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City of Night

John Rechy

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“[Rechy’s] tone rings absolutely true, is absolutely his own. . . . He tells the truth, and tells it with such passion that we are forced to share in the life he conveys. . . . This is a most humbling and liberating achievement.”—James Baldwin

When John Rechy’s explosive first novel appeared in 1963, it marked a radical departure in fiction, and gave voice to a subculture that had never before been revealed with such acuity. It earned comparisons to Genet and Kerouac, even as Rechy was personally attacked by scandalized reviewers. Nevertheless, the book became an international bestseller, and fifty years later, it has become a classic. Bold and inventive in style, Rechy is unflinching in his portrayal of one hustling “youngman” and his search for self-knowledge within the neon-lit world of hustlers, drag queens, and the denizens of their world, as he moves from El Paso to Times Square, from Pershing Square to the French Quarter. Now including never-seen original marked galley pages and an interview with the author, Rechy’s portrait of the edges of America has lost none of its power to move and exhilarate.

Praise for City of Night:

“One of the few major American writers whose life is almost as interesting, and meaningful, as his work.”—Michael Cunningham

“A ground-breaking book . . . observing a whole new array of characters . . . many for the first time in American literature. . . . A classic American novel.”—Edmund White,
The New York Review of Books

“Probably no novel published in this decade is so complete, so well held together, and so important as
City of Night.”—Larry McMurtry

“One of the major books to be published since World War II.”—
The Washington Post

City of Night is one of the most remarkable novels to appear in years. . . . It illuminates, it stirs the heart, it is unforgettable.”—Herbert Gold

“This is one of the best first novels in recent years. . . . It is not presented and it is not conceived, it is written.”—Frank O’Hara,

City of Night is a remarkable book. . . . Mr. Rechy writes in an authentic jive-like slang: the nightmare existence is explored with a clarity not often clouded by sentimentality and self-pity. The book therefore has the unmistakable ring of candor and truth.”—Peter Buitenhuis, The New York Times Book Review

“John Rechy shows great comic and tragic talent. He is a truly gifted novelist.”—Christopher Isherwood

“A stunning piece of writing.”—David Bowie

“When John Rechy’s first novel,
City of Night, appeared in 1963, there had never been anything quite like it. . .Its urgent, syntax-scrambled style [was] a wonderful shock to the reading eye, like that of Hubert Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn and William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. City of Night was distinctly a Beat novel, rangy and full of bold riffs as a Charlie Parker album. Rechy displayed a throwaway brilliance.”—Gary Indiana, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

“An American classic, with its loner hero, its juke joints and neon signs, its restless shifting from city to city . . . a hybrid of
On the Road and Catcher in the Rye.”—Independent on Sunday (London)

“The novel has not aged a bit. . . . one reads [it] eagerly. . . . We understand better its exceptional authenticity, its premonitory vision, its subtle literary innovations. The characters . . . have the tragic complexity of Vautrin, Charlus, or Morel, and the aggressive solitude of the marginal people of Jean Genet. . . . Its poetry is not ostentatious nor imposed. . . . The protagonists are individuals of flesh and blood.”—Hugo Marsan,
Le Monde (France)

“Rechy is more than a good reporter, for he has touched his materials with the imagination and the craft of a writer.”—Granville Hicks,
The Saturday Review of Literature

“It is the honesty about his narcissism, his depression, and his sexual promiscuity that lifts Rechy’s writing to art. Like so many books,
City got attention because of the sex, but it’s really about the soul.”—Daniel Curzon, The Los Angeles Times

About the Author

John Rechy is the author of twelve novels, among them the New York Times bestseller Numbers, the Los Angeles Times bestsellers Rushes and The Coming of the Night, as well as The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gómezand the nonfiction books The Sexual Outlaw and About My Life and the Kept Woman (all from Grove Press). He has received many awards, including PEN Center USA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the William Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement. He lives in Los Angeles