Marrying the memoir and essay forms while exploring desire, Prince, and racism, Hilton Als’s My Pinup expands and delivers love.
In this brilliant two-part memoir, the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Hilton Als distills into one cocktail the deep and potent complexities of love and of loss, of Prince and of power, of desire and of race. It’s delicious and it’s got the kick of a mule, especially as Als swirls into his mix the downtown queer nightclub scene, the AIDS crisis, Prince’s ass in his tight little pants, an ill-fated peach pie, Dorothy Parker, and his desire for true love. Always surprising and stealthily—even painfully—moving, Als plumbs longing: “I inched closer to him as he danced to you, Prince. But already he was you, Prince, in my mind. He had the same coloring, and the same loneliness I wanted to fill with my admiration. I couldn’t love him enough. We were colored boys together. There is not enough of that in the world, Prince—but you know that. Still, when other people see that kind of fraternity they want to kill it. But we were so committed to each other, we never could work out what that violence meant. There was so much love between us. Why didn’t anyone want us to share it?”
Praise for My Pinup
Reviews of Hilton Als’ White Girls:
Als is one of the most consistently unpredictable and surprising essayists out there, an author who confounds our expectations virtually every time he writes: Magnificent.
— David L. Ulin - The Los Angeles Times
Effortless, honest and fearless.
— Rich Benjamin - The New York Times Book Review
Als is a fine, piercing observer and interpreter, a writer of lashing exactitude and veracity.
— Donna Seaman - Booklist
Als has a serious claim to be regarded as the next James Baldwin.
— Alexander Larman - The Observer
In this slim and brilliant memoir, Als explores race, power, and desire through the lens of Prince. Styling the legendary musician in the image of his lovers and himself, Als explores injustice on multiple levels, from racist record labels to the world's hostility to gay Black boys...These 48 meandering pages are difficult to describe, but trust us: My Pinup is a heady cocktail you won’t soon forget.
Originally published as an essay in Harper’s, My Pinup is smart, sensual writing on a life of loving Prince and on the life of Prince himself. Hilton Als’s Prince is a clear, Black, queer vixen; an idol whose lyrics and performance provide instructions for living — he also serves as frame, filter, and soundtrack for Als’s navigations of romance and heartbreak. This paean, an art object reminiscent of a chapbook or novella, goes down like a tiny fruit tart made from a keenly demarcated recipe: complex, ambrosian, and brief. For a moment you want more, but you’ve already been given enough. Fire and elegance abound in these intimate pages.
— Kyle Carrero Lopez - Vulture
A tale of a brief encounter and long obsession with the late musical icon Prince. Undeniably engrossing.
— Kirkus Reviews
[A] world of difficult loves and lovers...What Prince had—and, by comparison, no one else has ever had—was style, by which I mean insolence, which offers its own kind of protection. He could show his ass (a high compliment). This was something Als learned to do “through language.” It was defiance through prowess.
— Blair McClendon - 4Columns
A triumph of loving erudition.
— Raúl Niño - Booklist
My Pinup is a gem.
— John M. Clum - The New York Journal of Books
[A] powerful ponderance on the power and influence of Prince, Pulitzer Prize winner Hilton Als ruminates on how his sexuality commingles with an obsession with the superstar. A unique braiding of memoir and essay...This is an outspoken, exacting work of observation and conclusion on Black brotherhood, racism, and celebrity fandom.
— Jim Piechota - The Bay Area Reporter
Pulitzer Prize-winning theater critic Hilton Als needs only a few dozen pages to pierce the heart. With My Pinup (Nov 1), the New Yorker writer deftly transforms a paean to Prince into a lyrical shape-shifting memoir about his sexuality and desire as a queer Black man. It's a prism that refracts facets of Prince's identity and his profound cultural impact.
— Zoomer Magazine
If we don't know what love is until we look Prince in the eye and need him forever after, then maybe we're his pinups and puppets and he's translating for us an emotion we've kept so remote from our conscious minds that he has to go beneath his soul to dig it up. That is the solace of Als's close encounters, his flash of a songbook—that it honors Prince's commitment to being untranslatable, unsampleable.
— Harmony Holiday - Bookforum
Who could be a better guide to Prince—to his polymorphous sexuality, his gleeful dismantling of the racial compartmentalization of American popular music, his seemingly effortless sprezzatura as a performer—than Hilton Als?
— Paul Scott Stanfield - Ploughshares
In this slim volume by Hilton Als, explores love, loss, sex, queerness, and the potent allure of Prince and his music. Written originally for Harper’s and then expanded for New Directions, Als uses Prince’s life and his contradictions in order to interrogate the many complexities of his own personal life: Als’ failed love affairs, his reckoning with his queerness, and the white power structure that he lived under. The result is a short and tender exploration of Als’ and Prince’s life that is very human.
— Bennard Fajardo - A Politics & Prose Staff Pick
Als has perfected the difficult art of being a discerning fan.
— Tiana Reid - Bomb