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Random House Publishing Group, Spring 2019

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The Spectators
A Novel
By (author): Jennifer duBois
9780812995886 Hardcover English General Trade FICTION / Literary Apr 02, 2019
$36.00 CAD
Active 6.36 x 9.56 x 1.14 in 352 pages Random House
A shocking crime creates a media firestorm for a controversial talk show host in this provocative novel—a story of redemption, a nostalgic portrait of New York City, and a searing indictment of our culture of spectacle.

Talk show host Matthew Miller has made his fame by shining a spotlight on the most unlikely and bizarre secrets of society, exposing them on live television in front of millions of gawking viewers. However, the man behind The Mattie M. Show remains a mystery—not only to his enormous audience, but to those who work alongside him every day. But when the high school students responsible for a mass shooting are found to be devoted fans, Mattie is thrust into the glare of public scrutiny, the wry, detached herald of a culture going downhill and going way too far. Soon, the secrets of Mattie’s past as a brilliant young politician in a crime-ridden New York City begin to push their way to the surface.

In her most daring and multidimensional novel yet, Jennifer duBois vividly portrays the gay community in New York City, spanning from the heyday of gay liberation in the 70s to the grips of the AIDS crisis in the 80s, alongside a backstage view of 90s television in an age of moral panic. DuBois explores an enigmatic man’s downfall through the perspectives of two spectators—Cel, Mattie’s skeptical publicist, and Semi, the disillusioned lover from his past. With wit, heart, and crackling intelligence, The Spectators examines the human capacity for reinvention—and forces us ask ourselves what we choose to look at, and why.

Story Locale: 1970s-1990s New York City

CELEBRATED WRITER: DuBois is the recipient of a 2013 Whiting Award for Fiction and 2012 National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award. Her first novel, A Partial History of Lost Causes, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Prize for Debut Fiction and her second novel, Cartwheel, was the winner of the Housatonic Book Award and was nominated for a NYPL Young Lions Award. She also received a 2018 Creative Writing Fellowship grant from the NEA for this novel, selected from nearly 1,700 applicants.

INSPIRED BY CULTURAL FIGURES: Just as she was inspired by the Amanda Knox trial in her previous novel, Cartwheel, duBois illustrates her fascination with complex characters with complicated public personas. In this case the real-life inspiration is the star of a controversial 1990s talk show.

Jennifer duBois is the author of A Partial History of Lost Causes, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Prize for Debut Fiction. The National Book Foundation named her one of its 5 Under 35 Authors. Her second novel, Cartwheel, was a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award. An alumna of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Stanford University’s Stegner Fellowship, duBois is the recipient of a Whiting Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing grant. She teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University.

Author Residence: Austin, TX

Author Hometown: Northampton, MA

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Local author promotion: Austin, TX

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“In addition to being a well-spun epic, The Spectators is an examination of the spectacle-driven culture we’re all part of.”Refinery29

The Spectators is yet another triumph in an impressive oeuvre: a brave and painfully vivid excavation of the AIDS crisis in New York that, with its fine prose, breathes life back into an era of death.”—Karan Mahajan, author of the National Book Award finalist The Association of Small Bombs

The Spectators, the third novel by the well-regarded author Jennifer duBois, often thrums with vibrancy and echoes divisive current events as it covers a timeline from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. It also gains momentum when the plot takes a sudden, sinister twist—a threat of blackmail, a shooter’s potentially explosive letter, a secret taping…. A searingly felt remembrance.”—Associated Press

“Covering three decades of American culture, including the nineties pop culture wars and the AIDS crisis of the eighties to the liberated seventies, this may be duBois’s most ambitious work yet.”Lit Hub, “Most Anticipated Books of 2019”

“Elegant, enigmatic, and haunting.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Spectators is a beautifully written, even aphoristic novel, but its greatest strength is its characterization…. Brilliantly conceived and…utterly unforgettable.”Booklist (starred review)

“A Whiting Award winner and PEN/Hemingway nominee, duBois writes an especially timely novel exploring the power of the media to foment chaos and the culpability of the public that validates the discord by watching.”Library Journal

“A powerful novel…DuBois spans some thirty years of New York City history, moving between the queer gestalt of the 1970s and the television-junkie culture of the 1990s.”Publishers Weekly

“A Whiting Award winner and PEN/Hemingway nominee, duBois writes an especially timely novel exploring the power of the media to foment chaos and the culpability of the public that validates the discord by watching.”Library Journal

The Spectators is magnificent, a richly textured epic suffused in heartbreak yet spring-loaded with vitality. Jennifer duBois is among the finest writers of our generation and this is her most accomplished novel.”—Anthony Marra, author of The Tsar of Love and Techno

“Another breathtaking novel from one of our most brilliant writers…No one writes about the contradictions of American society and the foibles of the human heart with such incisive wit and sensitivity. The Spectators is a tense and propulsive exploration of how easily we can let our best intentions slip away. As secrets are uncovered, Jennifer duBois reminds us that to truly see, without apology or artifice, is itself an act of compassion. This novel pulses with intelligence and heart.”—Kirstin Valdez Quade, author of Night at the Fiestas

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