“Few books published today contain the pure enjoyment that Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall does. And none are better written.” —Vinton Rafe McCabe, New York Journal of Books

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Release date: 9/7/2017

Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall

by James Magruder



Every September since 1958 a fresh batch of residents arrives at the Yale graduate dormitory that bears the name of one Miss Helen Hadley, a nineteenth-century ectoplasmic emanation still residing at 420 Temple Street, New Haven, Connecticut. Every year she selects her favorites, follows their adventures, cheers on their romantic shifts and stratagems, and picks up their lingo. With the university presently threatening to bulldoze her home, she has decided to chronicle her favorite year, the nine months in 1983-84 when Silas Huth, Becky Engelking, Nixie Bolger, Carolann Chudek, and Randall Flinn took up the manacles of erotic attachment and parsed meaning from every little movement of their rapacious, beating hearts. In Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall, Miss Hadley promises her readers carnal congress, a near-homicide, and a wedding finale, for their tale of communal bondage is one of love surprised, love confessed, betrayed, renounced, repelled, of suspect leanings and trembling declarations, of hymens under siege and innumerable searching looks in the mirror.

“It's a terrific book: fast, funny, sexy, very smart and very loopy. I've never read anything quite like it.”

—Christopher Bram, author of The Art of History: Unlocking the Past in Fiction and Nonfiction



Praise for Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall

“Few books published today contain the pure enjoyment that Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall does. And none are better written.”

—Vinton Rafe McCabe, New York Journal of Books

“It’s Magruder’s excellent character development that makes this a great book. Though he’s writing across gender, age, and ethnicity, Magruder never makes you feel as if he doesn’t understand each person completely, showcasing faults and strengths, triumphs and troubles in equal breath.”

—Gabriella Souza, Baltimore Magazine

“A promising premise for any good storyteller, Magruder lifts it to the level of the exceptional with his razor-sharp language that begs to be read aloud at multiple intervals. Magruder is a wickedly funny and precise writer; his dorm residents are rendered with the knowing details that inspire in the reader the maternal empathy of the story’s mannered narrator. His keen eye and ear for the urgency and poignancy of passionate young adults is extraordinary. There’s a lyricism to the wicked wit that makes this novel a deceptively rich read disguised as a coming-of-age sex farce.”

—Barbara Chisholm, The Austin Chronicle

Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall is never less than entertaining, bringing to mind some of the early films of Whit Stillman. (Think Metropolitan or The Last Days of Disco.) Like Stillman, Magruder is not afraid to face the specter of change hovering over a specific time and place. The shadow of AIDS in Helen Hadley Hall reminds us how far we’ve come in both treatment and understanding of the disease since the early 1980s. This sparkling novel owes much of its success to Magruder’s remarkable ability to manipulate words to get to the heart of all matters, especially matters of the heart.”

—Ken Harvey, Lambda Literary

“I really don’t know of any writer, living or dead, who fashions a funnier sentence than James Magruder, and I mean that in all seriousness. For many readers, the almost vertiginous hilarity of his prose will be a source of unbridled pleasure.”

—Marion Winik, The Baltimore Fishbowl

“In the dorm rooms of Helen Hadley Hall, academia takes a backseat to passionate love affairs, social betrayals, psychotherapy, and booze. This whirlwind of a novel sweeps through the intertwined lives of its many main characters with witty observations and scenes of bawdy depravity.”

—Constance Augusta A. Zaber, Foreword Reviews

“Magruder’s book calls to mind Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series. Like Maupin’s work, Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall centers on a shared residence and its diverse population driven by various sorts of longing. Magruder engenders sympathy for even the least sympathetic of his characters as his narrator reveals foibles and contradictions with fondness rather than judgment. The book’s ending is a well-crafted reminder of the steep cost of the AIDS epidemic. Magruder doesn’t belabor the tragedy or allow it to upend the carefully constructed tone of the rest of the novel. But he doesn’t let us look away, either.”

—Rob Cline, Iowa Gazette

“Grown-ups, get giddy: Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall is a hoot. An ambisexual tangle of Yale graduate students flirts and frolics its way through an academic year of cohabitation in the titular dormitory. Magruder tells his story through the oh-so-campy diction of deceased dorm namesake Helen Hadley, whose spirit watches over the youngsters and their quarters. The storytelling is altogether enjoyable, but it’s the storyteller that gives this book its irresistible glow.

—Jim Gladstone, Passport Magazine

“It's a terrific book: fast, funny, sexy, very smart and very loopy. I've never read anything quite like it.”

—Christopher Bram, author of The Art of History: Unlocking the Past in Fiction and Nonfiction

“This glittering novel of the human heart (and other choice parts) gives us Yale at the dawn of AIDS. Incisive, ironic, hilarious, bawdy, and sly.”

—Dylan Landis, author of Rainey Royal

“In Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall, James Magruder combines the sexual trysting and guilty pleasures of a telenovela with the wittydialogue of a drawing-room farce (though even better: this drawing room is a graduate residence dorm in the 1980s). Lurking, of course, is the specter of AIDS, a presence that Magruder invokes with the fear and consternation befitting the time, though what wins is love and friendship, art and laughter. Magruder's language is so precise, so beautifully crafted and bitingly funny, that I laughed throughout and then nearly cried when Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall ended.”

—Lori Ostlund, author of After the Parade

Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall is an unforgettable novel of art and academia, love and yearning, and hope and possibility, with a lyricism that will lift your heart. James Magruder's writing shines with humor and resonates with a beautiful poignancy. I loved this original and incomparable book.”

—Margo Rabb, author of Kissing in America

“Never one to be embarrassed, however, is James Magruder, whose Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall blissfully and unabashedly dives into the lives of a diverse and entertaining group of graduate students at ‘Yale...the queerest of the Ivies since the Louisiana Purchase.’Magruder is so clever and witty, the only thing that will stop you from finishing this book is the time you take to underline or highlight his prose, which perfectly expresses all the ways we struggle in life and love.”

—Jessica Anya Blau, Baltimore Style


About the author

James Magruder’s fiction has appeared in the Gettysburg Review, New England Review, Subtropics, Bloom, The Normal School, New Stories from the Midwest, and elsewhere. His début novel, Sugarless, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary award and shortlisted for the 2010 William Saroyan International Writing Prize. His collection of sto ries, Let Me See It, was published by TriQuarterly Books/ Northwestern University Press in 2014. His adaptations of works by Molière, Marivaux, Lesage, Labiche, Gozzi, Dickens, Hofmannsthal, and Giraudoux have been staged on and off-Broadway, across the country, and in Germany and Japan. He is a four-time fellow of the MacDowell Colony and his writing has also been sup ported by the Kenyon Playwrights Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, where he was a Walter E. Dakin Fellow in Fiction. He lives in Baltimore and teaches dramaturgy at Swarthmore College. Visit him at www.jamesmagruder.com.



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