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Blackouts

de Justin Torres

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311484,604 (3.76)12
A Most Anticipated Read The New York Times * The Guardian * Lit Hub * The Rumpus * The Stacks * 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--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.… (mais)
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Exibindo 4 de 4
Finished in Ocean Shores in evening during work conference.

A queer historical fiction, liked it better than I thought I would.

Juan on his deathbed attempts to pass on decades old 'homosexual' research that he may have lived.

The deathbed scenes held me rapt, the history less so. ( )
  kcshankd | Mar 31, 2024 |
Clearly inspired by [b:Kiss of the Spider Woman|588242|Kiss of the Spider Woman|Manuel Puig|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1403179094l/588242._SY75_.jpg|765288] (1976) by Manuel Puig, I enjoyed this novel’s recreation of the tender, caring bond that develops between two rather different men in Puig’s novel as they pass the time in a small cell-like space (literally a cell in Puig, figuratively here) talking, imagining life through the lens of film, and through being their true selves countering a dominant ideology that pathologizes queerness.

Juan, an elder man on his deathbed, wants his young visitor to take up the work of recording queer history and identity begun in a lengthy old research report in his possession, which was co-opted and misused for their own purposes by straight male doctors decades ago. Reflecting this erasure, the volumes themselves are mostly blacked out and images of its pages are printed here in the style of creating found poetry, which is not usually something I have much interest in but it works quite well in this context. And as Juan fades into delirium near the end of the novel, reality is further erased until the arrival of the ultimate “blackout”, if I may.

There is not so much a plot though as a rich and complex characterization of these two men and the bond that was created between them over only eighteen days they shared being forced into a mental institution prior to the younger’s suicide attempt and subsequent departure, that then survived a decade of no contact, and which is now revived and developed after the unnamed narrator has tracked down the dying Juan in his small, dark room.
Juan was dying, but only in the light, and only in the body. In the dark, his voice filled the room, sharper and more alive than I.


Through the skillful dialogue that is most of the book, Torres shows these two men sharing their lives with each other and in their relationship demonstrating the love of neighbor that should be striven for even as we often come up short.

4.5 ( )
  lelandleslie | Feb 24, 2024 |
One of the most creative books I have read in some time. The central figures are the narrator and an elderly gentleman he lives with. Both are homosexual and the book focuses on a period when this lifestyle was totally underground. Torres is a wonderful writer engaging the reader in his episodic writing style with many visual aids. The two recall many books and movies that profoundly affected them. As a heterosexual reader I was thoroughly taken by the characters and story in this book. ( )
  muddyboy | Feb 18, 2024 |
This book won the National Book Award and after reading it, I can say that the judges really had no choice in the matter. It manages to be intelligent, innovative and full of heart, which is a lot for one book. The scaffolding for this novel is two men in a room, a small room in an old building in New Mexico, the curtains drawn. Juan is dying and his friend, who he last saw decades ago in a mental health facility, has come to spend these last days with him in this over-heated room, as they talk about their own pasts and read a bit from an old book called Sex Variants, where each page has been altered, words blacked out, making a new text. The also discuss the person who spear-headed the book's creation, her history and how she convinced a male doctor to be the head of the project, because she couldn't get traction as a woman, and how she was ultimately disappointed in what resulted.

This is the kind of book that ranges far and wide while staying in the same place. It's clever and intelligent, with the erasures revealing more than the original text did. It shares a format with Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman, a connection that Torres points out. It's a novel that deserves to be read slowly and ideally as a physical book, the object itself playing a part in how well this book holds together, with illustrations and photos enhancing the story being told. ( )
3 vote RidgewayGirl | Jan 12, 2024 |
Exibindo 4 de 4
A marginalised history is salvaged from real‑life medical records in this strange and glorious novel
adicionado por fastred | editarThe Guardian, Beejay Silcox (Nov 9, 2023)
 
“Torres’ intricate web of narratives is gripping from beginning to end. His richly drawn characters are passionate . . .”
adicionado por fastred | editarNew York Journal of Books, John Clum (Oct 10, 2023)
 
It’s as though the magician has stepped forward at the end of the show to explain the trick, and disappeared himself in the process. Torres haunts this book full of ghosts like a ghost himself, and with this novel, he has passed the haunting on, creating the next link in a queer chain from Jan to Juan to nene to you.
adicionado por fastred | editarNew York Times, Hugh Ryan (Oct 9, 2023)
 
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Poetry loses some of its charm through the suggestion that it might be an expression of the writer's sexual maladjustment. But as a matter of fact it is beginning to seem that all imaginative writings are attempts to find libidinous satisfaction in fantasy.

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I came to the Palace because the man I sought kept a room there. He stood at the point of egress, supporting himself against the door frame, not just thing, but skeletal; lips shrunken and chapped; the skin of his face pulled taut over the skull. I led him back to bed, where he looked at me, kind but wild. His eyes burned with life, as if the spirit had left the flesh and concentrated there, in irises bright and glassy, the milk of the whites unsullied.
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A Most Anticipated Read The New York Times * The Guardian * Lit Hub * The Rumpus * The Stacks * 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--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.

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