"This hurricane of delirious, lonely, lewd tales is a taxonomy and grand unified theory of the boyfriend, in every tense . . . Paragraphs run quick and cool, like stacked ice cubes . . . [a] feeling of eternal recurrence is beautifully by design, it is the very argument of the book . . . All these desires, these imperatives, lodge themselves into that little word 'boyfriend,' into fantasies of men past and present, into those ghosts, who prove so necessary." Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
"100 Boyfriends is a collection of short stories so wrigglingly alive and counterculturally refreshing that it deserves a new noun a pod of whales, a murder of crows, a jubilee of Brontez Purnell stories? I’d wager that he sets down the best first lines of any living writer." Molly Young, Vulture
"Brontez Purnell is a tireless creative force . . . At times reminiscent of the work of Eve Babitz, 100 Boyfriends is simultaneously tough and vulnerable, bawdy and knowing, and relayed with a deceptive ease." The A.V. Club
"No one can write and tell a story like Brontez Purnell. This is a fact. I laughed, I cried, I winced, I gagged. I texted my friends whole pictures of pages while reading 100 Boyfriends . . . Every sentence in 100 Boyfriends made me giddy; Brontez Purnell writes about everything that goes on in your head before, during, and after sex with a wit and clarity that has become the hallmark of his work." Jeffrey Masters, The Advocate
"[100 Boyfriends] reads like a series of 4 a.m. text messages received from a very smart and very messy friend when there’s no way you can wait till morning to respond, 'What the fuck? Are you OK? Did you at least have fun?' If Purnell is a living archive of the Bay’s queer and punk scenes in last two decades, 100 Boyfriends is an autofiction anthology of drug-fueled warehouse dwellers, queer skate kids, and regretless heartbreakers." Saam Niami, Vulture
"A foul-mouthed twist on short fiction that draws on zines, critical theory, and pornography . . . The coming-out narrative has grown staid, and queer readers are hungry for a forthright rejection of respectability politics that captures the gritty, authentic sensibility that Purnell brings to life on the page." Quinn Roberts, Interview
"100 Boyfriends, with its meticulous attention to the sights, smells, textures, glories, and terrors of queer sex, continues the divine smuttiness of Purnell’s earlier writings . . . as you drift between characters, points of view, and even literary forms, reading 100 Boyfriends comes about as close as any literary experience can to one of the book’s primary subjects: cruising." Wren Sanders, them.
"An astonishing collection of short stories that explore the varied experiences of Black queer men with a unique mix of electrifying humor and aching humanity. Expect to devour this one in a single sitting it's just that good." Sabienna Bowman, PopSugar
"Transgressive, hilarious, and lewd in all the best ways . . . This short story collection is glorious in its messiness, splattering desire, loneliness, and desperation onto a canvas of vulnerability. Dispatched from the queer nadirs, it is, above all else, an irreverent gift." Greg Mania, Electric Literature
"The language is visceral and kinetic; a warm, inviting chaos that holds plenty of insight into heartache and lust . . . Every movement needs a manifesto, a call-to-action and instruction on how to enact a revolutionary ideologywith its seductively energetic prose and well-rendered odes to raw physicality and joyful spontaneity, 100 Boyfriends is a guide to celebrating one’s voice." Daniel Spielberger, SSENSE
"Intimate yet hilarious . . . Brontez delves into the darkest corners of queer identity and exposes the frenzied and compassionate relationships ingrained in LGBT+ culture." Bella Morais, The Root
"Few contemporary writers have the guts to write like Purnell . . . Purnell’s irreverent voice and meandering structure points to new possibilities for queer writers and readers. It shouldn’t be lost on readers that while Purnell’s writing is funny, it is also startlingly intimate." Garrett Biggs, Chicago Review of Books
"Starting with the epigraph, 'Fuck All Y’all,' the book proceeds from that slap to a readerly seduction, sharing with abandon the narrators’ most intimate loves, hates, disappointments and excitements. If 100 Boyfriends reads at first glance as a procession of hangovers and unruly lovers, its structure is, in fact, a provocation. There are few narrative possibilities afforded to queer Black men 'out there' and, in this way, the book thwarts those clichés head on, simultaneously throwing the reader into a quickie frisson while letting them dangle in the actual uncertainty and exhaustion of these moments." Savannah Knoop, Cultured Magazine
"Small but well-endowed size queens, this one’s for you 100 Boyfriends is a treasury of thrills and mortifications from the heart of a fucked-up yet lovable Black gay loner whose quests for closeness and closure bring clarity and calm. I saw my reflection in the dirty mirror that is these stories, a person to love and an asylum to call home." Paris Close, Paperback Paris
