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Novel: Gay Male
The Impact of AIDS Then came AIDS. "The paradox is," Edmund White wrote in 1991,
The Impact of AIDS
Then came AIDS. "The paradox is," Edmund White wrote in 1991,
The tragic impact of AIDS on a generation and more of artists can hardly be overestimated; no writer can practice his craft today without taking account of it whether in acceptance or in defiance, in sorrow or in anger.
Yet White is correct in asserting the health of gay literature: He himself has published two more novels, A Boy's Own Story (1982) and The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988) along with a considerable body of criticism; Maupin continued the Tales series; Andrew Holleran published a second novel, Nights in Aruba (1985). Given the uniquely personal nature of the AIDS crisis, it is not surprising to find works that hover between fiction and memoir, as in the writing of Paul Monette.
New talents also emerged in the 1980s. David Leavitt, to take only one luminous example, published a collection of short stories, Family Dancing, in 1985, and a novel, The Lost Language of Cranes, in 1986.
Cranes is an exemplary work because it deals with so many aspects of gay life: a father and son, Owen and Philip Benjamin, are both gay; Owen, closeted, guilty, seeking only anonymous sex in movie houses, seems to belong in a novel of the 1950s; his son is a young man of the 1980s, comfortable in his sexuality but as the novel opens uncomfortable at not having come out to his parents.
Rose Benjamin, wife and mother, feels that she has been living in a travesty of a family when the various truths do emerge.
The novel handles the well-worn theme of failure to communicate in fresh and perceptive ways, as well as portraying strategies gay men adopt for living in straight society.
Other writers of distinction who have emerged since about 1980 include Charles Nelson (The Boy Who Picked the Bullets Up ), Robert Glück (Jack the Modernist ), Michael Cunningham (A Home at the End of the World ), Melvin Dixon (Trouble the Waters  and Vanishing Rooms ), Stephen Macauley (The Easy Way Out ), and Louis Begley (As Max Saw It ).
English writers include David Rees (In the Tent  and other titles), Patrick Gale (Kansas in August ), Alan Hollinghurst (The Swimming-Pool Library ), Neil Bartlett (Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall ), and Adam Mars-Jones (The Waters of Thirst ).
Gay novels, like many other novels, are about a search for identity. Just as Tom Jones and Tristram Shandy need to discover who they are in order to live and function in their society, so do protagonists of gay novels. The difference is that early gay fiction presents situations in which the protagonist refuses to admit who or what he is, or, having acknowledged his sexuality, finds that his identity is repugnant to society at large.
Not until Stonewall and the gay liberation movement of the 1970s did gays achieve sufficient critical mass to establish, in urban centers like San Francisco, New York, and London, islands of gay culture (gay ghettos, in a less favorable view) where gay art might thrive.
In such art, a gay identity, whether defined by exclusion or as related to the larger culture, might be realized. Then came AIDS to attack the entire effort; once more homosexuality and death became identified, in tragic, not symbolic, terms.
Gay identity has other implications too: for the writers. Many dislike being identified as "gay writers"; some accept the label with greater or lesser reluctance; others sidestep it.
The Australian Nobelist Patrick White, with becoming modesty, attributed all the insights that made him a great writer to his homosexuality, yet until his last novel, The Twyborn Affair (1979), any possibly homosexual themes or characters in his fiction were artfully camouflaged.
Still, now is an exciting time to be a gay writer. A widespread acceptance of homosexuality coexists with manifest homophobia. How the gay novel will deal with this condition is a question continually being answered.
literature >> Overview: AIDS Literature
literature >> Overview: American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969
literature >> Overview: American Literature: Gay Male, Post-Stonewall
literature >> Overview: American Literature: Nineteenth Century
literature >> Overview: Camp
literature >> Overview: English Literature: Nineteenth Century
literature >> Overview: English Literature: Restoration and Eighteenth Century
literature >> Overview: English Literature: Twentieth-Century
literature >> Overview: Gothicism
literature >> Overview: Historical Fiction
literature >> Overview: Romance Novels
literature >> Overview: The Violet Quill
literature >> Mann, Klaus
literature >> Ackerley, J. R.
literature >> Andrews, Terry
literature >> Baldwin, James Arthur
literature >> Bartlett, Neil
literature >> Beckford, William
literature >> Benson, E. F.
literature >> Brinig, Myron
literature >> Burroughs, William S.
literature >> Capote, Truman
literature >> Carpenter, Edward
literature >> Cleland, John
literature >> Cunningham, Michael
literature >> Dixon, Melvin
literature >> Douglas, Alfred Bruce
literature >> Ferro, Robert
literature >> Findley, Timothy
literature >> Firbank, Ronald
literature >> Forster, E. M.
literature >> Gale, Patrick
literature >> Genet, Jean
literature >> Gide, André
literature >> Hartinger, Brent
literature >> Holleran, Andrew
literature >> Hollinghurst, Alan
literature >> Indiana, Gary
literature >> Isherwood, Christopher
literature >> Kerouac, Jack
literature >> Kramer, Larry
literature >> Lawrence, D. H.
literature >> Leavitt, David
literature >> Lehmann, John
literature >> Lewis, Matthew G.
literature >> Mann, Thomas
literature >> Mansfield, Katherine
literature >> Mars-Jones, Adam
literature >> Maugham, Robin
literature >> Maupin, Armistead
literature >> McCauley, Stephen
literature >> Melville, Herman
literature >> Miller, Merle
literature >> Monette, Paul
literature >> Palahniuk, Chuck
literature >> Picano, Felice
literature >> Plante, David
literature >> Rechy, John
literature >> Renault, Mary
literature >> Rice, Christopher
literature >> Sade, Marquis de
literature >> Schuyler, James
literature >> Scott, Paul
literature >> Spanbauer, Tom
literature >> Thoreau, Henry David
literature >> Vidal, Gore
literature >> Warren, Patricia Nell
literature >> Waugh, Evelyn
literature >> Welch, Denton
literature >> White, Edmund
literature >> White, Patrick
literature >> Whitman, Walt
literature >> Wilde, Oscar
literature >> Wilson, Sir Angus
literature >> Yourcenar, Marguerite
Adams, Stephen. The Homosexual Hero in Contemporary Fiction. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.
Austen, Roger. Playing the Game: The Homosexual Novel in America. Indianapolis: Bobbs, Merrill, 1977.
Caserio, Robert. The Novel in England, 1900-1950: History and Theory. New York: Twayne, 1998.
Levin, James. The Gay Novel in America. New York: Garland, 1991.
Lilly, Mark. Gay Men's Literature in the Twentieth Century. New York: New York University Press, 1993.
Summers, Claude. Gay Fictions: Wilde to Stonewall. New York: Continuum, 1990.
White, Edmund. "Out of the Closet, Onto the Bookshelf," New York Times Book Review (June 16, 1991): 22, 24, 35.
|Author:||Stanton, Michael N.|
|Entry Title:||Novel: Gay Male|
|General Editor:||Claude J. Summers|
|Publication Name:||glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
|Date Last Updated||August 21, 2008|
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL 60607
|Encyclopedia Copyright:||© 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.|
|Entry Copyright||© 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates|
This Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates
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