Finalist, Lambda Book Awards
Finalist, The Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction
“An important novel that masterfully evokes the tensions and social upheavals of the 1960s and sheds a fresh and highly insightful light on gay liberation, family life, and American masculinity.”
Jonathan Ascher, an acclaimed 1960s radical writer and cultural hero, has been dead for thirty years.
When a would-be biographer approaches Ascher’s widow Martha, she delves for the first time into her husband’s papers and all the secrets that come tumbling out of them. She finds journals that begin as a wisecracking chronicle of life at the fringes of the New York literary scene, then recount Ascher’s sexual adventures in the pre-Stonewall gay underground and the social upheavals that led to his famous book “JD.” As Martha reads on, she finds herself in a long-distance conversation with her dead husband, fighting with him again about their rocky marriage and learning about the unseen tragedy in her own apartment that ended with the destruction of their son, Mickey. Mickey comes to life in the space between Jonathan and Martha’s conflicting portraits of him, while Martha and the biographer tangle over the continued relevance of Jonathan’s politics and his unfulfilled vision of a nation remade. Martha learns about herself, finally, through her confrontation with a man who will not let her go, even in death.
Mark Merlis’s JD is a brilliant and harrowing view of a half century of the American experiment, acted out on a small stage by three people who cannot find a way—neither sex nor touch nor words—to speak their love for one another.
“The fantastic JD (U. of Wisconsin), by acclaimed gay writer Mark Merlis (American Studies), is the writer’s first novel in a dozen years. It’s told in two voices. The first is that of the late gay writer Jonathan Ascher, and we hear from him through his journals. The second belongs to his widow Martha, who learns more about Jonathan than she ever imagined while reading the journals after agreeing to help a biographer of her late husband.”
—Gregg Shapiro, Bay Area Reporter
“Mark Merlis’s beautifully controlled and heart-wrenching novel JD . . . is narrated by aging New York widow Martha Ascher, whose husband Jonathan died from a stroke shortly after their son Mickey was killed in Vietnam. . . . Mr. Merlis unravels Mickey’s story with steely assurance and finely tempered prose. Like Martha, he is the victim of a man who ‘preached an ideal he couldn’t live up to.’”
—Wall Street Journal
“Powered by stunning emotional, intellectual, and erotic complexities, JD is a trenchant portrait of a marriage and its heartbreaking casualties and, at the same time, something far more ambitious: a disquieting meditation on how and why America’s best hopes went so stupendously awry during the 1960s and early 1970s. What emerges is an angry, loving hymn to a generation’s failure to create the world we so passionately believed we longed for. There is no better novelist at work in our troubled country right now than Mark Merlis.”
—Paul Russell, author of Immaculate Blue and The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov
“An amazing novel: beautifully written, ingeniously structured, involving and dangerous. This is a chamber drama about one family, yet it’s full of windows that look out on the wider worlds of the Vietnam War, New York literary politics, and the gay revolution. Mark Merlis is a major writer and this is his best novel yet.”
—Christopher Bram, author of Eminent Outlaws and Gods and Monsters
“Yet again, Mark Merlis has written a deeply satisfying novel, one whose voices continue to echo in your head long after you’ve finished reading it. . . . It is a novel that weaves together the casualties of family and unaccepted sexual desires into a remarkable, if depressing, story of the U.S. in an era of huge social change.”
—Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide
“Vibrant, tense and alive. Merlis has written a profound book about sex and identity and family, about the perils of artistic ambition, about radical longing and the changing social fabric of America. JD is a beautiful novel.”
Publicity and Press Kit Resources
Click here for current & upcoming UW Press events
Download high resolution cover, color
Download high resolution cover, b/w
Download high resolution author photo, color
Download high resolution author photo, b/w
All images are at least 2.25 inches at 300 dpi wide; current title covers are a minimum of 1500 px wide/6 inches wide at 300 dpi. Please contact us if you need a custom size.
Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)
Of Related Interest