"This collection of short stories by the renowned Oakland-based writer, musician, director and dancer will have you laugh, cry and think about life all in a single sitting." TimeOut
"Bright and piercing as a tattoo . . . a book that celebrates living at the edges of society so beautifully . . . Purnell’s stories are fleeting, or they are lingering; they are slutty and heartbreaking. But they’re all perfectly poised to stamp into your brain, spreading filth like seeds and delighting in the bewitching rewards." Kirstyn Smith, The Skinny (UK)
"This stunning collection of vignettes from artist, punk rocker, and Whiting Award winner Purnell forms a delightfully crass, kaleidoscopic worldview. Each story introduces new heartbreaks and reminders that moments of intimacy often end in loneliness . . . Purnell brilliantly immerses the reader in Black, queer desire with humor, self-awareness, and just the right amount of vulgarity." Publishers Weekly
"American literature has been a bit too polite for the past few decades. Gone are the thrilling and seedy transgressions of a William S. Burroughs or a “J.T. LeRoy.” Brontez Purnell’s 100 Boyfriends rectifies that in its tales about nymphomaniac men looking for transcendence in a fuck." The Millions
“Brontez Purnell’s 100 Boyfriends is a symphony of sex, trouble and wisdomas if the composer had sex with each member of the orchestra by way of getting it right. An electric prismatic genre-defying punk literary flight, Purnell is twirling here I loved every page." Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
"Each story in 100 Boyfriends is a minor eclipse: stunning in scope, technically blinding, and entirely miraculous. I laughed and I cried and I laughed until I cried? Brontez Purnell is a marvel." Bryan Washington, author of Memorial
"In the vast history of the universe there is only one Brontez Purnell, and thank god we get him. From cruising to crushes, cumming to closure, 100 Boyfriends is a mandatory read for the funny-sexy lit freaks among usa candy box of Euro boys and Daddies, blue pills and satanic exesall told in an addictively-delicious voice by a writer who is somehow both wildly cool and deprecatingly humble at the same time." Melissa Broder, author of The Pisces and So Sad Today
"Brontez Purnell has such seemingly casual genius that at times you forget you're reading a book and are transported to some couch/bus/basement where the drugs are really good and your friend is really funny, maybe your weird closeted cousin is on HarlemHookups in the corner, and all of a sudden your friend says some fucking Sappho ass, weird ass, brilliant ass bullshit. I love this slut of a book, it’s a slut ass maker. 100 Boyfriends or no new boyfriends at all, Purnell’s autofiction/memoir/whatever the hell this marvelously sad and intoxicating book is shook me up good with its honesty and blunt-to-face endings, the jokes and stories I didn’t know we were allowed to tell outside of circles of faggots and misfits. But this book is in those circles, makes you tea and steals for you, it invites us in, but would we mind shutting the hell up cause it’s a little hungover? The light is coming through the windows so clear." Danez Smith, author of Homie
“No one writes like Brontez Purnell. It’s not just that he is hilariously irreverent, which he is, but that he reserves reverence for that which is deserving. 100 Boyfriends is like a good lover, at turns vulgar and vulnerable, dirty and desperate, and always grinding toward magic.” Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
"Scathingly lucid, filthily pure, this is the most astute, witty, acid-tongued and emotionally generous book about relationshipsfrom one night stands to internet no-no’s to ill-conceived crushes to long-term loves, requited and otherwiseI’ve read. Painfully knowing yet never jaded, 100 Boyfriends dissects, explodes, lambasts, and revels in the ugly beauty of imperfect intimacies with prose that consistently puts its finger on the bleeding pulse of contemporary desire. An unforgettable ode to the heart that beats inside every longing body." Maryse Meijer, author of The Seventh Mansion
"The stories in 100 Boyfriends took me on a journey: They made me laugh. They made me gasp. They made me feel. Brontez Purnell is a vibrant literary voice you won't soon forget. I love this book." De'Shawn Charles Winslow, author of In West Mills
"Raging against the grain, 100 Boyfriends is an enticing gem full of wit, surprises, and profundity. The same paragraph will make you laugh, make you horny, then make you sad, then make you horny again, but this time with a deepened sense of purpose. Highly recommended, especially if you're in a reading rut and you need to be slapped out of it." Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA)
"100 Boyfriends is very much sex, drugs, rock and roll. Each short segment, anywhere from 3-10 pages on average, is a quick glimpse into the lives of various (and often nameless) gay men just trying to climb through life, often getting laid and high in the process. While that may sound sparse, Purnell truly has a way with prose Even singular paragraphs recalling past lovers have the power to make you step back, admiring how sometimes men can be summed up so precisely. Pardon the intense alliteration, but Purnell's prose is truly praise-worthy and deserves to be explored. 100 Boyfriends is jaw-dropping, humorously crude, and sexually, emotionally raw." Andrew King, University Book Store (WA)
