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" to read and will be the standard text of the defining era of gay literati." - Philadelphia InquirerIn the years following World War II a group of gay writers established themselves as major cultural figures in American life. Truman Capote, the enfant terrible, whose finely wrought fiction and nonfiction captured the nation's imagination. Gore Vidal, the" to read and will be the standard text of the defining era of gay literati." - Philadelphia InquirerIn the years following World War II a group of gay writers established themselves as major cultural figures in American life. Truman Capote, the enfant terrible, whose finely wrought fiction and nonfiction captured the nation's imagination. Gore Vidal, the wry, withering chronicler of politics, sex, and history. Tennessee Williams, whose powerful plays rocketed him to the top of the American theater. James Baldwin, the harrowingly perceptive novelist and social critic. Christopher Isherwood, the English novelist who became a thoroughly American novelist. And the exuberant Allen Ginsberg, whose poetry defied censorship and exploded minds. Together, their writing introduced America to gay experience and sensibility, and changed our literary culture. But the change was only beginning. A new generation of gay writers followed, taking more risks and writing about their sexuality more openly. Edward Albee brought his prickly iconoclasm to the American theater. Edmund White laid bare his own life in stylized, autobiographical works. Armistead Maupin wove a rich tapestry of the counterculture, queer and straight. Mart Crowley brought gay men's lives out of the closet and onto the stage. And Tony Kushner took them beyond the stage, to the center of American ideas. With authority and humor, Christopher Bram weaves these men's ambitions, affairs, feuds, loves, and appetites into a single sweeping narrative. Chronicling over fifty years of momentous change-from civil rights to Stonewall to AIDS and beyond-EMINENT OUTLAWS is an inspiring, illuminating tale: one that reveals how the lives of these men are crucial to understanding the social and cultural history of the American twentieth century....

Title : Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America
Author :
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ISBN : 9780446563130
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 371 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America Reviews

  • Jesse
    2019-05-17 20:39

    Entertaining, informative, and endlessly readable, which compensates for a perhaps inevitable thinness. As a survey/overview it likely won't yield a whole lot--aside from the choice bits of tasteful gossip--to a reader already somewhat aware of the terrain it covers, which is perhaps is why I had more or less the opposite reaction of many here who thought it ran out of steam as it went along; I happen to be interested in and know more about the authors covered early in the book (Baldwin, Vidal, Capote), but not as much about more recent authors, so for me the latter half was more compelling. The highlight, I think, is Bram's astute analysis and defense of Christopher Isherwood's oeuvre, who still remains rather underrated despite a recent reignition of interest in his work (I for one was startled to find out how many of his novels I had never even heard of). Bram's style is very approachable and lucid, and it's like listening to a literate and culturally knowledgeable friend hold forth on books, art, and history. I personally was hoping for something more along the lines of Sheri Benstock's magisterial Women of the Left Bank, a more dense undertaking that combines literary analysis with historical scholarship, but I don't hold my expectations against Bram. Because this is clearly intended to be accessible cultural scholarship, and on that level it overall succeeds admirably. And if it gets people, myself included, to pick up the work of more of these authors, well then, all the better.

  • Sketchbook
    2019-04-19 20:40

    With impressive all-around dexterity rare in a "survey" study, author Bram goes beyond the gay experience for niche readers and produces a sexually inclusive book that explores connections, patterns and socio history for those interested in American literature. His worldly understanding shows that there's a great difference between "reporting" and "expert writing." Seeing names like Vidal, Capote, Baldwin, Isherwood -- familiar eminent outlaws -- I feared some rehash of known material. Not at all. Since he has an interesting mind (Iris Owens/Harriet Daimler used to ask, "Does X have an interesting mind?"), Bram's writing is always fresh and his structural choices have a finesse that I admire. Reminding us that post W2 a group of new writers inserted an unexpected sensibility into our literary canon, he shows how the media first reacted with scorn and fear, reflecting group-think. Vidal-Capote were slammed by critics at great personal cost and Baldwin was attacked for writing about his sexuality instead of his race. Isherwood was dismissed. Ten Williams and Albee were insulted. "Their careers would've been easier if they'd all written about thingsoutsidetheir experience..but making art is difficult enough without pretending to be someone else." If a writer can't use first-hand stuff, he must turn to second-hand, says Bram, and this can result in third-hand cliches. These writers knew that they were not normal, but nobody is :"There is no such thing as normal."In the mid-60s, Susan Sontag gained fame with her "Notes on Camp" essay which, in itself, created a gay panic. A NYC clique, which included Philip Roth, Stanley Kauffmann, Midge Decter, William Goldman, Joseph Epstein, etc., became vicious. Sontag was lesbian herself, but spent most of her life being "coy" about it. Her diaries later revealed that she had always loved women. Well, what was going on with the anti-gay NYC clique? In a footnote, for Bram wouldnt put this in the main text, he has the audacity to ask this untouchable question (and risk being blacklisted by editors). He suggests it was a question of turf. "Jewish writers had broken into American intellectual life after the war. They were not ready to share their importance with the next rising minority group."Bram also discusses relationships and the absence of monogamy in many gay relationships among writers in his book. These couples, he goes on, had to invent their own rules -- and their rules were more flexible and realistic than those handed down by centuries of het marriage. They further knew that, for men at least, sex was often just sex and had nothing to do with "love." Gays had to break with church and society notions in order to live their own lives.The last section deals with writers like Edmund White, Tony Kushner, Larry Kramer, Armistead Maupin, and here, I feel, Bram is too generous. (He probably shares cocktails w most of 'em). This group has a certain, at times, noisy popularity but not one has the talent - or genius - or even the "personality" of the post war writers. I submit that in a few years they'll be gathering dust. Still, as he stresses, his survey of writers (and no survey can please everyone) opened the imaginations of both gays and hets. With irony and restraint, Bram opens your own imagination.

