Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Christodora

by Tim Murphy

A novel of great scope and ambition, Christodora is a bold and poignant portrait of the bohemian Manhattan of sex, drugs, art, and activism from the early 1980s into the near future.

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 448
  • Publication Date August 02, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2528-6
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date August 02, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9043-7
  • US List Price $26.00

About The Book

In this vivid and compelling novel, Tim Murphy follows a diverse set of characters whose fates intertwine in an iconic building in Manhattan’s East Village, the Christodora. Moving kaleidoscopically from the Tompkins Square Riots and the attempts by activists to galvanize a true response to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, to a future New York City of the 2020s where subzero winters are a thing of the past, Christodora recounts the heartbreak wrought by AIDS, illustrates the allure and destructive power of hard drugs, and brings to life the ever-changing city itself.

On Avenue B in the heart of the Lower East Side, the Christodora is home to Milly and Jared, a privileged young couple with artistic ambitions. Their neighbor, Hector, a Puerto Rican gay man who was at one point celebrated for his work as an AIDS activist but has now become a lonely addict, becomes connected to Milly and Jared’s lives in ways none of them can anticipate. Meanwhile, Milly and Jared’s adopted son, Mateo, grows to see the opportunity for both self-realization and oblivion that New York offers. As the junkies and protestors of the 1980s give way to the hipsters of the 2000s and they, in turn, to the wealthy residents of the crowded, glass-towered city of the 2020s, enormous changes rock the personal lives of Milly and Jared and the constellation of people around them, even as ghosts of the past cast a shadow on their future.

A captivating portrait of how ambition, compulsion, and trauma form and re-form the lives of us all, Christodora is a closely observed panoramic novel that powerfully evokes the danger, chaos, and wonder of New York City—and the strange and moving ways in which its dwellers’ lives can intersect.

Tags Literary

Praise

“[A] thrillingly accomplished novel . . . [The] varied minds and voices are realized so convincingly that Christodora sometimes seems the product of spirit possession. And it is joyous despite its subject matter . . . Murphy’s skills are most nakedly on display as he describes the addictions in which Mateo and others find solace, and their electrical-shocking, soul-warping, mind-annihilating trips . . . Desperately intense, it is the kind of scene that requires putting a book down for a moment to take a breather.” —Alastair Gee, New York Times Book Review

“A powerful novel about the AIDS crisis and its legacy . . . Hugely ambitious . . . [A] rich, complicated story . . . Murphy offers a compelling portrait of the community of activists that transformed queer life in the 1980s and ’90s . . . His depictions of the day-to-day business of activists and bureaucrats have uncommon authority. He vividly captures the diversity and tensions within the AIDS movement . . . No book has made me feel so intensely not just the ravages of AIDS but also the devastating cost of activism . . . Christodora recounts a crucial chapter in the history of queer life, which is to say in the history of American life. It’s also, for all the despair it documents, a book about hope.” —Garth Greenwell, Washington Post

“In the East Village, the Christodora has long symbolized gentrification, luring well-heeled professionals (and celebrities like Iggy Pop, Julia Stiles and Vincent D”Onofrio) to a once-gritty neighborhood that was a hotbed of boundary-pushing art and transgressive lifestyles. The building’s totemic power is a driving force in Christodora . . . A sprawling social novel in the Tom Wolfe tradition.” —Alex Williams, New York Times
(Style)

“A rich and complicated New York saga . . . An exciting read . . . Christodora has the scope of other New York epics, such as Bonfire of the Vanities, The Goldfinch, and City on Fire . . . Capacious yet streamlined, it is a very fine book.” —Marion Winik, Newsday

“An ambitious, time-traveling novel textured with the detail and depth of a writer who spent years reporting from the front.” —Boris Kachka, New York (8 Books You Need to Read This August)

Christodora . . . has got it all: drugs, sex, music, race, class, art, activism, adoption, and tears . . . [Murphy’s] prose has an easy, fluent style . . . He’s good at building scenes into dramatic, sometimes scary climaxes. He’s especially vivid on the subject of drug addiction . . . Christodora is itself a response to that isolation instinct—it’s a graceful reaching-out following what must have been, for the author, a long and tortuous reaching-within.” —Rick Whitaker, Slate

“[A] brilliantly sprawling period novel about New York in the age of AIDS . . . Richly populated and delicately nuanced, Christodora seems poised to . . . take its place on any bookshelf of literary classics about New York City.” —Allen St. John, Village Voice

