Justin Torres at Harvard Book Store
Blackouts: A Novel
in conversation with CHRISTOPHER CASTELLANI
October 19, 2023
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes Justin Torres— National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree and author of the award-winning novel We the Animals—for a discussion of his latest novel Blackouts. He will be joined in conversation by CHRISTOPHER CASTELLANI—author of Leading Men.
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.
Praise for Blackouts
“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
“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
Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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