"Nasty, raunch, gorgeous. I get a secondhand thrill from his sexual exploits and am entranced with his running internal dialogue. Purnell writes for the old-school queer punks from the Bay that make it such a vibrant colorful community. Fun and funky. Dark and joyful." Celeste Orlosky, Santa Cruz Bookshop
"So much gay literary fiction is dark, lonely, shot through with trauma and unhappy endings. In 100 Boyfriends, Brontez Purnell's characters deal with these same things, as so many of us dobut they also highlight the absurdity and comedy of their utterly human lives. It's this balance of the light and shadow of life, of comedy and tragedy, that makes 100 Boyfriends a satisfying read. This utterly original book throws caution and convention to the wind, blending half-page vignettes of individual boyfriends with full coming-of-age short stories. What ties these disparate tales together is Purnell's deep understanding of (occasionally shallow) characters and his ear for hilariously blunt and irreverent dialogue. Imagine a midpoint between David Sedaris and Ocean Vuong or Garth Greenwell, and you'll find this breath of fresh air." --Rayne Stone, Rediscovered Bookshop (Boise, ID)
Purnell's new work is, in the best sense, uncategorizable. It's not quite a short story collection, even less so a novel, though characters and attributes and emotions bleed from one "story" into the next. What's uniform here is that the narrators are all contextualized by the eponymous (ex-)boyfriends, though none are defined by them. It's indicative of a guiding autonomy to the work, and, indeed, in one of the "stories," titled "Boyfriend #100 / The Agent," the narrator responds to a prompt for clarification on a poetry collection's "journey": "I don't care for a journey…I'm just making a map, something that says, 'You are HERE.' " It's a succinct enough thesis of the collection, and what the author has built is a matrix of sorts—of queer men, yes, but more important, of the shapelessness and futility of such labels. Purnell writes rogues and deviants and innocents and the scorned, many of whom meld together, but all of whom are distinct and distinctly human. He executes this free-form vision in what feels like an explosion of pure, profane id, but he perfectly balances his archer instincts with moments of profound delicacy. Given the unconventional structure, it's perhaps inevitable that there are moments, "stories," that feel imbued with less power than others, but they never feel like an afterthought. It's that strength of voice, the ability to carry through even quarter-page narratives with some amount of weight, that marks this as a work worth noting. VERDICT An almost anarchic effort ready-made for adventurous readers; a prism refracting both the brutality and beauty of living.—Luke Gorham, Galesburg P.L., IL
Purnell, a performance artist, musician, filmmaker, and writer, dives deep into the pathologies and delights of sex among gay men in this dizzying novel.
In these pages, the unnamed, formerly homeless protagonist, a “jaded judgmental borderline misanthrope” who’s also really funny, describes so much sex with a “nameless void of men” that it’s a wonder he doesn’t rub his fingers raw from undoing his pants so often. There’s sex on the protagonist’s European concert tour, bad sex with a Satanist in America (“if this was Satan’s best sex warrior it stood to reason why Satanism in general was such a PR nightmare”), and an obsession with a straight co-worker that compels the protagonist to masturbate in the office while watching him. Structured in short vignettes, the book is mostly told in a confessional first person, which make the stories feel autofictional. There are so many short episodes of sex that the book reads more like a diary—a vibrant, saucy, dishy, punk diary. One example: The protagonist, feeling lonely, hires a sex worker to act like a boyfriend, so the guy, just doing what he’s paid for, keeps whispering “I love you, boyfriend” in the protagonist’s ear. “He was beginning to feel like a boyfriend in that he was already annoying the fuck out of me,” Purnell writes in a typically knowing, self-lacerating insight. There are moments when Purnell steps back from offending delicate sensibilities to documenting real sadness and drawing wisdom in the process. The protagonist encounters a former boyfriend, “once a big beautiful star” who “has collapsed in on its own weight and turned into a black hole.” This man takes the protagonist to his parents’ home for Thanksgiving to an emotional void; his parents serve TV dinners for the holiday meal. “But this was one of the many holes he had in himself that he always made visible to me,” Purnell writes. The only nagging question this book engenders is why it’s packaged as fiction at all; it reads more like a memoir/manifesto that gay sex is still a rebellious act.
This book is feisty; whether it thrills or exhausts you reveals your own tolerance for outré reading.