“Murphy isn’t only a “gay writer,” as evidenced in his skillfully written and highly readable new novel, Christodora. He transcends such labels, writing beautifully of the human condition and on issues that touch many of our lives. Modern-day struggles with addiction, mental illness, as well as the AIDS pandemic, are written about with skill and sensitivity.” —John Francis Leonard, Advocate

“[I] fell hard for Tim Murphy’s Christodora . . . A sprawling account of New York lives under the long shadow of AIDS, it deals beautifully with the drugs that save us and the drugs that don’t.” —Olivia Laing, Guardian (Best Books of 2016)

“A big old-fashioned epic novel . . . One of the most ambitious novels I’ve read in a long time . . . The book just has tons of twists and turns all the way up to the end and you just have to keep reading.” —James Conrad, RoundTable, WAMC/Northeast Public Radio (Book Picks)

Christodora . . . [is] this year’s most ambitious and devastating contribution to the New York City realist novel . . . It’s the beauty of [Murphy’s] storytelling that anchors this all-encompassing novel . . . It’s the rare kind of book that not only stays with you, but haunts your entire neighborhood after you read it . . . Christodora is a massive achievement.” —Christopher Bollen, Interview

“The novel captures monumental neighborhood moments as it traverses the 1980s and “90s straight into the early 2020s. The early gentrification of the area . . . and the AIDS epidemic all figure centrally in the novel, and it’s a subject Murphy is well-versed on.” —Luisa Rollenhagen, Bedford + Bowery

Christodora locates pleasure in the interstices of seemingly multiplying apocalypses . . . The scenes here ripple with so much life . . . The novel deftly navigates an interconnected cast of Dickensian intricacy, as well, resulting in a convincingly rendered portrayal of the textures and rhythms of New York City, past and future. Murphy accomplishes this through a meticulous attention to detail . . . Even in his characters’ lowest moments, Murphy’s writing exudes exuberance . . . The novel’s power lies in [its] wide scope . . . Murphy allows us to see how AIDS has rippled out from its locus to irrevocably affect the very fabric of society. . . Christodora amounts to much more than a New York novel . . . Christodora is an accomplishment.” —Ismail Muhammad, ZYZZYVA

“[An] ambitious novel . . . Powerful and compelling. It feels deeply relevant even when it covers events set several decades in the past . . . This is a novel that abounds with ambition, but it largely succeeds in grappling with a host of grand themes.” —Tobias Carroll, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[A] must-read . . . Murphy masterfully unpacks issues of family, identity, and home across the kaleidoscopic-life stories of his characters.” —Nathan Smith, Out.com

“Several times a year, a few books are published that are so compelling and immersive they simply demand the unadulterated free time of the reader. Tim Murphy’s Christodora is one of those powerful, ambitious sagas . . . Murphy knows AIDS, and he knows New York City intimately . . . The folks who populate his pages are difficult to forget . . . Murphy’s prose is smooth, chatty, and addictive . . . Each scene is filled with atmospheric detail, period dialogue, and the intricate nuances of a character’s movement, attitude, and emotion . . . Murphy has truly outdone himself with a perceptive and accomplished novel that is captivating and immensely entertaining.” —Jim Piechota, Bay Area Reporter

Christodora is a page-turner, the sort of sprawling novel that most people refer to as Dickensian. It is written in a heated spirit of urgency . . . Murphy has an imaginative talent for exploring the subjectivities of his characters . . . Murphy’s rough, passionate, splatter-the-walls style is filled to bursting with a reporter’s interest in different people’s lives and a novelist’s tough-tender intuition about what goes on inside their heads.” —Dan Callahan, Brooklyn Magazine

“[A] towering new novel . . . It has the scope of great literature, but Christodora is also a deeply personal chronicle from a man who knows his terrain . . . Murphy glides effortlessly among the worlds of addiction and recovery, the academic art scene, AIDS activism, and the darkened corners of mental illness . . . Christodora would make an ideal gift to yourself for this World AIDS Day, or a great Kindle stuffer for someone you love or for someone who could use a better understanding of the impact of these last thirty years.” —Mark S. King, Body

“Tim Murphy’s Christodora is one of the finest New York novels I have ever read, the book vividly captures the Manhattan of the eighties and nineties.” —Largehearted Boy