  • Ivan
    2019-05-06 02:56

    The first two thirds are part because Bram gives the history of fascinating people such as Christopher Isherwood, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin and Edward Albee. Included here are detailed portraits of the artists along with a deft analysis of their most representative works.I found myself completely enthralled despite the fact that I am intimately familiar with much of the history and anecdotes collected here. Indeed, this is a great book for anyone who wants to increase their knowledge of these great gay writers but isn’t necessarily interested in reading any of the many exhaustive biographies available. The writers covered in the first two thirds truly changed America; their works have become an indelible part of our history and culture. [I do wish Bram would have included a few ladies; certainly a chapter could have been dedicated to Gertrude Stein, Lorraine Hansberry, Patricia Highsmith, Carson McCullers, Alice Walker, Rita Mae Brown, et al.] Armistead Maupin and “Tales of the City” are discussed at length, and Mart Crowley ’s play “Boys in the Band,” deservedly gets a thorough going over. These works are beloved to gay men of a certain age. Novels by Peter Cameron, Stephen McCauley and Michael Cunningham are mentioned to varying degrees. The author writes compellingly about the AIDS epidemic and the poetry and prose written in response to the disease. Long passages are dedicated to the brilliant dramas “Angels in America ” and “The Normal Heart,” though he ignores the musicals "Falsettos" or "Rent," which also dealt with the plague. As interesting as these topics are, there is no denying that the last third is not nearly as interesting or focused as the first two.Bram overreaches when he tries to place contemporary writers Edmund White and Andrew Holleran in the same arena as the aforementioned giants. Though enormously gifted writers, White and Holleran have never achieved much notoriety, popularity or acceptance outside of the gay community. Neither has produced a break out "hit" on the scale of “In Cold Blood,” “Myra Breckinridge,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” or more recent works like “The Hours” or John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” nor have their works been translated (to my knowledge) to other mediums such as theatre, television or film.The author also stumbles when talking of playwrights and drama by omitting Harvey Fierstein (his “Torch Song Trilogy” gave 1,222 performances on Broadway and was filmed in 1988), and making too little mention of Terrence McNally or Lanford Wilson, despite the fact that they produced plays and musicals with gay characters and themes that won awards, enjoyed long runs and were adapted for the screen. He talks about "drama" but again does not include such landmark musicals like "A Chorus Line," "La Cage aux Folles" or "Kiss of the Spider Woman."It seems I have more complaints than praise. Not so. This book is so good I wanted more, and at the same time I wanted it to be more.

