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Plante, David (b. 1940)  

The novels of David Plante examine a variety of homosexualities, their male characters ranging from openly gay to sexually ambiguous.

David Robert Plante was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 4, 1940, of French-Canadian and Indian descent. After several early, short-lived jobs, Plante went to London on what was to be a short visit, only to spend much of his life to date there.

Since the publication of his first novel, The Ghost of Henry James in 1970, Plante has proved to be one of the most prolific and experimental of contemporary writers, with eleven other novels, as well as many reviews, essays, and a nonfiction book, Difficult Women (1983), to his credit. Plante's work is as wide-ranging in subject, style, and content as it is voluminous; he is one of today's most exciting writers.

Gay male characters and men who seem sexually ambiguous feature in a variety of ways in such early Plante novels as The Ghost of Henry James, Slides (1971), Relatives (1972), and The Darkness of the Body (1974). Although these novels show gay characters in differing degrees of specificity, even more overtly homosexual men can be found in Figures in Bright Air (1976), The Foreigner (1984), and The Catholic (1986).

Plante is most noted for The Family (1978), The Country (1981), and The Woods (1982), his highly acclaimed Francoeur "trilogy." (The Foreigner and The Catholic have rather specific links to the trilogy but are set "away" from the family of the novels.) While these novels vary in their presentation of overtly gay characters or sex scenes, they do suggest other coming-of-age works by gay writers such as Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers, and Truman Capote. However, Plante's novels lack the gothic extravagances often associated with those other writers.

Plante's low-key approach allows the other family members and characters to emerge as clearly as his narrator, Daniel, who seems sexually ambiguous in the trilogy. Such ambiguity as found in life is a hallmark of Plante's writing, sexuality included.

Plante's approach to homosexuality ranges from the explicit and emotionally violent, as in The Catholic, to the quietly transcending, as in his earlier novels. In the novels of the trilogy, as well as The Foreigner and The Accident (1991), Plante's leading male characters suggest sexualities unacknowledged.

Plante focuses not only on the varieties of love and sexuality but on the different expressions love and sexuality may take. For example, some characters engage enthusiastically in a variety of sexual practices, some seem to be bisexual or inclined that way, and some appear to be determining their sexuality or sexualities. Thus, his novels--as well as his nonfiction account of his encounters with three Difficult Women--may be said to examine a variety of homosexualities as well as heterosexual ones.

Plante refuses clearly to be locked in as a writer, and this refusal makes his gay characters, and his work generally, complex and remarkable, as does his often experimental style. Plante's conviction that he himself has many identities and different sexualities shows in his writing.

Those who call for a more integrated approach to homosexuality in literature, and in life for that matter, would do well to read Plante's novels. Perhaps most important, his experimentation with prose style is bound up in the different ways he presents homosexuality in his novels and stories.

Plante sometimes challenges the use of linear narrative and our expectations of what narrative should be. For example, in one novel he uses short chapters to represent photographic slides, and in others he dispenses with the background information and certain identification of time and place we often expect from narrative.

Similarly, he explores sexuality of all kinds as being equally undefined, unsure, and changing. As a result, Plante's work demands much from the reader, and gives much in return.

Thomas Dukes


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Baker, John F. "David Plante." Publishers Weekly (December 24, 1982): 12-13.

Dukes, Thomas. "David Plante." Contemporary Gay American Novelists. Emmanuel S. Nelson, ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1993. 309-315.

Gordon, Mary. "David Plante." Good Boys and Dead Girls. New York: Viking, 1991. 108-111.

Kaiser, John R. "David Plante." Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook 1983. Detroit: Gale, 1983. 298-304.

Nye, Robert. "David Plante." Contemporary Novelists. James Vinson, ed. New York: St. Martin's, 1976. 1088-1089.


    Citation Information
    Author: Dukes, Thomas  
    Entry Title: Plante, David  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 16, 2002  
    Web Address  
    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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