“Epic in scope, [Christodora] cannily grapples with many of the seminal touchstones of contemporary New York City life: AIDS, drugs, race, activism, gentrification, art, and ideas of progress . . . Murphy is a gifted writer who not only provides readers with an intricate plot that exerts the imagination forward, but he has also created characters who feel real through action, thought, and nuance . . . For those invested in HIV/AIDS, and the ongoing response, Christodora is a must read. It is the work of fiction many within the movement have been waiting for . . . What emerges is imagination and experience refracting onto the page. It is a beautiful—and often painful—sight to behold.” —Theodore Kerr, Lambda Literary

“This is in severe contention for my Favorite Book of 2016 . . . This sweeping tale of AIDS activists and the incredible changes they inspired is heart-wrenching, hopeful and beautiful . . . Pick it up immediately!” —Elizabeth Allen, Book Riot (The Best Books We Read in July 2016)

“[A] perceptive debut novel . . . Murphy vividly recaptures 1980s and “90s New York, dampening any pop-culture nostalgia with reminders of the crude pharmacology and callous bureaucracy imposed upon those struggling with AIDS . . . His multigenerational tale is a clever inversion of the usual addiction-begets-AIDs narrative and a reminder that despite recent medical advances, the disease still finds ways to ravage people’s lives . . . It never wavers in its warmth toward its characters, or its insistence upon the possibility of healing.” —Booklist (starred review)

“[A] vivid account of the AIDS crisis and its aftermath . . . Murphy has written The Bonfire of the Vanities for the age of AIDS, using the same reportorial skills as Tom Wolfe to re-create the changing decades, complete with a pitch-perfect deployment of period detail. Skipping back and forth in time over 40 years, and projecting itself into the near future, the novel achieves a powerful evocation of the plague years.” —Publishers Weekly

“Massive and fearless . . . A sweeping and moving novel filled with vivid and complex characters who engender empathy and affection . . . Murphy’s epic family saga acts as a microcosm of the massive changes in New York City over four decades . . . Christodora is an epic told with compassion, surprising humor and a strong sense of history and pacing.” —Shelf Awareness

“An ambitious social novel informed by an extended perspective on the HIV/AIDS epidemic . . . In his debut novel, Murphy wants to bring [Larry] Kramer’s vision into the 21st century, though he goes about it with more artistry and less polemic . . . A poignant . . . exploration of a health crisis that hasn’t yet ended.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Murphy, who has long reported on HIV/AIDS, LGBT issues, pop culture, travel, and the arts for a wide range of publications, here travels through New York City from the AIDS-scarred 1980s to the hipster-dominated 2000s to the wealth-drenched 2020s, all by focusing on a single East Village building.” —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

“Tim Murphy’s book is a masterful and panoramic story of New York City and the East Village from the 1980s to the present.” —Ira Sachs

Christodora tells a compelling story of family, friendship, love, and loss that spans decades, but manages to fully immerse you in an important and difficult time in downtown Manhattan . . . [An] outstanding book.” —Cary Fukunaga

“An impassioned, big-hearted, and ultimately hopeful chronicle of a changing New York that authoritatively evokes the despair and panic in the city at the height of the plague.” —Hanya Yanagihara

“A moving portrait of New York in the time of AIDS, Tim Murphy’s honest and insightful writing gives Christodora a particular vibrancy that causes the characters to leap, whole, into the reader’s imagination. This spectacular novel is an important addition to literature that captures New York in all its glory and despair.” —Candace Bushnell

“An exuberant, ambitious, funny, gorgeously written epic, Tim Murphy’s Christodora not only makes us privy to the most intimate secrets and dreams of a group of unforgettable diverse characters, this brilliant tale also sweeps us up into the spirit of our age, from the AIDS crisis to now and even into the future, so that we can see and feel the devastating effects of time as it changes us forever.” —James Hannaham, author of Delicious Foods

“Every once in a while a writer truly gets this town with its buffet of hipsters, crazy characters, and endearing troublemakers. Christodora is a bit of Tom Wolfe, a streamlined City on Fire, and, well, something special and all its own. Tim Murphy—smart, perceptive, and streetwise—is an author with a dazzling eye and ear who delivers a real New York narrative with an absorbing story line and a gallery of characters fit for a twenty-first-century Manhattan mural. It came, I sat, I read and read. I emerged completely satisfied.” —George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville

