The Future Was Color

Patrick Nathan

Book cover for The Future Was Color
Book cover for The Future Was Color

The Future Was Color

The Future Was Color

Patrick Nathan

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A dazzling novel about the inextricable link between the personal and the political set against the decadence of Hollywood and postwar Los Angeles

As a Hungarian immigrant working as a studio hack writing monster movies in 1950s Hollywood, George Curtis must navigate the McCarthy-era studio system filled with possible communists and spies, the life of closeted men along Sunset Boulevard, and the inability of the era to cleave love from persecution and guilt. But when Madeline, a famous actress, offers George a writing residency at her estate in Malibu to work on the political writing he cares most deeply about, his world is blown open. Soon Madeline is carrying George like an ornament into a class of postwar L.A. society ordinarily hidden from men like him.

What this lifestyle hides behind, aside from the monsters on the screen, are the monsters dwelling closer to home: this bacchanalia covers a gnawing hole shelled wide by the horror of the war they thought they'd left behind and the glimpse of an atomic future. It's here that George understands he can never escape his past as György, the queer Jew who fled Budapest before the war and landed in New York, all alone, a decade prior.

Spanning from sun-drenched Los Angeles to the hidden corners of working-class New York to a virtuosic climax in the Las Vegas desert, The Future Was Color is an immaculately written exploration of postwar American decadence, reinventing the self through art, and the psychosis that lingers in a world that's seen the bomb.

About the Author

PATRICK NATHAN is the author of Image Control and Some Hell, a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. His short fiction and essays have appeared in The New Republic, American Short Fiction, Gulf Coast, The Baffler, and elsewhere. He lives in Minneapolis.

Critical Reviews

Los Angeles Times, A Must Read Book of the Month
Named a Most Anticipated Book by Los Angeles Daily News, Literary Hub, LGBTQ Reads, The Rumpus, & The Millions

"A work of muscular poetic force, mysterious and arresting." --Charles Arrowsmith, The Washington Post

"A riveting novel that explores basic existential questions ranging from 'what is life's purpose?' to 'how can there be light and happiness in dark times?' History was ruptured in the 1950s; how could life go on after the revelation of World War II death camps and the creation of a bomb that could incinerate a city's population with a single blast? These questions make The Future Was Color timely in 2024 America." --Lorraine Berry, Los Angeles Times

"Nathan employs the timeless 'a stranger comes to town' plot, as a gay Hungarian Jew named George Curtis gets invited to a chic Malibu house for a 1950s Hollywood heyday. However, George's backstory in Manhattan and future in Paris bookend that bacchanalia and show how dark the shadow of McCarthyism and its 'Lavender Scare' loomed over queer society--as other paranoias of the day did over other people, reminding readers that things have not changed enough." --Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times

"Everything I look for in a book: a unique and startling voice, a queer protagonist and a deep understanding of a particular time and place." --Ilana Masad, NPR

"Nathan's L.A. noir novel spans decades and countries and delves into the power of art, self-reinvention, and the tether between the personal and the political." --Emily St. Martin, Los Angeles Daily News

"Rich, scintillating . . . In lush and achingly precise prose, drenched in loneliness and longing, Nathan masterfully renders George's struggle to reckon with the relationship between spectacle and violence, artifice and self-knowledge, remembrance and possibility." --Nathan Goldman, Jewish Currents

"If you enjoyed the Showtime series Fellow Travelers and are looking for more queer stories that blend the personal with the political, The Future Was Color should fit the bill nicely." --Cindy White, The A.V. Club

"Patrick Nathan's second novel, The Future Was Color, makes facing and accepting our perpetual apocalypse feel sexy . . . Sentence by intricately dazzling sentence, Nathan renders 1950's Los Angeles cinematically, following George as he navigates the cool, breezy, laconic tensions and anxieties that fracture and bind the small world of Hollywood in the McCarthy era . . . A novel about witnessing, again and again, our own destruction, and yet it magically allows us to face it each time and feel hope, to feel we must engage with the world we share even as it self-destructs." --Stephen Patrick Bell, Foglifter

"This complex, compassionate novel is an impressive achievement for a young author who has a promising career ahead of him." --Daniel A. Burr, The Gay & Lesbian Review

"If Fellow Travelers has you curious for more in-depth historical fiction on the McCarthy era and the lavender scare, look no further than Patrick Nathan's new novel, set in 1950s Hollywood." --Tiernan Bertrand-Essington, Queerty

"Everything Patrick Nathan writes is a banger, whether it be a wrenching coming-of-age novel, a work of criticism excoriating our country's authoritarian obsession with images, or even his incisive Substack. Expect no less from the author's second novel, which follows a closeted screenwriter in McCarthy-era Hollywood and the big screen starlet who seems to offer a sort of salvation. A monster mash between Sunset Boulevard and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay." --Michelle Hart, Electric Literature

"Masterful . . . very sexy and insistently alive. This one's an ode to the people and projects that light us up, in spite of all the darkness . . . Take this one to the beach house and snort it up with the sunset. You won't regret it!" --Brittany Allen, Literary Hub

"Nathan writes with the eloquence of a nimble mind working at the height of his powers. Gripping from the first sentence . . . Profound, life-affirming, and splendidly seductive, The Future Was Color deserves to become a new lodestar in the ever-expanding constellation of gay literature." --Dave Wheeler, Shelf Awareness (starred review)

"George is a well-realized character whose interesting life will hold the reader's attention." --Booklist

"This portrait of an artist in the making dazzles." --Publishers Weekly

"Ambitious, perspicacious, and humane." --Kirkus Reviews

"A gay Hungarian immigrant writing crappy monster movies in the McCarthy-era Hollywood studio system gets swept up by a famous actress and brought to her estate in Malibu to write what he really cares about--and realizes he can never escape his traumatic past. Sunset Boulevard is shaking." --John H. Maher, The Millions

"Patrick Nathan's The Future Was Color is a sexy, prescient novel about the lengths an artist must go to to protect their career. It's rare for a novel to be so emotionally gripping and intellectually rigorous, but it comes as no surprise that Nathan pulls it off. The Future Was Color is a love story; it's a thriller; it's an essential novel about creating art during war. This book fucks." --Isle McElroy, author of People Collide

"Patrick Nathan's The Future Was Color is a sumptuous novel that captures the class, guilt, art, sex, and politics of 1950's Los Angeles with deft tenderness. Nathan is a master storyteller who navigates the complex world of Hollywood while exposing the darkness beneath the glittering surface. A stunning novel that illuminates an era." --Mark Haber, author of Saint Sebastian's Abyss

"This brisk and delicious novel fearlessly tackles the vast subjects of the human impulse to make art and life in the atomic age. Heady stuff, so worth adding that The Future Was Color is among the sexiest books I've read. What more could any reader want?" --Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind

"Nathan's gripping historical novel reminds us of the power of art in the face of a cruel and uncaring world. This is a fiercely intelligent and serious moral work that every artist should read. I was swept up in this story and didn't want to let it go." --Garrard Conley, author of All the World Beside and Boy Erased

Publishing Information

Publisher: Counterpoint LLC
Pub date: 2024-06-04
Length: 224 pages
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