  • Chris
    2019-04-18 22:00

    With Christopher Bram’s new book Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America we have the first history of the influence of gay writers of literary fiction, plays, and poetry on the evolution of American culture from 1945-2000. Bram is an accomplished author of nine novels, many gay-themed, one of which was adapted into the movie Gods and Monsters. He teaches at New York University.There are certainly many other books dealing with the gay literary heritage. Most interesting are Unlimited Embrace: A Canon of Gay Fiction, 1945-1995 by Reed Woodhouse, Playing the Game by Roger Austen, A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods, and Bram’s own Mapping the Territory: Selected Nonfiction, in which he includes several essays on gay fiction. These all cover the literary elements of the works, and their places relative to other literature, along with deep criticism. However, none consider the works’ larger social and cultural contexts.In Eminent Outlaws, Bram does just that, along with enough literary analysis, plot outlining and criticism to support the history. He also tells the complicated interconnected lives of these authors, some of whom knew each other sexually, and includes many personal details.So why is it important to tell this story? After all, book publishing is undergoing titanic shifts which, it could be argued, are rendering literature no longer culturally important. Bram claims that gay literature “played a huge role in the making of modern life.” And that “good art can lay groundwork for social change.” This is the challenge the author set for himself with this book: to define the role gay literature had in this change. Along the way, he had to tell a good story, recommend some key books, and leave his readers feeling like they are part of something important in serious culture, not just an “alternate” or even “deviant” sexuality.It should be noted that Bram deliberately does not include lesbian writers. Their inclusion is certainly necessary for a full accounting of the cultural changes in the period covered, but Bram claims, rightly I think, that he ”needed to simplify an already complicated story. Also, lesbian literature has its own dynamic and history. It needs its own historian.” I accept that explanation, although while reading the book I was often aware of the missing story.Of course, gay literature can be traced back to the Greeks, but American culture began first to register the influence of gay writers just after World War II. Prior to that, a few writers did produce work of lasting value and recognizable homosexual content, but they didn’t arguably change society as a result. Bram identifies WW II as the turning point. He argues that large numbers of soldiers “were thrown together” during the war and had the chance to experience same-sex relations, or at least the possibly of such, which they hadn’t had back home before the war. “Men who liked men and women who liked women learned that they were far from alone.”More importantly for the development of gay literature, “when they returned home…they no longer thought of themselves as solitary freaks.” This was also a time of lessening of censorship in the press resulting from several key court cases. After all, “military service had accustomed middle-class men to words and names more expressive than what they’d grown up with.”Heterosexual readers reacted, at first, with surprise that these authors had the confidence to write about homosexuality openly. There was a brief period when it seemed “people were suddenly talking about homosexuality”: so much so that “they talked about it enough that it became demonized all over again.” By 1960, the backlash was strong enough that few gay novels were published once again. Many writers turned to Hollywood and wrote for television and created movie scripts. Gore Vidal entered politics, briefly, and ran for Congress in 1960 where humorously “the press described him only as a bachelor who knew many movie stars.” That kind of restraint seems impossible today.The 1960s began with continuing critical attacks on homosexuality and gay writers, but several new authors appeared, triggering additional backlash among critics, particularly in the theatre. In 1964, Christopher Isherwood published A Single Man. Here Isherwood “gives the world a fully realized gay man and makes him ordinary” and “he makes homosexuality more acceptable by making George [the main character] single.” Nevertheless, there were plenty of savage critics: “It is a measure of Mr. Isherwood’s brilliance as a writer, of his remarkable skill in presenting people, places, and moods, that one continues to read despite a growing aversion, despite the increasingly nauseating reek of homosexuality." Still, Bram offers the somewhat evolutionary opinion that the novel “has endured, like an early mammal surrounded by dinosaurs.”Tensions were building in society on two fronts outside of literary culture: increasing openness in sexuality, and the escalation of a major war in Southeast Asia. Gay writers contributed on both these fronts, more obviously with sexuality, but also surprisingly about the Vietnam War. Gore Vidal, who had stopped writing gay themed novels by 1960, and tried unsuccessfully to enter politics, instead turned his “excess intellect” toward the writing of essays, many of which were political. By 1968, his reputation had grown such that he was invited to appear in a live televised debate at the Chicago Democratic national convention. Appearing opposite him was the arch-conservative William F. Buckley. Never before had a gay man had such public exposure. As Bram states, if these homosexuals could appear on television, “then homosexuality was not the total taboo that society claimed it to be.”This is the period the teenaged Bram began witnessing the events and influences of gay culture around him. The book comes to life as he enters the timeline, and he was present at many of the events mentioned. He quite righty excludes his own life and work from this history, but I would have appreciated an appendix with this information.But all was not well for gays – not yet. The Stonewall “riots” happened in June 1969, with the participants emboldened at least in part by the increased visibility of gay writers and their works. “Literature is about ambiguity, mixed emotions, and guilty pleasures. Politics is about ideals and action.” This was a significant milestone, but surprisingly limited at the time. It became more important as a symbol driving action in the 1970s and beyond.Prior to Stonewall, gay literary culture existed as part of mainstream culture, sometimes nearly fully embraced, more often simply reluctantly acknowledged, but frequently enough savagely criticized. With Stonewall, many gay men realized that they had the numbers and the power to create a separate culture, one that would exist apart from the mainstream. Crucial to this was the ability to find others like them, others to care for them and defend them.In the literary world, the magazine Gay Sunshine began publishing in 1970 long frank conversations with many of the most important gay writers. Bram believes these marked “the rise of a gay literary world that was parallel yet separate from the culture at large. Mainstream readers didn’t visit this world, only other gay people. It was not that straight people were excluded, however; they just weren’t interested.” Bram is absolutely right in suggesting that this split occurred and that it was the most important single shift in the gay literary landscape up to this point. “A mix of market and community was coming together, creating an audience for the books and plays of the next thirty years.”The writers supplying this market were the veterans, most of whom were reaching the end of their creative periods, as well as new writers, although the old guard still managed to produce a few wonderful surprises. For example, Christopher and His Kind by Isherwood, in which we read the alluring, almost immortal line: “For Christopher, Berlin meant Boys.” This is essentially his frank coming-out book, written at the age of 72, and the beginning of his public activism.The second major shift in the 1970s was the advent of the writers Larry Kramer, Andrew Halloran, Edmund White, and Armistead Maupin. In 1978 these four produced an almost miraculous set of books in the same year: Faggots, Dancer from the Dance, A Boy’s Own Story, and Tales of the City. This solidified the literary shift that began when gay literature split from the mainstream in 1970. Up until 1978, Gore Vidal was the central figure in gay literature; after 1978 Edmund White assumed this role. “Both lived for many years in Europe; both are fond of hustlers. Yet while Vidal writes best about power, politics, and history, White’s strengths are sex, art, and…love.”One of the high points of gay literature was reached in 1980: the forming of the Violet Quill club by Ed White consisting of several accomplished writers each who had produced significant work, or were about to do so. And the mainstream had finally accepted one or two gay novels as a real works of literature. Bram believes that “culture had changed and critics were finally ready to treat gay fiction as the equal of straight fiction.” He probably implicitly includes the condition “if forced to”. There were still plenty of critics ready to respond negatively.The decade began with renewed promise supported by the new market. “Homosexuality was no longer about lies and guilt, secrets and suicide, but about fun and games, freedom and joy." Gay culture and life had finally begun to achieve some acceptance and gay writers responded. But it didn’t last long; it came crashing down – hard. The coming of AIDS in 1981 demonized homosexuality all over again.Gay writers reacted and produced a large quantity of work encompassing all aspects of the disease: its cause, life cycle, political response, love, death, survivors, even humor. Viewed from thirty years later, the scope and subject matter, and sheer volume, is essentially indistinguishable from what would have been produced during and after a major war. Many prominent gay writers died from the disease, more died after producing one enduring work or before writing anything.By 1990 there was the feeling of ruined literary promise, but what was left was redirected, refocused. Bram does admirably try to inject some life into the story, and uses Charles Ludlam’s comedic plays as evidence that all was not entirely black in the 1980s. I respect that effort, but compared with the other chapters in this history, these years are unalterably grim.The Republicans were still in power. The AIDS epidemic had deepened. Many more gay books and plays were being written, but there was a sense of something coming, something big. And it did: Tony Kushner’s epic two-part, eight-hour play Angels in America. It was phenomenally successful, won prizes, and toured the whole country. It was critically successful and built a significant bridge from the gay literary world to the mainstream.Gay novels were appearing in record numbers but Bram, at this point, wisely does not attempt to survey them. He chooses instead to focus on the continuing careers of the established authors and a few of the key new ones. There’s a hilarious anecdote from Michael Cunningham about his 1998 book The Hours: “he couldn’t help noticing that as soon as he wrote a novel without a blowjob, they gave him the Pulitzer Prize”.His attention then shifts to what was happening to literary culture in general. By the late 1990s, "books and plays were not the only game in town anymore. There were now movies and even TV shows to compete against.” A few years later, Edmund White claimed gay fiction was "killed off by Will and Grace." Bram feels that this had become the story. But I believe this was an early symptom of what was to happen with all literature just a few years later. The history of gay literature has now merged back into the mainstream to fight for the future of literature itself.Bram is brilliant in the last two chapters, and this is most moving part of book. He moves away from history to the meaning and value of gay literature. This is essentially one of the stories themselves which can “put us into other skins, enabling us to experience things we might not feel otherwise: sorrow, joy, lust, and love" and also “how it feels to be oppressed.” Thus “history” becomes “storytelling” in his mind:“We should not be surprised that so much of the gay revolution was accomplished through storytelling. It played a larger role for us than it did for the civil rights movement or even the women’s movement. And why not? A disproportionate number of stories are love stories – and what is homosexuality but a special narrative of love?”If they accomplished nothing else, these stories told the gay readership that “You are different, but you are not alone.” This is a poignant thought for all gay readers, and it is fact where the story started back in the late 1940s.But it is a stretch to assume a causal link between these gay literary works with their devoted readers and the mainstream, of which the great majority are not gay. In support, Bram does list sales figures for books and length of play runs, each increasing into to the late 1990s and the new millennium, but he assumes that the glow of these successes somehow affected the masses and more importantly directly changed public policy. The ties of the theme of love and inclusion to societal change are not made clear and seem too easy.What we have seen in the last few years in contrast is that direct public action is causing clear change now. Still, Bram demonstrates clearly that gay writers did change America in the fifty years after WW II, even if he does not present the sociological or psychological mechanics of this change. Ultimately this is a deeply satisfying book, the only one that tells this story with obvious knowledge, a proper distance, enviable creative skill, and with deep empathy for the cause. We can only hope that the influence of gay writers like Bram himself can remain strong even as the publishing industry and, more importantly, their readership, undergo dramatic change.

