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

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American Literature: Gay Male, Post-Stonewall  
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White has produced a large body of both fiction and nonfiction. He first received popular recognition for The Joy of Gay Sex (1977), which he coauthored, and for States of Desire: Travels in Gay America (1980). But his critical reputation is based on his novels, which along with Nocturnes for the King of Naples include Forgetting Elena (1973), Caracole (1985), and the first two volumes of a promised trilogy, A Boy's Own Story (1982) and The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988).

Cox published little in his lifetime, but he was an editor who served under Bill Whitehead.

The last member of the Violet Quill was in fact its most commercially successful member, Felice Picano, whose psychological thriller Eyes (1976) became the Faye Dunaway film The Eyes of Laura Mars and who was the editor of Sea Horse Press. Among Picano's many other works are the novels Late in The Season (1981) and The Lure (1978) and two fictionalized memoirs Ambidextrous (1985) and The Men Who Loved Me (1989).

Of the seven members of the Violet Quill, only three are alive at this writing. The rest died of AIDS-related complications.

Although the Violet Quill was formed out of friendship and came to an end when those friendships dissolved, it emerged out of real need. The writers wanted criticism of their works-in-progress and felt that they could not get useful feedback from heterosexual readers who would still be grappling with the unfamiliar subject matter.

Although no formal charter was ever written for the Violet Quill, the members shared several concerns: a desire to write works that reflected their gay experiences and specifically autobiographical fiction; a desire to write for gay readers without having to explain their point of view to shocked and unfamiliar heterosexual readers; and to write, to paraphrase William Wordsworth, in a selection of the language really used by gay men.

George Whitmore began his career as a playwright and poet. His novel Nebraska (1977) is a haunting story of a young man's discovery that his uncle has been lobotomized by his family as a treatment to "cure" homosexuality. His last book, Someone was Here: Profiles in the AIDS Epidemic (1988), is one of the first works to give the human dimension of AIDS.

Whitmore wrote a fictionalized version of his sex therapy with Charles Silverstein (coauthor with Edmund White of The Joy of Gay Sex and with Felice Picano of The New Joy of Gay Sex) for Christopher Street. The expanded version of these articles was published as The Confessions of Danny Slocum (1980), and the novel in some ways epitomizes the concerns of the Violet Quill.

Danny suffers from secondary impotence--he is slow to ejaculate. Virgil, the psychiatrist, pairs Danny with Joe, who suffers from the same problem, and Virgil gives them a series of exercises to make them more sexually responsive and comfortable. Danny and Joe develop a relationship that is at once extraordinarily intimate, highly sexual, and utterly unromantic. In this odd way, Whitmore explores alternative relations between men, relationships nowhere to be found in heterosexual novels.

Indeed, what is striking about all the novels of the Violet Quill is their rendering of gay friendships--sometimes sexualized friendships, more often nonsexual.

The New Narrative Movement

Several gay fiction writers are associated with the West Coast and the so-called New Narrative Movement, particularly Dennis Cooper and Robert Glück, although Cooper lived in New York for many years and both authors were published by Felice Picano's Sea Horse Press.

Cooper's work is characterized by his concern for disengaged young men whose violence is recorded with a punky sangfroid. Glück's more philosophical work involves meditations on everyday life that reveal its mystery and depth. Both have written prose and poetry.

Cooper is the more prolific. His major works include three novels: Frisk (1991), Closer (1989), and Safe (1984) and a collection of short stories Wrong (1992). Glück has published one novel, Jack the Modernist (1985), and a volume of short stories, Elements of a Coffee Service (1982), as well as several volumes of poems.

No discussion of West Coast writing would be complete without mentioning Armistead Maupin whose Tales of the City volumes have been the most popular works of the post-Stonewall generation, perhaps because of their literary limitations. Begun in 1976 as a series of articles in the San Francisco Chronicle, Tales of the City tells the story of a closely knit group of eccentric, but lovable people living on Barbary Lane.

A writer who bridges both coasts is Paul Monette, whose poems and novels are overshadowed by his two remarkable works of autobiography, Borrowed Time (1988) and Becoming a Man (1992), the latter of which won the National Book Award. These memoirs record his life from his sexual awakening through his lover's death from AIDS. His novel Afterlife (1990) and Halfway Home (1991) also dramatize living with AIDS.

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