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In the City of Shy Hunters

4.25  ·  Rating Details ·  510 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Kindle Edition, 512 pages
Published (first published May 31st 2001)
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I should probably give this book four stars, but I can't.

I started volunteering with people living with HIV/AIDS when I got to college. It seemed like the right thing to do. It was a show a gratitude to those who'd come before to make my gay life easier. It was a promise that my generation would learn our lessons; keep ourselves healthy.

In the five years I volunteered, I watched young men grow horribly old and die. I discovered how strong the will to live can be. I learned to smile in the face o
May 11, 2008 Ruby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, simply everyone
After reading this book, I wanted to go back and change my ratings of all the other books I gave five stars to. This is the book I've been waiting for.

To call In the City lyrical is certainly true, but also disappointing, ordinary. I would invent new words for this book, choreograph a 1000-person line dance in Thompkins Square Park, a humble tribute. I want to buy a copy for every rehab and homeless shelter and gay community center in the country. I want to live in this book. I have lived in thi
Sep 24, 2015 Lydia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
(Sorry, Bert. I hope you can forgive me and that we can move on from this average rating.)

We'll disregard the first 150 pages of this book because I wasn't into the beginning of this book. I don't know what it was I was just kind of bored.
Tom Spanbauer still has the ability to write some really fucking incredible lines that punch you in the gut. And scenes of this book were freaking incredible and intimate and raw. It was brutal, especially towards the end of the book when he really, really star
Jaina Bee
Jul 16, 2008 Jaina Bee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jaina Bee by: Michael Self
Shelves: queer
Like his "Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon" novel, it took me a long time to get into this, but once I did, it threw me around like a good mosh pit. Spanbauer is a patient writer, as at ease with brutality and blasphemy as he is with the most tender and discreet emotions.

But like many a good mosh pit, it seemed more like a tribute to that urge than the urge itself. Even the most harrowing or passionate scenes were so classically constructed that the emotional impact fell short of what the scen
Aug 20, 2013 J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing novel.
It feels epic, larger than it's own story. And that's not easy for a book written in minimalist prose.
I think the only thing I didn't like about the book was the character Fiona. But the reason I didn't like her was because she was written so realistically as THAT kind of person--so even the thing I didn't like about the book is a point of praise.
A warning, though: This book is not meant to be escapist, nor as a quick read to help you get through a flight or a bus ride.
Jun 03, 2008 Ezra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: acting-up, b2w, thesis
I was completely entranced by this book and sobbed my way through the end, especially in love with Rose. This book is magical realism about queers dealing with AIDS and performance art in the 1980s in NYC - the Tompkins Sq Park riot is a central moment, and the book is dedicated to Ethyl Eichelberger, among others. On first reading, I felt nervous about the many characters that are mystical people of color... I think TS is a white guy (?) so it raised flags for me, but in the end I think TS's wr ...more
Jul 17, 2012 Jack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've already gushed about Tom Spanbauer in my "review" of Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon".
This book is similarly well written, but much different; reading it was literally gut-wrenching. Being as I'm an ancient homo, and half of my life has been lived in the shadow of HIV/AIDS, I've seen the deaths of many, and a couple of times come close to it myself. Almost all the gay men I knew in San Francisco and New York died, and many more in Seattle. So many died that I have forgotten the names. A
Kat Masek
Aug 13, 2014 Kat Masek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the back of my mind, I knew he was, but with my reading of this novel, Tom Spanbauer, moved consciously to my top--what?--five favorite novelists ever. He takes chances, he digs so deeply into what we all wonder about, wish for, seek. He proves that the subject of a tale is its mere overlay, that what is most important is what lies underneath. And Spanbauer is fearless. His book says it all about confronting fear and finding courage. Spanbauer knows what life is for, no matter what the terror ...more
Jul 14, 2008 Malonie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love is available even in the darkest, most remote hiding places. Spanbauer's prose is so outstanding that I feel he has created a new way of writing. The flaws of these characters feel so real that these characters become people you wish you could talk with. They are funny and sad and trying to figure out how to survive in a fucked up world. And the fact that they succeed makes you feel you can too.
Ted Lewis
Jul 23, 2014 Ted Lewis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most heart-wrenching, gorgeous, devastating books I've ever read.

"Why else do we live except to love and remember those we love?"