  • Hadrian
    2019-04-29 22:35

    This is a crafted and sweeping literary theory, with the thesis that gay authors/playwrights helped set the stage for the gay liberation of the late 20th century. Although might dispute the central tenets of this thesis, the biographical discussion of these novelists and their work is worthy enough reason to start reading.This chapter of history starts in 1945 and continues to the present. It starts with Vidal and Capote and Isherwood and Baldwin and moves slowly and inexorably to the present day.The author, a gay writer himself, offers a fine perspective, and allows personal interviews and archives, as well as literary analysis, to define the story. It says something about the personal bravery of these authors, to say and think and act on what they did, especially in the 40s and 50s. Even the 1960s, which we like to think of as tolerant, was still filled with angry slurs and dismissive reviews. Of course, the author isn't writing biographies of saints. He details the feuds and botched novels and inner demons of the writers portrayed here, but their best qualities are shown as well. Most often it's bravery.The big gap is that there aren't any lesbians here - the author confesses as much in the introduction (they have their own grand story to tell, and the volume would easily triple in size), and I'd like to get ahold of a companion volume someday.A good history of American letters, and of the colorful cast who wrote them.

  • Steve Turtell
    2019-05-11 02:41

    This is a wonderful survey of gay lit (or a significant portion of it--some important names are left out, including Harvey Fierstein--in fiction, poetry and drama since WWII. As anyone who is familiar with Bram's fiction and criticism already knows, he is a first-rate writer and his analyses of both the literary and social importance of Isherwood, Williams, Capote, Baldwin, Vidal, White et al are sharp and suggestive. I have my own theory about the nearly life-long quarrel of Capote and Vidal. I think each of them had what the other lacked in order to be what they would both have loved to be: the American Proust. Capote had the literary style, Vidal had the literary brains. They couldn't forgive each other for that. The one positive thing I remember Capote ever saying about Vidal's fiction was that it lacked style, "but Myra, Myra!"

  • Clifton
    2019-05-05 03:51

    Eminent Outlaws is an excellent critical survey of the most important gay male American writers from 1948 to 2000, for those who've read virtually all these writers (as have I) and for those only vaguely familiar with them. I wish he had included more writers, for example, the poet, Edward Field, and the playwright/actor, Harvey Fierstein, and I would have liked something on the memoir as a gay genre. He does cover Isherwood's memoir, Christopher and His Kind, but there's no discussion of the AIDS memoirs of, for example, Paul Monette and Mark Doty. However, he doesn't intend to be all-inclusive, and I thoroughly enjoyed this highly readable book, even on the very few occasions when I didn't agree with Bram. This book really is a must-read.

  • Jim Coughenour
    2019-05-02 03:50

    Christopher Bram's new book falls somewhere between gossip and literary history. It's an eminently readable account of a handful of gay writers who, if they didn't change America, definitely impressed two or three generations of gay readers. I can still remember the excitement of discovering Glad Day Bookstore in Boston in the late 1970s; and in the early 80s the thrill of visiting Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago every few days to see what was new and (I hoped) shocking. Now, in 2012, the landmark gay bookstore in San Francisco has disappeared; it simply became irrelevant. Assimilation has its costs, one of which is indifference. I can't remember the last time I sought out a "gay fiction" section in any bookstore.Both the strength and weakness of Bram's history is its concentration on a few literary lions – Vidal, Baldwin, Capote, Isherwood, White, Holleran, Kramer, Maupin and Kushner. Compared to even dated studies like Gregory Wood's A History of Gay Literature (1999), Eminent Outlaws is thin stuff. Actual outlaw writers (at random: James Purdy, Dennis Cooper) are completely ignored at the expense of dull expositions of White's "trilogy and a half" or the overstuffed outbursts of Angels in America or – unforgivably – anything by Larry Kramer. The gossip is mostly old hat. Bram's judgments are generous and gentle, as you'd expect of the author of the novel that became Gods and Monsters.I finished the book with a sense of anticlimax. Had any of these books really mattered? Well, yes, at least when they appeared – and that's enough to ask of any writer.

  • Michael Armijo
    2019-05-12 00:36

    I've been reading this bit by bit and finally finished it last night, July 27, 2012. I didn't want it to end as I found the historical flow fascinating. If I were teaching a class on LITERATURE I would be sure this would be required reading for my students. It's about the influence of prominent gay writers who changed America. I would have to include Author of this book, Christopher Bram, as one of them.One message it relays to ALL writers is to 'write what you know'. There"s a line in the Introduction that says it all: 'Good art can lay the groundwork for social change. Ernest Hemingway, of all people, indicated why when he said a writer must learn to recognize "what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel and had been taught to feel."I say 'dive-in' and read insights here on Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, James Baldwin, Christopher Isherwood, Allen Ginsberg, Edward Albee, Edmund White, Amistead Maupin, Mark Crowley and Tony Kushner (to name a few).

  • Matthew
    2019-05-04 03:50

    Wow! It's been... some time since I couldn't put down a work of literary non-fiction. I'm as taken by Bram's first-person opinions as I am his well-researched looks into Williams/Isherwood/Capote/Vidal/Baldwin through Tony Kushner, a proto-JT LeRoy whose infamy was a few years before my time, and beyond. (I didn't realize, for instance, that Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You was written by someone known outside of YA circles...)

