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literature

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

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Hall, Richard (1926-1992)  

In his novels and short stories, plays, and critical writings, Richard Hall focused almost exclusively on issues of gay identity and community.

Hall was born Richard Hirshfeld in New York City on November 26, 1926, into an extended family of transplanted Southern Jews. In 1934, his immediate family moved to the New York suburb of White Plains, where his mother became active in the Episcopal Church and he and his sister were baptized. In 1938, after an antisemitic incident involving his sister's admission to a church-affiliated camp, Hall's mother changed their name and moved the family to another suburb.

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Hall matriculated at Harvard in 1943 and graduated cum laude in January 1948. In the 1950s, he underwent deep-Freudian analysis in an attempt to change his sexual orientation but abandoned psychiatric treatment in 1960 when he fell in love with a young Texan named Dan Allen, whom he described as the greatest influence on his life.

After a career in advertising and publishing, Hall entered New York University to earn an M.A. in English Education. On graduation in 1970, he accepted a job at Inter American University in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he served as acting director of the University Press until 1974.

During the 1970s, he established a long-lasting relationship with Arthur Marceau (who died of AIDS in 1989) and began publishing fiction and nonfiction in the newly vital gay and lesbian media. From 1976 to 1982, Hall was contributing editor for books of the gay newsmagazine The Advocate. He died of complications from AIDS on October 29, 1992.

Although he is the author of a popular mystery (The Butterscotch Prince [1975]), a fine autobiographical novel (Family Fictions [1991]), and several plays, Hall's claim to lasting literary fame rests on his short fiction.

Varied in their settings, their characters, and their modes, the stories collected in Couplings (1981), Letters from a Great Uncle (1985), and Fidelities (1992) demonstrate Hall's ability to encompass a wide range of character types and situations within a vision that can span the comic and the satiric as well as the tragic and the mythic.

Typified by epiphanic moments, an empathetic approach to character, and an awareness of the complexities of truth, these works constitute a significant contribution to the post-Stonewall renaissance of gay literature.

Even though Hall's themes are both varied and universal, his subject matter is unabashedly and almost exclusively gay. His stories focus on issues of gay identity and community, on the problems of intimacy and commitment between men, and on the intersection of the public and the private in the process of self-fashioning.

Hall's work features a wide variety of gay men who are captured at moments of crisis, grappling with the legacies of hurtful pasts as they struggle to achieve authenticity. "The Jilting of Tim Weatherall," an unsentimental yet extraordinarily moving account of a man dying of AIDS, may be his most powerful story.

Hall deserves recognition as an important chronicler of the post-Stonewall gay male experience and as an accomplished master of the short story. In carefully shaped fictions, distinguished by resonant prose, psychological penetration, and deeply imagined characters, Hall explores crucial issues of American gay life in the aftermath of liberation with empathy, clarity, and insight.

As Michael Lynch observed in 1985, "the straight literary world has resisted recognizing Hall's fictional and critical achievements because of his material--our lives." Nevertheless, he remains "one of our prime cultural resources."

Claude J. Summers

     

    
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    Bibliography
   

Clark, J. Michael. Liberation and Disillusionment: The Development of Gay Male Criticism and Popular Fiction a Decade After Stonewall. Los Colines, Tex.: Liberal Press, 1987.

Lynch, Michael. "Reflections at Middle Age." Body Politic, August 1985, 36.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Summers, Claude J.  
    Entry Title: Hall, Richard  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated February 28, 2004  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/hall_richard.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

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