"Whether you fight it, cop an attitude, fuck it, or fall in love with it, you're still going to die. We're all just in our bodies for a moment in our life. Such a brave and lovely act it is to let the body celebrate..."
Nov 10, 2010 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I came to this book fully prepared to hate it or at the very least find it "just okay." Spanbaur tends to give it all away (albeit cryptically) at the very beginning of his books, (which is a choice I generally like with him) and this book was no exception. However, as I read the introductory pages i couldn't help but feel like I was in for another rehash of the same old ideas I'd already explored with him. And while In the City of Shy Hunters is similar to The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon ...more
Steve Woods
If this story does not rip your heart out, you are either not human or a Pharasee. It is the story of a sensitive young man who leaves Idaho, fleeing from violence and abuse and all that so often accompanies poverty and despair, and heads for New York in search of the one person who truly loved him, a boy he grew up with. It explores the lives of "the shy hunters", those people who became his friends, his companions, his lovers and his teachers, during the first terrible scourge of the AIDS epid ...more
Brandi Declue
Honestly, I am over half way done and it has been a struggle to get this far. The writing style is frustrating and the grammar Nazi in me wants to scream at him "a complete sentence needs a verb!" He will write these sentences like this "The red chair." or "The unrelenting light." I should be getting used to it by now, but it is little things like this that are getting in the way of my enjoyment of the book. There is a lot of sex in this book which distracts me. I admit to being somewhat uncomfo ...more
Jenn Jett-elton
Jun 04, 2010 Jenn Jett-elton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hard to even talk about all the levels that this story touched me. Fierce, freak show gender queers fighting for their lives with magic, theater, fashion, and whatever else they can get their manicured or mangled hands on!
This story is about surviving in the best way you know how, it's about chosen family, AIDS (living with it and outraging against those in power that do nothing but vilify). it
It's about class, race, culture, spirituality, genders, and sex. For queers of my generation, this is a
Oct 05, 2011 Dolphe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Language is my second language" ... This early line from "In the City of Shy Hunters" is as much a statement as it is a warning to readers as author Tom Spanbauer bitch slaps James Joyce and begins his tale. The storytelling isn't convenient, but neither are the lives his characters lead. Each in his or her own way, they have fashioned a means to battle their fears and find the sanity or insanity or resolution which brings them peace. You may find yourself sitting there puzzling over their choi ...more
Aidan Owen
Jul 14, 2015 Aidan Owen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer, 2015, fiction, race
Exceptionally beautiful, raw, and real. One of the best novels I've read in a long time. It's not in the least realistic, and yet, it manages to capture Reality perfectly. As one of the characters says, once AIDS has started killing off so many many many people, "Goddmmit, I know I'm fucking crazy. But the grief and the rage are real! And the disease is real and the war is real!" The novel itself is like that--crazy in a way that makes it entirely lucid.
Jul 04, 2012 Eleanorknuckles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A dark and extremely poetic novel full of treasures underneath piles and piles of really sad things.
Jun 07, 2015 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
Spanbauer writes raw, aching stories of physical and emotional intimacy. He writes the kind of stories most people would hesitate to share. And his writing is always heart-breaking and beautiful.
Rachaell Hilyer
Jan 14, 2017 Rachaell Hilyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spanbauer has a way of addressing the dark parts of ourselves that we hide from others and ourselves. His characters are either eaten alive by their shadows, or they find a way to plummet into them, dance with them, and integrate them into their lives without the horrors of shame. An author that can actually address addiction and AIDS in a non-cliche way, he avoids overused puritan ethics to stain homosexuality, and instead addresses disease for what it is: sadness and pain of loss.
Thuri Calafia
Oct 11, 2014 Thuri Calafia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I know this is a really popular book. I had a really hard time with it, though, and honestly can't understand why it's so popular. In fact, it was because someone I knew ranted and raved about how great it was that made me want to read it. I have long supported GLBTQQ rights and have contributed regularly to AIDS organizations. I lost several dear friends to AIDS and was really looking forward to this story. But as I began reading, that hope quickly faded.

There are some spoilers in my review, s
Infatuated with Light
Talk about getting punched in the gut...
For a book with such an unassuming title, it is quite aggressive.
In the City of Shy Hunters is a book that I discovered by accident, while I was bored out of my mind and scrolling through the fiction section in my library's database. When I opened it, the punching started immediatly.