“Murphy dives into the story of one of the East Village’s most storied buildings–and returns with a moving novel, a love letter to the complicated families we make here in New York, and to the city itself.” —Alexander Chee, author of The Queen of the Night

“An intimate portrait of a bohemian family, Christodora is also a capacious historical novel that vividly recreates the lost world of downtown Manhattan in the eighties–a nuanced portrait of an era in which artists were unwitting agents of gentrification and the bright dawn of gay liberation was brutally interrupted by the AIDS epidemic.” —Jay McInerney

“Brilliantly kaleidoscopic . . . [A] sprawling, seething, sumptuous tale of the city’s haves and have-nots under the long shadow of AIDS . . . Murphy is exceptionally skilled at writing about addiction, the intertwining of bliss and abjection . . . Remarkable . . . There have been several whopping New York novels in the last couple of years, but none of them possesses Christodora‘s generosity, its weathered and unflinching faith in what people can achieve–when, that is, they’re forced by circumstance to work together.” —Olivia Laing, Guardian

“Breathtaking . . . Transcend[s] rote narrative in favor of something more powerful . . . Murphy has created a sprawling, intimate historical novel. It is a powerful and rewarding reading experience. Stylistically challenging, emotionally devastating (both positive and negative), realistic (even when it shifts into an imagined future) and impassioned, it is one of the finest novels we are likely to encounter this year.” —Robert Wiersema, Toronto Star

Christodora . . . captures, over three decades, how AIDS devastated the [LGBTQ] community, and continues to act like a malevolent ghost over the families, friends and lovers of those affected by the epidemic . . . [An] epic story.” —Sue Carter, Metro News (Canada)

“How does a novelist tackle New York during the AIDS crisis (and its aftermath) and hope to get it right? With real-life experience and daring . . . With an unforgettable cast of diverse characters, Murphy depicts this harrowing period with grit, humor, heart, and the audacity to look into the future and hope big.” —Three Lives & Company (Staff Favorite)

Christodora is the best novel I’ve read about the cost of activism.” —Paul Yamazaki, City Lights, San Francisco

“I can’t remember a time when I fell in love with a novel and its characters as much as I fell for Christodora by Tim Murphy . . . The secret to this great novel is an all-abiding love that Murphy has for his characters and the redemption that they more than earn. The last fifty pages are among the most vibrant and touching finales I’ve ever read. It is simply beautiful. I will be recommending this book with all my heart when it arrives in stores.” —William Carl, bookseller at Wellesley Books

Awards

Longlisted for the 2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
An Amazon Editors’ Top 100 Best Books of the Year
An Amazon Top 10 Best Book of the Month
Named a Best Book of the Year by the Guardian
An Indie Next Selection
A Publishers Weekly Big Indie Book of Fall 2016

Excerpt

They arrived at the meeting. “Holy shit, it’s packed tonight,” Ricky said. And it was, noted Hector, slightly in awe, as he always was when he showed up to a full house. These meetings: such a mix of righteous anger and complicated lust, social energy, bitterness and hurt that preceded AIDS and went back into childhoods, adolescences. Such a sea of white boys in sleeveless T-shirts, jean shorts and combat boots! Then his other fellow members of what they all called Brown Town, maybe about 30 of them in all. There was Ithke Larcy, the social worker with his massive head of locks, and Ithke’s white boyfriend, Karl Cheling, the wild-eyed left-wing evangelical minister. The two of them were trying to force the city to let homeless people with AIDS live in real apartments and not the chaotic cesspools of the shelter system. Then there were all the lesbians. That novelist Esther Hurwitz, the kingpin of the downtown arty dyke ratpack, was here, Hector noticed; she’d been coming around and getting all vocal but some people suspected she was just collecting material for a novel she’d write about them all someday.

You couldn’t hear yourself think in here it was so loud. Hector and Ricky found some boys Ricky called friends, boys in their twenties who worked in fashion or at salons and came here because they knew on some level it was the right thing to do—but also because, the past few years, there was no cooler place to be. Here you could be angry but sexy at the same time, all riled up about a plague, which made for great carnal energy that you could take out of the meeting, then dance or fuck it off at Boy Bar or Meat, Dusty Springfield singing Since you went away, I’ve been hanging around, wondering why I’m feeling down, over a hand-clap back beat.