award for Fiction

A Most Anticipated Read: The New York Times, The Guardian, Literary Hub, The Rumpus, The Bay Area Reporter, Datebook, Electric Literature, The Stacks, Them, Publishers Weekly

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, Juan has a project to pass along, one built around a true artifact of a book—Sex Variants: A Study of Homosexual Patterns—and its devastating history. This book contains accounts 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. The voices of these subjects have been filtered, muted, but it is possible to hear them from within and beyond the text, which, in Juan’s tattered volumes, has been redacted with black marker on nearly every page. As Juan waits for his end, he and the narrator recount for each other moments of joy and oblivion; they resurrect loves, lives, mothers, fathers, minor heroes. In telling their own stories and the story of the book, they resist the ravages of memory and time. The past is with us, beside us, ahead of us; what are we to create from its gaps and erasures?

A book about storytelling—its legacies, dangers, delights, and potential for change—and a bold exploration of form, art, and love, Justin Torres’s Blackouts uses fiction to see through the inventions of history and narrative. A marvel of creative imagination, it draws on testimony, photographs, illustrations, and a range of influences as it insists that we look long and steadily at what we have inherited and what we have made—a world full of ghostly shadows and flashing moments of truth. A reclamation of ransacked history, a celebration of defiance, and a transformative encounter, Blackouts mines the stories that have been kept from us and brings them into the light.

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.

Praise For…

“Intimate, playful . . . a rich, poetic reclamation of cultural inheritance.”
The Guardian

“[Justin] Torres is back with another book that stretches the boundaries of the idea of the novel . . . I was . . . surprised and enchanted by Blackouts . . . a strange dream-like, reality-like patchwork . . . This is a book about erasure and time, about storytelling and art and science, and also, if you’ll forgive me, about love. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Emily Temple, Literary Hub

“Cinematic . . . Torres combats erasure, reclaims history, and demands personal stories to create exquisite testimony to dismissed, yet defiant, humanity. Torres’s literary acrobatics . . . spectacularly displays his remarkable manipulations of fiction and reality.”
—Terry Hong, Booklist (starred review)

“Fascinating, inventive . . . Torres’s intricate web of narratives is gripping from beginning to end. His richly drawn characters are passionate, but painfully self-aware. Attempts to erase or pigeonhole these characters do not rob them of their compassion for each other and the author’s compassion for them. There are echoes of Manuel Puig and of Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy. Blackouts is a worthy successor to its classic antecedents.”
—John Clum, New York Journal of Books

“[An] inventive and beguiling book about memory and desire and what is said and unsaid—both by ourselves and by those who tell our stories.”
—Michelle Hart, Electric Literature

“Inquisitive, pensive, and delightfully puzzling . . . [Torres displays] immense literary talent and a knack for distinctive storytelling.”
—Jim Piechota, The Bay Area Reporter

“[Blackouts examines] the way our reality is shaped by how we remember our history. It’s a story that’s deeply personal and universal all at once.”
—Emily Martin, Them

“Playful, inventive, and at times kaleidoscopic . . . [Blackouts] shines and surprises.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Enticing . . . Deliciously queer.”
Publishers Weekly

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

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

“Erotic and beguiling, Blackouts prowls the negative spaces that surround us, 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

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

“Justin Torres is a master of the urgent, surprising sentence. Blackouts is a stunning achievement of re-creation, imagination, and tender, tender care.”
—Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House

“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 a beautiful collage of a novel. Justin Torres quenches a thirst one scene, one flashback, one image at a time.”
—Alejandro Varela, author of The People Who Report More Stress

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374293574
ISBN-10: 0374293570
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: October 10th, 2023
Pages: 320
Language: English