Justin Torres in conversation with Jonathan Escoffery
October 10 @ 6:00 pm
City Lights and Litquake celebrate the publication of Justin Torres’s new novel
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
From the bestselling author of We the Animals, Blackouts mines lost histories—personal and collective.
This event is part of the Litquake 2023 Festival. To learn more visit: https://www.litquake.org/
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.
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.
Jonathan Escoffery is the recipient of the 2020 Plimpton Prize for Fiction, a 2020 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, and the 2020 ASME Award for Fiction. His fiction has appeared in The Paris Review, American Short Fiction, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, Passages North, Zyzzyva, and Electric Literature, and has been anthologized in The Best American Magazine Writing. He is a fellow in the University of Southern California’s PhD in Creative Writing and Literature Program, and in 2021 he was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. His first book, If I Survive You, was longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize.
What has been said about the work of Justin Torres
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
This event is made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation. To learn more visit: https://citylights.com/foundation/