  • Nora
    2019-04-26 01:42

    Eminent Outlaws is one juicy anecdote after another that builds up into a sweeping history. I found this book almost gossipy at times, yet incredibly thought-provoking. It reminded me of Randy Shilts' historical "non-fiction novels," except this one is about famous men, not regular people. This book is only about gay male writers, so it doesn't cover any lesbian or gender non-conforming writers. The author Christopher Bram explains that he needed to narrow the scope, because it was already a big topic, and that lesbian literature deserves its own historian. Fair enough, and Bram mentions writers like Audre Lord, M.E. Kerr, Susan Sontag, and Ann Bannon when they enter his story. Eminent Outlaws is also focused solely on literary fiction, poetry, and plays. I was hoping to hear about science fiction legend Samuel R. Delany, and he's mentioned briefly. But Bram didn't try to make his book all things for all people; he stuck to what he is clearly very passionate and knowledgeable about. Each chapter focuses mostly on one particular writer, but includes material about other writers that keeps the narrative colorful, connected, and flowing. You get to hear about Gore Vidal throughout the entire book because he's so long-lived. The book is divided into decades. My favorite parts were the Fifties and Sixties. It was such a different time, with such virulent homophobia. Reading about Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, and Tennessee Williams especially, I got such a sense of how corrosive and damaging prejudice and self-hatred are, not just to human beings but also to writing. These guys were so talented and yet a lot of what they wrote was so wacko (from my modern-day viewpoint, which is the only one I have.) A lot of this early work sounds interesting historically, but the last thing I want to read is some story about a tortured, unhappy queer person who comes to a bad end (like being eaten by cannibals.) Apparently Christopher Isherwood was the first writer to have non-tragic gay characters who are happy, in The World In The Evening. One thing that was really striking was that these fellas had such bad shrinks and literary agents! Tennessee Williams' therapist told him to stop having sex with men; James Baldwin's agent told him to burn Giovanni's Room. The only instance of good advice was when Allen Ginsberg, still a nobody, saw a dollar-a-session therapist in Berkeley who told him he should go ahead and live with the guy he liked if he wanted and he didn't have to live as a heterosexual. "You're a nice person; there's always people who will like you," he said. Ginsberg ended up staying with the guy he liked until the end of his life forty years later.Another thing that I can't stop thinking about is the description of how the magazine Christopher Street opened in 1976, creating a space for a new generation of gay writers. The editors imagined that gay writers would have desks stuffed with unpublished gay-themed work that they could now send to Christopher Street. But in fact all the submissions were newly-written. This makes so much sense to me. Writers aren't morons. Generally we don't write for magazines that don't exist. And that makes me think two things, 1) That is as true today as it ever was. What are the holes in our literature now? What is not getting written? What audiences don't get to read stories that reflect them? Because I'm a YA writer, the first thing that comes to mind is that there is no YA novel about a transgender character that is written by a writer who is transgender. Where are the YA editors who are not just open to transgender stories, but who will go down in history for recruiting and championing the Great American Transgender YA Novel? 2) But some writers ARE that crazy, to write for markets that the publishing industry does not believe exist. That's what all the Eminent Outlaws in this book did. Thanks, guys! Much appreciated. I do get a real sense of "standing on their shoulders."The section on the Eighties was a big downer, as you can imagine. It's tough to read about all these promising writers dying, or their friends and lovers dying. I was a little surprised at what a negative portrayal Larry Kramer got. Some of the things that he did that Bram described as "shooting himself in the foot" seemed pretty sensible to me (like leaving GMHC, which he had helped found, after not being invited to a meeting that he had made happen.) I also can't understand Bram's critique that Kramer criticized Mayor Koch too early and too often. Seriously? How could that even be possible? Larry Kramer clearly had a harsh, abrasive personality and gave unwarranted bad reviews to other writers. But he doesn't seem any worse in those departments than James Baldwin or Truman Capote, and they were described lovingly. I think maybe it's because unpleasant literary pioneers are cast in a warm glow of forgiveness once they are dead, and their struggles are not our struggles so we can't be so judgmental. Whereas Larry Kramer is a contemporary figure and, I dunno, maybe Bram has seen him at a party being a jerk and he just can't stand the guy. My favorite part of the Eighties section, and not just because it was peppy and upbeat, was the part about Charles Ludlam. I saw Charles Ludlam as Camille and I saw The Mystery of Irma Vep, and as funny as the parts Bram quotes are, they were even more funny in real life. Those plays were probably the funniest things I have ever seen, so it was a pleasure to read about them.I learned a lot from this book, like who the Publishing Triangle's Ferro-Grumley awards are named after. (I always figured it was some guy named Ferro-Grumley, but no.) And I learned about a bunch of writers I had never heard of, like Matt Crowley, Melvin Dixon, and Frank O'Hara (I had kind of vaguely heard of him, but had him mixed up in my head with both John O'Hara and Frank O'Connor.) And Eminent Outlaws has made me want to read or re-read some of the novels mentioned in it. I have to say that my least favorite aspect was Bram's literary evaluations, comments like that Gore Vidal was smarter than Tennessee Williams, or what James Baldwin's worst novel was. But I think that's the price you pay to read literary history. If you've never heard of all these people and you think you'd find this book boring, I really doubt it. I got Eminent Outlaws out of the library at the recommendation of my high school art teacher/Facebook friend. It looked so long and dull that I left it unread and kept renewing it. Only when I could renew it no longer and it was coming due did I crack it open, promising to read at least fifty pages before I gave up. Twenty pages and I was totally sucked in. It's seriously dynamite. Famous people wander in and out of the book, in little incidents like JFK getting cruised, Ian McKellen deciding to come out, Jerome Robbins dancing with Lauren Bacall, Lincoln Kirstein coming up with the title "Breakfast at Tiffany's." I don't have the expertise to judge, but it sure seemed like a solidly-researched, factually-accurate book to me. I think it's a work for the ages.

  • Terry
    2019-05-11 23:59

    Excellent--good writing and insights. Eminent Outlaws is about the gay authors of the last half of the 20th Century-plus a bit, roughly 1945-2010, and what they contributed to the gay liberation movement, which, as it turns out, is arguably quite a lot. Could we have had Harvey Milk without Gore Vidal and James Baldwin? Truman Capote? Christopher Isherwood? Tennessee Williams? They weren't all "out" or at least not early in their careers when it was scary and dangerous, but they all edged us further towards liberation by telling us stories about people who were/are like us and telling us we were not alone. I was a little surprised as I read Eminent Outlaws that I've read all of these authors, if not all of their works. It's hard to imagine the gay political movement without these literary forebears. And in telling their stories, Christopher Bram (a novelist himself and quite a good writer) is also telling the story of gay liberation. "The literature," he writes, "was an agent of change," pointing out that only in the written word (not television or movies and rarely on stage) could gay people tell their stories. And in the early days -- as in Gore Vidal's "The City and the Pillar" even this was daring and dangerous. But they did tell their stories and gay people read them and created a market for their work and the work of others. And gradually gay authors came further out and their stories began to be told on stage and in film, and now ubiquitously on TV, too. But it started with the written word and this handful of authors who bravely told their stories and inspired -- or reflected -- a movement. The latter chapters of the book are less moving, engaging and interesting, partly because I don't like the predominant authors much (Edmund White, Larry Kramer) and because AIDS made for a lot of sad stories. But Bram includes Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City), rightly, as an influential author at this time (and one who was not gloomy), although I don't think he ranks with Vidal, Capote, Baldwin, Isherwood or Williams. Eminent Outlaws is an amazing story, well told but less known than it should be.

