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literature

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Holleran, Andrew (b. 1943?)  

The pseudonymous Andrew Holleran has placed his homosexuality at the center of his commercially and critically successful novels.

Holleran has tenaciously guarded his anonymity, which makes it difficult to determine precise biographical details. He was probably born around 1943 and more than likely comes from an upper-middle-class background. In an interview granted to Publisher's Weekly in 1983, Holleran admitted that the relatively affluent white characters depicted in his two novels Dancer from the Dance (1978) and Nights in Aruba (1983) largely reflect his own life.

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Holleran was educated at a private prep school, and later attended Harvard, served in West Germany with the Army, and afterward began studying law, which he abandoned in favor of studying writing at the University of Iowa. In 1971, he moved to New York.

Holleran's first novel, Dancer from the Dance, one of the first major breakthrough novels of the late 1970s, chronicles the life of "that tiny subspecies of homosexual, the doomed queen, who puts the car in gear and drives right off the cliff!" The novel documents the life of an enigmatic and beautiful man, Malone, who becomes subsumed by the frenetic gay social circuit of Manhattan and Fire Island.

Holleran is regularly lauded as a great prose stylist, and this somewhat trite plot line becomes an occasion for weaving a poetic myth of identity around and within the bars, discos, and house parties that typified a certain segment of the gay world in the late 1970s. This is a gay Great Gatsby, with East and West Egg replaced by Fire Island and the Pines.

Nights in Aruba, Holleran's second novel, moves away from Manhattan and tells the life of one gay man: his childhood on Aruba, where his father worked as an executive at a refinery; his service in the military in Germany and the bonding with other gay men he met there; his relocation to New York and his frequent visits to Florida where his parents have retired.

The tension between an openly gay life in New York and a closeted family life in Florida becomes the central topic of the novel, and in his interview in Publisher's Weekly Holleran called this split "absolutely and completely" reflective of his own life and further calls it a problem "with no resolution, finally."

Nights in Aruba was published in 1983, only two years after the New York Times published its first story about a mysterious cancer found in forty-one homosexuals. Yet the impact of AIDS is already felt strongly in the novel. At one point, the narrator tells us that "by this time I was wary of disease," and later laments that "celebrities of our sexual demimonde were dying of bizarre cancers."

The impact of AIDS on Holleran as a writer has been tremendous, and his third book, Ground Zero, is a collection of vignettes and essays that outline his responses to the plague. Holleran's intellect shows forth clearly in the essays, which range from ruminations on physical anguish in the writings of George Santayana, to a poetic tribute to the theatrical magic of Charles Ludlum, to an essay on "My Last Trick" that seems to form a eulogy for the world he so lovingly painted in Dancer from the Dance.

Gregory W. Bredbeck

     

 
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Andrew Holleran at the 2007 Arkansas Literary Festival. Photograph by David Quinn.
  
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literature >> Overview:  AIDS Literature

In the twenty years since its first appearance in the West, AIDS has been the subject of a large body of literature, most of it written by gay men and much of it designed to expose readers as closely as possible to the emergency of the epidemic and the suffering of affected individuals.

literature >> Overview:  American Literature: Gay Male, Post-Stonewall

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social sciences >> Overview:  Fire Island

Two of the communities of Fire Island, New York--Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines--are famous as hedonistic resort towns for gay men and lesbians.

literature >> Overview:  Novel: Gay Male

Since World War II, the gay male novel has progressively flourished in England and especially in America.

literature >> Overview:  The Violet Quill

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literature >> Barnett, Allen

Allen Barnett wrote stories unlikely to be surpassed for their depiction of gay life at the height of the AIDS pandemic.

literature >> Duplechan, Larry

Lambda Award-winning author Larry Duplechan is best known for Blackbird (1987), a coming of age novel about a black teenager growing up in the bland outer suburbs of Los Angeles in the 1970s.

literature >> Ellis, Bret Easton

Perhaps the most accomplished of the "Generation X" writers, Bret Easton Ellis creates works distinguished by transgressive themes, a fascination with popular culture, and a spare but resonant prose style.

arts >> Ludlam, Charles

An innovator in the "Theater of the Ridiculous," actor and playwright Charles Ludlam drew on many elements of camp and farce, but never allowed them to obscure the seriousness of his themes.

literature >> Reed, Paul

By writing the earliest novel to respond directly to AIDS and subsequently producing innovative journal and sex writing, American author Paul Reed made several significant contributions to glbtq literature.

literature >> Santayana, George

Although late in fully understanding his sexual preference, George Santayana wrote a series of sonnets celebrating his love for a friend who died young and described his male friendships in rhapsodic terms in his autobiography.


    Bibliography
   

Lahr, John. "Camp Tales." New York Times Book Review January 14, 1979: 15, 39-40.

"PW Interviews Andrew Holleran." Publisher's Weekly 224 (July 29, 1983): 72-73.

Robinson, Paul. "Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran." The New Republic 179 (September 30, 1978): 33-34.

Seebohm, Caroline. "Husbands, Lovers and Parents." New York Times Book Review 88 (September 25, 1983): 14, 30.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Bredbeck, Gregory W.  
    Entry Title: Holleran, Andrew  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated January 31, 2013  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/holleran_a.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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