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28 January 2008, 5:40 pm No Comments

Books: Gay Fiction Shame?

I recently found this article entitled My Gay Fiction Shame, in which the author discusses his boredom/loathing of gay themed fiction.

He caught my attention when he described contemporary gay fiction as “reading about loads of really horrible men stranded bored on a desert island: or, in other words, it was too true to life.”

While I find that statement a bit unfair, and I disagree with his assertion that people don’t want to read tales that reflect their own lives, I agree with his assesment that “the truth is that most gay men are not the tragic martyrs of coming-out tales, nor the rampant airheads of sex or scene-based tales.” While there is certainly a place for stereoptyically gay literature, if I never read another tale that involves HIV/AIDS, coming out, the circuit, or prostitution, I could live with that because 1) my life as a gay man isn’t defined by those experiences, and 2) the market is oversaturated with this stuff. Unfortunately, I recognize very little of my actual life in what flushes down the contemporary gay pipeline, whether it be in film or literature.

I disagree with him about the lack of relevancy in our elder generation of gay writers because it’s important to know our history and how we came to be here, even if our 21st century identities are evolving with a new gay culture, or as some claim, apart from our sexuality. Andrew Holleran’s latest book, enitled “Grief”, about an older man’s return to DC after the death of his mother, is an interesting meditation on being an older gay man, and it opened my eyes to the DC AIDS epidemic in the 80s, and how it wiped out our city’s gay community. While it’s yet another AIDS book in sea of them, I don’t see how a young DC gay-lit reader would find books like this irrelevant.

I’m curious what our readers think about the assertion that there are no great gay authors in the younger generation. I can think of several who are exceptional, but their subject matter isn’t specifically gay, which sort of supports the author’s point. One of the commenters on the writer’s post even went so far as to say, “could the great gay writers of tomorrow put down their bottles of amyl nitrate, step out of the club, go home, log off from Gaydar and write something good?”

What are your thoughts on gay fiction? Can you recommend any great gay books?

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  • karl jones said:

    the first thing that came to mind when reading your post, ben were the four pulitzers awarded to gay and lesbians authors in 1999. it was kind of a coup from a publicity standpoint for gays and lesbians, and i think is relevant to your post in that none of the four writers wrote ‘gay books’ but their sexuality, gender variance and relationships strongly influenced their work(ie. basing characters on themselves, family, lovers or dedicating biographies about others to their own life partners, etc.). a lot of queer writers i know talk of this as an important public moment for them, not because these were the first writers to break free of a gay genre while still being out and proud, but that they received well-established critical acclaim untethered to their sexual orientations.