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 transfixing collage of gorgeous prose and manipulated illustrations, with themes of cultural erasure and the effervescence of lust and love ... Easily 2023's sexiest novel ... Astonishing ... It steers clear of contrivance, thanks to edgy illustrations, an origami structure, and the author's exquisite eye and ear. This is a novel of ideas, too, brimming with queer history, racial defiance and the injustices of the Freudian era ... Run, don't walk, to buy it.
Torres’s lyrical new novel, Blackouts, these two forms — erasure poetry and queer history — collide to create one epic conversation between a pivotal 20th-century queer sexology text and two unreliable queer Puerto Rican narrators ... The supreme pleasure of the book is its slow obliteration of any firm idea of reality — a perfect metaphor for the delirious disorientation that comes with learning queer history as an adult ... 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.
Shimmering, fable-like ... Amorphous ... Despite its compactness and occasional obliqueness, Blackouts has within it some of the same strangeness, wildness and defiance of this hyena. Playful and mysterious, there’s much in it to admire — and perhaps a little to fear.