It is a long book, so I spent a good amount of time with it. When I would emerge back into reality and my step-mom would ask me what I did for the day, I wanted to say, "My goo
Feb 23, 2013 Gerhard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013, favorites
"You're going this way and then shit happens and then you're going that way." This is the story of William of Heaven, how he was wounded by a blow of love, and his search for Charlie2Moons, redemption and enlightenment in New York in the dark days of the AIDS epidemic.

What an extraordinary novel this is, brimming with pain and joy, life and death, heartache and grace, anger and pathos. It is the sort of larger-than-life canvas of a novel that you live in rather than read, that tears at your hear
John Treat
Aug 17, 2015 John Treat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"But it's not the truth." This is an incredible novel of New York (and to an extent, Idaho) in the 1980s, though you might not realize it until you're halfway through. Spanbauer can write, boy can he write. It's yet ANOTHER novel about screwed people of various sexual orientations but all on drugs in the East Village (I am really, really tired of these books, please, no one, don't write any more), but Spanbauer does it best-- it even surpasses Sarah Schulman's RAT BOHEMIA. IN THE CITY OF SHY HUN ...more
Bob Schueler
Mar 19, 2016 Bob Schueler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
This is a significant book about the transvestite/transexual community in lower Manhattan at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. The writing style is unique and powerful. It offers insights into the community and the ways people rise to confront a variety of challenges as they search for identity and meaning in their lives. It's a bit ponderous at times, and the repetitive writing style can become grating, but it's a story that keeps you engaged and stays with you long after you finish reading i ...more
So far I am not thrilled, not thrilled at all. It's for a class so I am forced to trudge on...perhaps my feelings will change.
Update: my feelings did not change.
If you like messy, sprawling, pointless books you will enjoy the first 2/3's of this book. The problem with a bad book you must read for a class, is now I have to think about it deeply and write a coherent paper about it, rather than just throw it in the corner like it deserves.
Sep 15, 2008 Kat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was blown away by this book. This is a version of NYC in the early 80's unlike any other. The characters (especially Rose) and the writing inspired me to bring art into my everyday every day.

Spanbauer's use of repitition should be used in lit classes everywhere.

Some of the gory details are not for the faint of stomach, but the book as a whole is so worth getting through the hard parts.

Mar 12, 2013 TinHouseBooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-we-love
Jakob Vala (Graphic Designer): In the City of Shy Hunters (Tom Spanbauer) has been shaming me from the middle of my to-read stack for far longer than I’d care to admit. Tom Spanbauer’s growly prose never fails to push me to manic prowling through his pages—foregoing sleep to reach the end. His torch song about the early days of AIDS in Manhattan constructs an elegiac mythology of death and survival. It’s about fear and fucking and heartbreak. It’s also about love.
A 500 page book in 4 days, not an easy task for book club. First 300 pages are tough to get sucked into, but then you're in. For me, this was an 80's period piece chronicling NY City and the AIDS epidemic in the gay community. The characters and the magical realism were a little over the top for me, but made me want to know more about the 80's in SF.
Jun 27, 2008 Julene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read this book while studying with Tom Spanbauer. It is a remarkable book that covers all the lexicon skills he has incorporated into Dangerous Writing. It tracks a young man who moves to NYC from the midwest and finds life in the lower east side. Elizabeth Taylor makes her appearances and it spins into a sureal ending in the bowels of the earth under Manhattan.
Eliot Fiend
phenomenal. i would like to read this book again and again. as with spanbauer's other books, my experience of reading them is walking through a portal into a world that deeply affects my vision upon emerging. i have fallen in love with fiona and rose, bobbie and charlie, true shot and ruby and harry. i am immensely grateful for this book and highly recommend it.
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Tom Spanbauer is a novelist and the founder of Dangerous Writing. As a writer he has explored issues of race, of sexual identity, of how we make a family for ourselves in order to surmount the limitations of the families into which we are born.

His published novels are Faraway Places, The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon, In The City Of Shy Hunters, Now Is the Hour, and coming out April 1st 2014
More about Tom Spanbauer...

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“The key to being a warrior is not to be afraid of who you are.” 21 likes
“To admit ignorance is the highest knowledge. It is the necessary condition for all learning.” 16 likes
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