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Cameron, Peter (b. 1959)  
 
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The gay American writer Peter Cameron, author of three short story collections and four novels, is renowned for his astute explorations of the shifting, impulsive emotions of unconventional characters, and, above all, for his elegant, intoxicating dialogue. Critically revered as one of the best dialogue writers working today, his characters speak with both subtlety and profundity. As Richard Eder, in the New York Times, noted, Cameron's "largest achievement" is his character's conversations. "Ferocity, sadness, humor and a groping toward discovery propel them. They are . . . textured, nuanced and many-leveled."

Although same-sex desire and homosexual characters appear in most of his stories and each of his novels, Cameron's works do not fit neatly into the category of "gay" fiction (epitomized perhaps by Andrew Holleran's classic Dancer from the Dance); they are, instead, more assimilative or integrative in nature, populated by characters both gay and straight, as well as those whose sexual identities blur all classifications and labels.

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Born in Pompton Plains, New Jersey in 1959, Peter Cameron grew up there and--for two years--in London, England. He graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York in 1982 with a B.A. in English Literature.

Upon graduating, he moved to New York City and worked for a year at St. Martin's Press before concentrating on administrative work for nonprofit organizations, including the Trust for Public Land, a land-conservation organization, and, from 1990 to 1998, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, an organization that protects and extends the civil rights of gay men, lesbians, and people with HIV/AIDS.

He has taught creative writing at Oberlin College, Columbia University's Graduate School of the Arts, and, since 1988, in Sarah Lawrence College's M.F.A. program.

Cameron first gained notice as a short story writer. He sold his first story, "Memorial Day," to The New Yorker (May 30, 1983) and published ten more stories in that magazine over the next few years. Cameron's stories have also appeared in Grand Street, The Paris Review, Rolling Stone, and The Yale Review.

In 1986, Cameron published his first book, One Way or Another, a collection of stories, which received a special citation by the PEN/Hemingway Award, honoring outstanding first books of fiction. Two stories from this collection were selected for the O. Henry Awards Prize Stories (1986): "Homework" and "Excerpts from Swan Lake." His story "Jump or Dive," was also selected for inclusion in The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories (1994).

His second story collection, Far-Flung, appeared in 1991. The Half You Don't Know: Selected Stories (1997) contains material from Cameron's previously published short fiction collections along with two previously uncollected stories.

In 1988, Cameron was hired to write a serial novel for the just-launched (though now-defunct) weekly magazine 7 Days. This serial, which was written and published a chapter a week, subsequently became Leap Year (1990), an exuberant comic novel set in New York City at the end of the 1980s.

The elaborate plot of Leap Year revolves around Loren and David Parish, a young, recently divorced couple and their precocious five-year-old daughter, Kate. Amiably divorced, Loren and David maintain a lingering, and often disruptive, sexual attraction to one another. They have also, however, recently both fallen in love with other men: Loren with a television executive and David with an aspiring photographer. As Cameron's third-person narrator nonchalantly explains, "No one had known David was bisexual until he had recently announced he had a boyfriend named Heath."

Although a series of distractions and near-disasters--including a bungled kidnapping, an attempted murder, and several medical emergencies--threaten David and Heath's new relationship, the plot is resolved promisingly, though far from predictably, in this ambitious first novel.

In contrast to the high-pitched conflicts and crosscutting of Leap Year, Cameron's second novel, The Weekend (1994), is a quiet, lyrical comedy of manners.

A novel about the anxieties of letting go of the past and embracing the uncertainties of the future, The Weekend concerns a midsummer reunion of old friends. Lyle, an art critic, visits the upstate New York home of his best friends John and Marian, an affluent married couple who have recently given birth to their first child, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of Tony (John's half-brother and Lyle's lover) from AIDS.

At the last minute, Lyle decides to bring his much younger, prospective boyfriend Robert, a painter/waiter, for the weekend. Robert's appearance at the gathering is an awkward surprise for both John and Marian, which in turn strains the tentative beginnings of Lyle's relationship with Robert. Cameron fluently modulates the tensions inherent in the situation: between the past and the present; between the younger and older generations; between insiders and intruders.

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