social sciences
special features
about glbtq

Advertising Opportunities
Press Kit
Research Guide
Terms of Service
Privacy Policy
site guide
search tips
research guide
editors & contributors
contact us
send feedback
write the editor
Subscribe to our free e-mail newsletter to receive a spotlight on glbtq culture every month.
e-mail address:
Popular Topics in Literature
García Lorca, Federico García Lorca, Federico
The works of García Lorca, internationally recognized as Spain's most prominent lyric poet and dramatist of the twentieth century, are filled with thinly veiled homosexual motifs and themes.
Musical Theater
There has always been homosexual involvement in American musical theatre and a homosexual sensibility even in straight musicals, and recently the Broadway musical has welcomed openly homosexual themes and situations.
Michelangelo Buonarroti Michelangelo Buonarroti
Best known for his genius in art and architecture, Michelangelo was also an accomplished author of homoerotic poetry.
African-American Literature: Gay Male African-American Literature: Gay Male
The African-American gay male literary tradition consists of a substantial body of texts and includes some of the most gifted writers of the twentieth century.
Camp Camp
Combining elements of incongruity, theatricality, and exaggeration, camp is a form of humor that helps homosexuals cope with a hostile environment.
Hughes, Langston Hughes, Langston
Langston Hughes, whose literary legacy is enormous and varied, was closeted, but homosexuality was an important influence on his literary imagination, and many of his poems may be read as gay texts.
Baldwin, James Arthur Baldwin, James Arthur
James Baldwin, a pioneering figure in twentieth-century literature, wrote sustained and articulate challenges to American racism and mandatory heterosexuality.
Wilde, Oscar Wilde, Oscar
Oscar Wilde is important both as an accomplished writer and as a symbolic figure who exemplified a way of being homosexual at a pivotal moment in the emergence of gay consciousness.
John Rechy's "City of Night" at 50
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 10/25/13
Last updated on: 10/25/13
Bookmark and Share

The fiftieth anniversary edition of John Rechy's landmark novel.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of John Rechy's landmark novel City of Night, Grove Press has issued a new edition. In addition, on October 23, 2013 the book was the subject of a panel discussion at UCLA where Rechy was discussed as a Mexican-American writer, a gay writer, and an L.A. writer.

As David Ulin reports in the Books section of the Los Angeles Times the panel discussion at UCLA was co-sponsored by the César E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and organized by professor Héctor Calderón.

Ulin presents Rechy as a misunderstood and marginalized writer, "an outsider even in the cultures of which he is a part." He quotes Rechy as having lamented, "I find myself a 'Texas writer' left out of discussions of Texas writers, a 'Chicano writer' omitted from anthologies of Chicano writers, a 'California writer' ignored in books about California. And even though I am excluded from several anthologies of homosexual writers, I am often designated as 'a gay writer.'"

To the extent that Rechy is marginalized, much of it is his own fault. He has consistently resisted several of his identities. For example, even as he complains of marginalization, he laments that he is designated a "gay writer" while also bemoaning his exclusion from anthologies of "homosexual" writers. Rechy has always had an uneasy relationship with gayness and has frequently made clear that he does not want to be seen as a "gay writer."

Grove Press decribes the novel in its catalogue as follows: "When John Rechy's explosive first novel appeared in 1963, it marked a radical departure from all other novels of its kind, and gave voice to a subculture that had never before been revealed with such acuity. It earned comparisons to Genet and Kerouac, even as Rechy was personally attacked by scandalized reviewers. Nevertheless, the book became an international best-seller and ushered in a new era of fiction, and fifty years later, it has become a classic. Bold and inventive in style, Rechy is unflinching in his portrayal of one hustling 'youngman' and his search for self-knowledge within the neon-lit world of hustlers, drag queens, and the denizens of their world. As the narrator moves from El Paso to Times Square, from Pershing Square to the French Quarter, Rechy delivers a portrait of the edges of America that has lost none of its power to move and exhilarate."

Allowing for the hyperbole of book catalogues, the description is true enough. Rechy's book is a classic. But the catalogue description misleads in its attempt to distinguish Rechy's book from the other landmark gay novels that appeared in the early 1960s. After all, James Baldwin's Another Country preceded Rechy's book by a year and Isherwood's A Single Man followed it by a year. These novels, though less sensational, also provided a voice to hidden gay subcultures.

All three books are extraordinary contributions to gay male literature, but whereas the protagonists of Another Country and A Single Man embrace their sexual identities, the hustler narrator of City of Night, who provides a tour of the homosexual underworld, insists that he is not himself homosexual.

In his glbtq.com entry on Rechy, Gregory W. Bredbeck points out that sex in City of Night is a job not an identity. Only in his later novels Numbers (1967) and This Day's Death (1969) does Rechy explore homosexuality as an identity.

Bredbeck's analysis of the structure of City of Night deserves quoting at greater length. The novel, he points out, "documents the wanderings of a nameless male hustler from El Paso, to New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. This narrative is punctuated by recollections of the narrator's childhood in El Paso."

"The novel is structured by two types of chapters, accounts of the narrator's wanderings and character sketches of people he meets as a hustler. Each character sketch builds for the reader a knowable person, but then each narrative chapter immediately pulls the reader away and moves him or her onward."

"This technique," Bredbeck observes, "in many ways forces the reader into the position of hustler: 'knowing' someone, but only transiently and temporarily. This impermanence of human contact is mockingly displayed in the fact that the novel never provides a name for its narrator."

City of Night chronicles, brutally and lyrically and unforgettably, the pre-Stonewall sexual underworld. It presents haunting portraits of sad and brave characters, including a narrator who resists his own sexual identity.

Related Encyclopedia Entries
browse:   arts   literature   social-sciences   discussion boards
learn more about glbtq       contact us       advertise on glbtq.com
Bookmark and Share

glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2015, glbtq, Inc.

Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.