  • K.M. Soehnlein
    2019-05-06 20:46

    Christopher Bram enthusiastically tells the story of how gay literature preceded, instigated and developed alongside the gay political movement in the 20th century. It’s a story that needs to be told—before there were out gay pop stars, TV celebrities and politicians, there were gay writers telling honest and frank stories of lives that most of the country (including the “enlightened” literary establishment) didn’t bother to understand. His prose style is conversational (sometimes a little too casual for my taste) and includes with plenty of juicy anecdotes, lots of gossip and a dose of literary analysis. Read this book if you’re interested in the writers it profiles, in literature in general or in gay politics as it moved toward the mainstream.Bram focuses on a handful of writers in depth, from after WWII (Gore Vidal and Truman Capote) through to today (Tony Kushner, Larry Kramer, Armistead Maupin). The omissions are notable: no women, no “pulp” and bestseller fiction, a New York-centric mindset and scant mention of important writers like John Rechy and James Purdy. Full length biographies and critical studies of many of these writers already exist; if you’re interested in how Allen Ginsberg came to compose Howl or how James Baldwin moved from unknown expatriate writer to the cover of Time magazine, you can find more in-depth sources elsewhere. But read Bram’s book for its excellent moments of insight. He makes a strong argument for how the success of Boys in the Band probably had far more influence on Stonewall than the death of Judy Garland supposedly did. … He details the outrageously homophobic critical response to the early plays of Edward Albee (suggesting by inference why Albee then notoriously took total control over the presentation of his work). … He provides the first in-depth look at the career of Edmund White, connecting the dots between the various auto-fictions and memoirs White has penned about his life. … And he gives the wonderful Armistead Maupin his props, placing Tales of the City once and (one hopes) for all into the gay literary pantheon.

  • Morgan
    2019-04-29 20:44

    Despite copping out of writing about both gay and lesbian writers in his introduction (Although in Bram’s defense, he did admit to it, and he is right: Lesbian literature needs its own historian), Eminent Outlaws is a witty, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes whirlwind wild-ride through the lives of several key gay writers from the late 1940’s to the late 90’s, including characters (and I do mean characters) such as: Gore Vidal, Allen Ginsburg, Tennessee Williams, James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Christopher Isherwood, Edmund White, Armisted Maupin, Larry Kramer, James Merrill, and Andrew Holleran.The book’s narrative is told mostly in chronological order, divided into decades, then into chapters that tell the stories of these writers, weaving their love lives, their literary lives, and their public lives, and how these lives crossed, sometimes volatilely. My favorite part of Bram’s writing is the way he makes the characters and the scenes of his history come alive: Vidal’s colorful and controversial appearances as a political correspondent, Maupin and Anderson’s exploration of the spirit world with an Ouija board, and Allen Ginsberg’s infamous obscenity trial. A mix of story-telling and fact goes into any good non-fiction book, but Bram does so with not only the craft of a wonderful writer, but with the aim of a conscientious queer writer who wants to show us that we aren’t—and have never been—alone...

  • Jon Wilson
    2019-04-23 22:50

    I found this to be a very accessible and informative read (two traits that don't necessarily coincide). Personally, I would have liked more depth earlier on (re Vidal esp.) rather than the later works (Angels in America, etc.), undoubtedly because the latter works are more familiar to me.I do wonder about those neglected entirely (John Fox anyone? He wrote one of my favorite books!) and those (Joseph Hansen!) mentioned only in passing. Again, a personal quibble. I've read far more Hansen than any of the other writers mentioned in the book and assume he was something of an outlaw.I suppose Bram wanted to concentrate on the "important" writers. Unfortunately, the more "mainstream" a gay writer was (Vidal, Williams, Capote and Baldwin), the more, it seems to me, they capitulated to the system. Which makes them somewhat less outlaws, no?

  • David Claudon
    2019-05-03 21:41

    Bram covers many of the important "mainstream" white gay writers from the 1940s to the present day (although John Rechy of City of Night is surprisingly missing, as are a few others). Among the writers he concentrates on are names you might recognize: Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Allen Gingsberg, Tennessee Williams, Christopher Isherwood, James Merrill, Armistead Maupin, Edmund White, Larry Kramer, and Tony Kushner. While giving a history of these "Eminent Outlaws," he also traces the history of the gay movement through 80 years of social history. Along the way, Bram makes the history an interesting read.

  • Stephen Soucy
    2019-05-12 20:55

    The first 2/3's of Eminent Outlaws was great. Clear writing, detailed research, excellent presentation. Last 1/3 felt rushed, glossed-over. Disappointing finish to a book that deserved to be as flawless as possible.Best part of my reading this was that it turned me on to The Boys in the Band. I had seen the film when I was 21 or so, but Bram's work made me rush out to read Crowley's play, watch the film (William Friedkin - director), and immerse myself in a story that is still incredibly powerful and relevant today.

  • Tosh
    2019-04-27 03:33

    A decent survey of Gay authors from mid 50's till now. No uber-cult authors at all, just basically the one's that any hardcore contemporary reader will know. But for those who don't know, this is a good introduction to that world. And again, it is an introduction in that word's strictest sense. In many ways its a tad conservative (for my taste) but then again, there may not be a lot of books on this subject matter for the general reader.

  • Greg
    2019-05-17 19:52

    Christopher Bram's book was truly inspiring and noteworthy. The collection of gay writers was incredible and well used throughout the book. Especially, Men of Color---James Baldwin was treated with dignity and respect without conceit. What a great reference guide to Queer Literature...every young gay/lesbian should read.

  • Claude Peck
    2019-05-17 00:51

    I reviewed this book for Star Tribune. Here's the link. I interviewed Christopher Bram about the book for Rain Taxi, here:

  • Roof Beam Reader (Adam)
    2019-04-28 02:50

    I've read about 15 histories/non-fiction texts so far this year, and this is absolutely one of the best. Wonderful portrait of gay American literature from 1950-2008.

  • Taylor P
    2019-04-22 23:45

    A lively literary history, Eminent Outlaws provided fascinating context for the journey through gay literature I've steadily undertaken over the last several years. Its well-balanced mix of straightforward biography, dishy gossip, cultural trends, thematics, and the evolving American sociopolitical landscape from the 1950s to the present day serves as an excellent field guide to writers like Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Christopher Isherwood, Gore Vidal, Armistead Maupin, and Edmund White and their works, both the classics and the failures. Furthermore, these perspectives are helpfully transmitted by Christopher Bram, himself a talented gay writer. The book is not without its flaws: I wish the post-'80s portion of the text were as fleshed out and thoughtful as the first few sections of the book, and I also found certain segments repetitive, but on the whole, it succeeds wonderfully at giving the reader a clear wide-angle shot of the most well known LGBT writers and their novels, poems, and plays. I'm grateful to Bram for reminding me that both the seeds and the sowers of fictions can be as entertaining and moving and beautiful as the stories they sprout.

  • Flungoutofspace
    2019-05-14 00:44

    A book that is essentially an overview of gay male literary history from the 1940s to the 2000s is always going to have a hard time doing justice to its various subjects. Bram does a decent job in covering the most "famous" writers, but I found it a bit odd how several pages would be devoted to one work by one writer, and then several quick summaries of other authors and their works would follow. I almost feel it should have been either/or: extensive analysis/review of e.g. the careers of Vidal/Williams/Capote OR just a lot more subjects that all get briefer but similar biographical treatment.That being said, "Eminent Outlaws" is a very readable, highly interesting work that gave me lots of new books and writers to explore, and anyone with an interest in gay literary history should definitely check it out.

