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Longlisted for the 2023 National Book Award for Fiction
An evocative debut novel of trans-masculinity, addiction, and the pain and joy of becoming.
Ponyboy unravels in his Paris apartment. Cut to the bar. Cut to the back room. Ponyboy is strung out and struggling. He is falling into the widening chasm between who he is—trans, electrically so—and the blank canvas his girlfriend, Baby, wants him to be.
Cut to Berlin. Ponyboy sinks deeper into drugs and falls for Gabriel, all the while pursued by a photographer hungry for the next hot thing. As his relationships crumble, he overdoses.
Cut to open sky. In a rehab back home in Iowa, Ponyboy is his mother’s son. In precise, atmospheric prose, Eliot Duncan’s debut novel lays bare the innate splendor, joy, and ache of becoming one’s self.
About the Author
Eliot Duncan is a United States–born writer and artist. He is the cofounder of the international queer collective Slanted House and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in London.
[A] gutting and glittery three-act coming of age story…The final act takes Ponyboy to rehab, where he unravels his identity, addiction, and recovery — leading his splintered parts to become all that much more himself. — Sophie June - Nylon
[Ponyboy] moves breathlessly through space and time…Through a deft command of language, Duncan is able to create a uniquely trans story that fights for the right to be seen.
— Sam Moore - Dazed
Eliot Duncan's melancholic transboy swagger sparkles in this classic story of a dissolute bookish Midwesterner who crashes through Europe, falling in and out of love and stargazing from the gutter. An astonishing first novel. — Andrea Lawlor, author of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
Ponyboy reads like one of those unforgettable nights in your twenties. Duncan captures the optimism that accompanies the allure of Paris, the high of substances, and the sense that anything can happen when the sun falls. Read this book to remember that, no matter how bad the hangover will be, the best is yet to come.
— Elias Rodriques, author of All the Water I've Seen Is Running
A vivid portrayal of the lure of self-abandonment. Eliot Duncan shows us what is found in pursuit of it—and what is left in its wake. — Hil Malatino, author of Side Affects: On Being Trans and Feeling Bad
Ponyboy is a novel about self-immolation and rising from your own ashes with a spent match between your teeth. It’s also one of the best books I’ve read about expat dirtbaggery, and it ferociously portrays the velvety allure of oblivion and the terror, eroticism, and bright urgency of coming home to yourself.
— Rebecca Rukeyser, author of The Seaplane on Final Descent
[Duncan’s] Ponyboy grows increasingly empathetic, while his sometimes melancholy story, like his habit, in the end proves to be addictive. A first novelist to watch very closely. — Michael Cart - Booklist (starred review)
A troubled protagonist deals with addiction and his own becoming in this expressive, semiautobiographical bildungsroman…[Duncan] allows his protagonist to emerge as real and true—and alive. — Kirkus Reviews