Blackouts | Granta
  • Published: 02/11/2023
  • ISBN: 9781847083975
  • Granta Books
  • 320 pages

Blackouts

Justin Torres

Juan Gay is on his deathbed. He has decided to spend his last days in The Palace: a monumental, fading institution in the desert, which was an asylum in another lifetime. There, a young man tends to this dying soul – someone who Juan met only once, but who has haunted the edges of his life ever since.

As the end approaches, the two trade stories – resurrecting lost loves, lives, mothers and fathers – and their lives are woven, ineluctably, into a broader story of pathology and oppression. Charged with sifting through Juan’s belongings, our narrator uncovers a copy of Sex Variants: A Study in Homosexual Patterns, its pages blacked out, censored, reduced down to poetic dispatches. And, as he sifts through the manuscript, another story is told: that of Jan Gay – a radical, queer anthropologist – whose ground-breaking work was co-opted, and stifled, by the committee she served.

Blackouts is a haunting, dreamlike rumination on memory and erasure, on the ways in which stories sustain histories. Both emotionally and intellectually daring, Justin Torres blends fact with fiction – drawing from historical records, screenplays, testimony and image – force us to look again at the world we have inherited and the narratives we have received.

Drawing on documents and images from real-life pioneers, the hugely ambitious Blackouts is an intimate, playful account of an old and a young man talking; but it builds into a rich, poetic reclamation of cultural inheritance

What to read this autumn: 2023’s biggest new books, The Guardian

Erotic and beguiling... An intelligent, loving, and genuinely subversive work

Eleanor Catton

Enigmatic, spine-tingling, imbued with inky atmosphere and radiant disclosures - a book like a magic trick

Jeremy Atherton Lin

The Author

Justin Torres was born in 1980 and grew up in upstate New York. His work has appeared in Granta, Tin House, and Glimmer Train. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a recipient of the Rolón United States Artist Fellowship in Literature, and is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University.

More about the author →

From the Same Author

We the Animals

Justin Torres

Three brothers tear their way through childhood – smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from rubbish, hiding 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. Barely out of childhood themselves, their love is a serious, dangerous thing. Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to forge his own way in the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and incredibly powerful.

Justin Torres on Granta.com

In Conversation | The Online Edition

Justin Torres | Interview

Justin Torres & Jennifer de Leon

‘I wanted to write a book about a family so complicated, so in love, and so flawed, that folks would resist easy categories.’

Fiction | Granta 104

Lessons

Justin Torres

‘We were six snatching hands, six stomping feet; we were brothers, boys, three little kings locked in a feud for more.’