  • Paul Heneghan
    2019-05-11 02:34

    An extraordinary accomplishment, Christopher Bram's remarkable telling of the arrival of the four young lions -- Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and James Baldwin -- in the post-war uptight America, careens through the ensuing years decade by decade, storied myths and shattered gossips abounding, up to the present day, defining a written path of crucial gay history never before put to paper.

  • Sarah
    2019-05-06 20:59

    A beautiful connection to 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and this century history. Warmly written, honest and mildly gossipy (it's close history). I recommend for all. I recommend for queers, especially young'uns who don't know jack about the shoulders they stand on. This history is about gay (male) writers and doesn't stray. I find no fault with that (and I can be really angry when women are left out). Made sense here, especially with the plague and its devastation. Six stars.

  • Brian Bixler
    2019-05-09 23:59

    Christopher Bram's "Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America" (Hachette Book Group) may well be the most important book published in 2012; not just for gay readers, but for mainstream Americans who will learn about literary pioneers who withstood having their work unfairly criticised, their careers jeopardized and their reputations ruined for the sake of pursuing their art. Starting in the 1950s, Bram chronicles how gay male authors had the courage to broach the subject of homosexuality in their works at a time when acts of love between two men were still considered a crime in almost every American state. Sending something with a gay theme through the U.S. mail could have gotten someone arrested. Publishers were reluctant to market any book about gay relationships for fear of being dragged into court for obscenity. And, words like "deviant," "pervert," "faggot" and "queer" were mostly used to describe homosexuals. Gayness was seen as something to be cured; it was still considered a mental illness by the psychiatric profession.Gay men of a certain age may remember going to a public library as a teenager or young man to find books with characters that resonated with them and finding slim pickin's on the shelves. In fact, Bram points out that when the first gay bookstore opened in New York -- this was 1967, mind you -- the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop sold only 25 titles, which is a far cry from the countless books available today that are either written by GLBT authors or have GLBT characters. Bram does with literature what Vito Russo did with film in his excellent book/documentary "The Celluloid Closet." He traces the history of gay content in American books, beginning with the publication of Truman Capote's "Other Voices, Other Rooms," and Gore Vidal's "The City and the Pillar" in the late 1940s. The author selects ground-breaking novels, essays, plays, screenplays and other forms of literature written by gay men and provides back stories, including personal biographical information about the writers, dollops of gossip, critiques of their work at the time and his own contemporary critiques of many that are now considered classics. His book evokes anger at the way these works were attacked by peers simply because they were written by gay men or included gay themes. Homophobic reviewers lashed out at them, even as the public accepted masterpieces by such writers as Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee. Even as late as 1971, when E. M Forester's "Maurice" (written in 1913) was published posthumously because he was afraid it would ruin his legacy if printed while he was alive, the dead author still didn't escape the pejorative judgment of straight writers. "They were disappointed to learn their hero was a homosexual or they used the fact to claim he'd never been a major writer anyway," Bram writes about Forester's critics of the love story between two men.In many ways, Bram tries to correct the malevolent treatment of these authors (most notably by heterosexual writers like Philip Roth, Stanley Kauffmann and William F. Buckley) with his own honest reviews of their works. He points out the pitfalls of their fiction as well as elevating it with high praise when it is deserved. Moreover, he gives interesting insight to their lives at the time their various works were published, concentrating on their friendships, relationships, rivalries, spirituality and other influences. Thus, the reader learns more about great men of letters like James Baldwin, Christopher Isherwood, Allen Ginsberg, W. H. Auden, Mart Crowley, Frank O'Hara and James Merrill, as well as post-Stonewall successors such as Armistead Maupin, Edmund White and Andrew Holleran. Even into the late '70s, when singer Anita Bryant led a Save Our Children crusade against gays, writers still put themselves and their careers at risk by acknowledging their sexual orientation. "Most straight people, and many gay people, especially those who came of age more recently, don't understand how momentous and difficult coming out was to men and women of this generation," Bram writes.In the '80s, when writers such as Larry Kramer and Tony Kushner began reacting to the AIDS crisis, the disease seemed to make it permissible, once again, to demonize gay writers. According to Bram, critic John Simon from New York magazine was overheard to say, "Don't you sometimes wish that all the faggots in the theater...would get AIDS and die and we'd be rid of them, and we could go on from there." Himself a successful, contemporary, gay author, Bram ("The Father of Frankenstein," "The Notorious Dr. August: His Real Life and Crimes") is the perfect writer to offer context to the lives and works of the masters who paved the way for him. Young gay men should read this book to understand what these artists endured so that future generations could have the right to express themselves freely; and older gay men should read it to gain a new perspective with which to reread some of their favorite novels, plays and poems, as well as to discover new titles to add to their "must read" lists.

  • Caroline Mcphail-Lambert
    2019-04-30 03:35

    Very readable historical review of American Gay Writers. I learned much, and I look forward to exploring some of these writers.

  • Gerhard
    2019-05-20 02:49

    What makes this history of gay literature so effective is Christopher Bram’s cogent and effective commentary on books, people and events. At the beginning he says he excluded his own oeuvre as this would have been self-serving; this made me wonder if he simply balked at turning his kiss-and-tell approach on his own role in this narrative. However, it was only towards the end that I realised, and appreciated, what Bram has done: he is the proverbial Greek chorus, elucidating, championing, lambasting, praising (and even excoriating).He writes in the Acknowledgements:Without being aware of it, I spent much of my life preparing to write this book. I came of age during a remarkable period of American history – the Sixties and Seventies – reading many of the novels, poems, and plays discussed here when they first came out.The book is divided into five parts: the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s and after. In each part, Bram examines the major writers and works of the time period, together with an incisive analysis of the cultural context. However, the parts are not discontinuous, with Bram telling a seamless story, with characters moving into the wings when new ones take the stage, and then reappearing when their own stories intersect with those of others.This makes for a surprisingly incestuous and ribald narrative, as many of the writers and personalities here were either involved with each other romantically and/or professionally, or were engaged in protracted intrigues, catfights, literary and/or personal feuds (this is particularly true of the 1950s to 1960s, when giants like Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and James Baldwin bestrode the literary landscape). Bram is not afraid to step into the fray with his own (often droll and acerbic) observations.He writes:This is not an all-inclusive, definitive literary history. I do not include everyone of value or importance. Nor am I putting together a canon of must-read writers. I am writing a large-scale cultural narrative, and I include chiefly those authors who help me tell that story – and who offer the liveliest tales.Bram also adds: “The story of these men has never been told as a single narrative before, which is surprising.” And what a story it is, chockablock with epiphanies and tragedies, comedy and melancholy, eroticism and anger. I was shocked at what the nascent gay community faced in the 1950s and 1960s in particular. (One has to bear in mind that homosexuality was only declassified as a psychological disorder in the US in 1973.)However, this is by no means a grim book. Bram humanises all the writers, playwrights and poets he describes, warts and all (some with more warts than others, of course), and places them in their socio-cultural context, as well as considering their overall role and status in the overall evolution of gay literature (even though Bram shies away from using the ‘c’ word, the aggregate effect here is to produce something of a gay canon, which is by no means a bad thing for new gay people to discover, or older ones to revisit).My only quibble is that the part dealing with the 1990s and beyond is the sketchiest section of a very full and nuanced book. Bram does touch briefly on the end of the gay midlist after 2008, and the uncertainty introduced by ebooks, but points to the plethora of small presses, blogs and independent publishers in the 2000s, and the quantity and quality of extraordinary LGBT literature that continues to be written, published and, most importantly, read.

