A shocking crime triggers a media firestorm for a controversial talk show host in this novel—a story of redemption, a nostalgic portrait of New York City, and an indictment of our culture of spectacle.
... a novel about a TV star that feels just right ... As duBois charts the history of her chosen era, she does a fine job of summoning up the atmosphere of confusion and dread in the years immediately before the AIDS epidemic had a name ... While I understand that duBois needed what screenwriters call an inciting event to propel her narrative forward — forcing Mattie to reckon with what his reckless on-air persona has set loose — I prefer the novel’s shrewder explorations of Semi’s and Cel’s intense lives and casual musings ... [The spectators] is full of small pleasures that accumulate as proof that this writer knows her stuff ... DuBois’s mastery of... details earns our trust as she expands The Spectators into a billowing meditation on the responsibility of public figures to contribute something worthwhile to the culture. Although her book takes place decades ago, duBois’s message has a contemporary urgency as well.
A beautifully written, even aphoristic novel, but its greatest strength is its characterization: Semi and his gay friends, Cel and her mother and grandfather, and, of course, the always enigmatic Mattie are brilliantly conceived and, like the novel in which they star, utterly unforgettable.
duBois’ characters are so acutely drawn and vivid that Mattie’s enigmatism—his singular defining trait—serves to draw out the personalities of those around him ... duBois’ language is dextrous, and her pacing impressive. Although we never quite discover the mystery of Mattie, we grow to understand his perspective and his role in Semi’s life. The Spectators is a treatise on the media’s power and a finely-wrought example of intimate pain.