Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America"

The title of Christopher Bram’s new book, “Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America” (Twelve, 2012), says it all. Bram, himself a gay novelist, traces the lives and work and increasing visibility of gay writers in the U.S. and their books, plays, and poetry, as gay literature moved from being veiled and indirect when addressing gay themes and characters to being much more open. Progress was not linear, however; at times these writers suffered when they were "too" open, and sometimes some of them moved back into the publishing closet for a while. There are chapters on various writers through the years, in more or less chronological order. Only gay male writers are included; Bram states that “lesbian literature has its own dynamic and history. It needs its own historian.” Writers discussed include W. H. Auden, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Christopher Isherwood, Truman Capote, Edward Albee, Armistead Maupin, Edmund White, Andrew Holleran, Larry Kramer, James Merrill, Mark Doty, David Leavitt, Tony Kushner, Michael Cunningham, and more. This very readable book weaves together gay history, politics, literature, and culture (along with some great stories about the lives and loves of these writers) and reminds us of the huge influence gay writers have had on American literature and life.


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