  • Mike
    2019-05-06 03:36

    "You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read." -- James Baldwin. That quote, to me, sums up why gay men read fiction written about gay men's lives. Bram is not a literary scholar, but he is a passionate, attentive reader, and a writer whose fiction (from Surprising Myself, his first) I have always enjoyed following.In this non-fiction work he writes about the post-World War II gay writers in the US and the writers who followed them, up until the current day. Their writings changed our culture at large, how gay men perceive themselves and how they are perceived.The book opens with the troika of Gore Vidal, Truman Capote (near-contemporaries), and Tennessee Williams (slightly older, but only successful after the war). I read this book not long before Gore Vidal's death earlier this week, and it made me appreciate his achievements more. Oddly, Vidal, Capote, and Williams rarely wrote directly about gay men; but they were well-known to be "that way" at a time when people didn't discuss those things, so their work was read (or watched) through that lens. Bram's particularly good at discussing James Baldwin, who did include gay male characters in almost all his works -- though Baldwin lived primarily as an expatriate. He chooses to write about men only, explaining that women's fiction is a separate story, one he isn't qualified to tell; fair enough. I enjoyed that he includes drama and poetry right alongside fiction, and the discussions of Ginsberg and James Merrill are very good. (Since poetry has been less influential, he mentions but doesn't really discuss many other gay poets such as Ashbery, O'Hara, Howard, etc.) In drama the narrative goes from Mart Crowley through Larry Kramer to Charles Ludlam and Tony Kushner. Bram discusses Isherwood at length, who essentially Americanized himself, although he's somewhat tangential; he omits other English writers such as Hollinghurst.Once Bram's story enters the 80s, he's talking about writers whose books I read when they came out, hand-sold as a bookseller or sales rep: Edmund White, David Leavitt, Michael Cunningham. For that reason it's hard for me to have perspective on books such as Dancer from the Dance (Holleran) Faggots (Kramer) or Tales of the City (Maupin) -- three very different and influential books that came out in what Bram calls the 'annus mirabilis', 1978.I'm glad Bram champions some books I feel have been overlooked, such as Mark Merlis's An Arrows Flight, and I admired his perception on titles such as Nocturnes for the King of Naples. Of course you can't tell this story without addressing the enormous tsunami of AIDS, which ended so many careers prematurely, as well as being the subject everyone felt they needed to address, somehow. But there was also the good news, the Violet Quill group, new and influential magazines, editors, and publishing houses.Bram can't cover everything, so I have favorites he doesn't mention: James McCourt, Alex Jeffers, David Drake, Harlan Greene, Jim Grimsley, Christopher Coe, Anderson Ferrell, Joseph Hansen. But for each author he leaves out, there's another who his enthusiasm puts on my to-read or re-read list.Fluently written, full of little biographical touches that make it as compulsively readable as People magazine. Highly recommended.

  • Scott
    2019-05-11 01:56

    From my conversation with Christopher Bramm, over at the Brooklyn Rail:For more than 25 years, Chris Bram has made the vital flux of human relationships his great subject: from the recent novel Exiles in America and its subtle tracings of marriage dynamics and the specter of prejudice, to the political tensions of Marcos-era Philippines and U.S. diplomacy, in Almost History, to the urban grit and glitter of 1970s New York City, in his debut Surprising Myself. He is perhaps most famous for his novel Father of Frankenstein, which was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film, Gods and Monsters. It also happens that his books are about the gay experience. “Gay literature” has long had a tough time having to account for itself, if for no other reason than the general public’s reluctance to read past the first word of that phrase. Nevertheless, Bram is one of (gay) literature’s best; one writer in a long line of writers who have not only artfully mined the subtle complexities of love, but also challenged the stolid social orthodoxies surrounding it. His latest book Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America tells that story. Or as Bram puts it in the very first sentence: “The gay revolution began as a literary revolution.” The book is riveting, provocative, gossipy, generous, funny, and sad. Not so bad for a cultural history. I even read it on the beach.Scott Cheshire (Rail): First of all, I have to say, I could not put the book down. It reads very much like a novel.Chris Bram: Well, it is a literary history, but I’m a novelist and I couldn’t help emphasizing story. Some reviewers have asked why I didn’t include x writer or y writer? I was just too busy telling a story to include everyone. It’s as simple as that.Rail: And you acknowledge this to the reader in the introduction. That this will not be an exhaustive history, but a story with a cast of characters. Do you think of them as characters?Bram: Definitely. And they are great characters, aren’t they? I started with Gore Vidal, and then we meet Truman Capote, and then Tennessee Williams. And we go on from there, to wherever they take us. It was fun to see who would lead me to whom, and what new characters would appear along the way.Rail: Did your understanding of the history determine what characters you would follow, or did the characters you chose determine the direction of the story?Bram: Both. I had most of the cast in mind before I began. But while I was working, I realized here’s a good place to add this person or that person. I sometimes found I had to add someone new to get to someone else. Christopher Isherwood is a major character in the book, yet I confess in the original proposal he wasn’t even there. But when Gore Vidal went to Hollywood, he met Isherwood. And I thought to myself, oh good, I get to add Isherwood.Rail: And you get Hollywood.Bram: And I get Hollywood.Rail: Were there lots of surprises like that?Bram: There really were. I was surprised by how many of the characters connected in ways I never expected. For instance, I had no idea that Edmund White interviewed Capote...For the rest of our conversation: