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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969  
 
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In his autobiographical Down There on a Visit (1962), Christopher Isherwood presents frank homosexual characters such as Ambrose, who fantasizes about establishing an all-gay commonwealth on his Greek island, while hedging about his own sexuality and that of the campy but officially bisexual Paul.

Paul Goodman's first collected poems, The Lordly Hudson (1962), issued by a mainstream publisher, prints several new, frank gay poems--for example, "March Equinox," "Ballade of the Moment Before," "Moments I Had of Glad Delight," "Buddha," "Commerce (Manner of Wordsworth)," "I love you Donny." The narrator of Goodman's autobiographical Making Do (1963) is a married bisexual intellectual, but the central relationship of the novel is his affair with a male student, Terry (also presented as bisexual), and identified homosexual characters also appear (the worker Harold).

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Blunt homosexual scenes occur in The Messenger (1963), the autobiographical first novel by Charles Wright (b. 1932), but the African-American narrator, who hustles part-time with both men and women, is portrayed as basically heterosexual.

Edward Field (b. 1924) included his wonderful "sissy" poems, "Unwanted" and "The Sleeper," in his prize-winning first book, Stand Up, Friend, With Me (1963).

John Wieners's second book, The Ace of Pentacles (1964), contains several more frank gay poems such as "Strange," "Act #2," and "Sonnet."

In James Purdy's scathing Cabot Wright Begins (1964), one of the few moments of tenderness is a one-night stand between two married men, Bernie Gladhart and Winters Hart.

The bulk of Stations (1964) by Burt Blechman (b. 1932) seems to concern a gay man who cruises the New York subway johns for sex, but the heavily symbolized and frenzied narrative makes a clear picture of the situation impossible.

Three stories in Alfred Chester's collection Behold Goliath (1964) are frankly homosexual: "From the Phoenix," "Ismael," and the piercing "In Praise of Vespasian."

In 1964, the Caffe Cino, a pioneering New York outpost for gay theater in what later would become off-off-Broadway, produced The Madness of Lady Bright, an early one-act by Lanford Wilson (b. 1938), which depicts the breakdown of an aging, isolated, "bitchy queen."

In the same year, the Cino also produced The Haunted Host, the first play by Robert Patrick (b. 1937), in which a "high queen" gay writer exorcises his dead lover's ghost.

Also premiering in 1964 was the first play by Terrence McNally (b. 1939), And Things that Go Bump in the Night, where a frankly presented homosexual character and encounter are crucial to the unraveling of the play's demented, hermetic family.

In Rhymes of a PFC (1964), about his World War II experiences, Lincoln Kirstein invokes one of the oldest conventions in male homosexual writing and uses the military situation to paint several frank and affectionate homosexual portraits.

Homosexuality recurs as a subject in Frank O'Hara's books of the 1960s, especially in the more private of his Lunch Poems (1964) and throughout his last book, Love Poems (Tentative Title) (1965), where all the poems concern his lover, Vincent Warren, though only a few, such as the beautiful "Having a Coke with You" and "Poem 'À la recherche de Gertrude Stein,'" specify the "you" as male.

An affair in Rome between a married American and a young Italian bisexual hustler is the core of Two People (1965) by Donald Windham (b. 1920), which was published by a mainstream publisher (Coward-McCann) and with glowing blurbs by E. M. Forster, Truman Capote, and Tennessee Williams.

W. H. Auden's "The Common Life," the final poem in the "Thanksgiving for a Habitat" sequence from his About the House (1965), commemorates his twenty-four-year relationship with Chester Kallman.

Homosexuality is almost the entire sexuality in Paul Goodman's Five Years: Thoughts During a Useless Time (1966), a selection from his journals from 1955 to 1960.

In his Paris Diary (1966), which covers the years from 1951 to 1955, Ned Rorem (b. 1923) makes transparent allusions to homosexuality and details an intense love affair with "P.," whereas his New York Diary (1967), which proceeds to 1961, is even franker and fuller, with a thirty-three-page love letter to a male lover included in the book.

Hawkweed (1967), Paul Goodman's second collection of poems from a mainstream publisher, prints a score more new, frank gay pieces, including the daring "Lines (His cock is big and red when I am there)" and the beautiful love poems "Haverford" and "Long Lines (I opened with my key, to my astonished joy)."

James Purdy's gothic Eustace Chisolm and the Works (1967) almost entirely involves homosexuality, with its focus on the intense, blocked, and ultimately murderous loves of Amos, Daniel, Stadger, and Reuben Masterson.

One of the brothers in Christopher Isherwood's A Meeting by the River (1967) is a married bisexual who seems more passionate about his male lover but who eventually renounces him for the "easier" world of wife and children.

The ex-hustler in John Rechy's Numbers (1967) struggles against admitting his own homosexuality by vowing to make thirty men approach him for sex within ten days in Los Angeles's Griffith Park.

Male homosexual characters and couples pervade Alfred Chester's hallucinogenic roman à clef, The Exquisite Corpse (1967). Edward Field's second book, Variety Photoplays (1967), contains his witty "Giant Pacific Octopus," a transparent gay love poem.

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