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Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  379 ratings  ·  80 reviews
In 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 ...more
Published February 2nd 2012 by Twelve (first published January 1st 2012)
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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, ...more
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 g
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
Steve Turtell
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 ...more
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 AI ...more
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 da
Jim Coughenour
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 landma ...more
Jon Wilson
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 an
Michael Armijo

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 Intr
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 ...more
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 fur ...more
K.M. Soehnlein
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 c
David Claudon
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 t ...more
Stephen Soucy
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 powerfu
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.
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...)
Angela Benedetti
First, for what it was, this was an excellent book. It's well organized, it's very readable, and there's a lot of info in here that I didn't know, about more general US history as well as about gay literary history. I have some more books to go hunt for and read, which is always a good thing. I'm pretty sure Mr. Bram accomplished what he set out to do with this book.

That said, I find it pretty boggling that anyone could write a gay literary history of the US without even mentioning John Preston
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, lambast ...more
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
I reviewed this book for Star Tribune. Here's the link.

And I interviewed Christopher Bram about the book for Rain Taxi, here:
Roof Beam Reader
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.
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, C ...more
This book was everything I hoped for and more. Insider-y gossip, succinct biographies of the writers I love (Edmund White, Truman Capote, Andrew Holleran, James Baldwin) and the all-important timeline of and impact of publications like Giovanni's Room, A Boy's Own Life, Berlin Stories, Ginsberg's Howl, even the début of Angels In America. What I was heretofore left to puzzle out for myself, Bram puts in context, historically, politically, culturally. Where everyone was during Stonewall, the chan ...more
I'm a huge fan of Christopher Bram's novels and was equally pleased with this nonfiction title. The book is a survey of gay literature from 1950 until present. In his introduction, he says that he will leave the companion book about lesbian literature to be written by a woman and focused on gay men's writings (I hope someday to be able to read the sister book). A really thought provoking book.

But I was left wondering if gay lit is dead. I don't say this lightly, but I must say I find the lack o
Capote, Vidal, Isherwood, Williams, Baldwin, Maupin. The names bring back powerful memories--the great and not so great stories they wrote or maybe their talk show appearances (a different television era). Novelist Christopher Bram provides a literary history of gay male authors (primarily American) from the 1940's to today. Bram does a fine job of balancing their personal lives with their literary output in the context of the times. That these writers managed to endure and even thrive is testam ...more
I found it fascinating, for the details about the lives of individual writers, as well as for the reminders of just how viciously mainstream (and there wasn't much outside of that stream) reviewers responded to gay writers. They were pilloried as "vile" and carrying "the nauseating reek of homosexuality." Like Philip Roth attacking Albee's "Tiny Alice" as "a homosexual daydream" full of "pansy rhetoric." As Bram puts it: "Gay writers could not win for losing. If they wrote about gay life, they w ...more
Apr 22, 2012 Steven rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Steven by: myself
This is a book that discusses the lives of the "Eminent Outlaws," who the author considers to be the most influential and groundbreaking writers of the past. He introduces you to each of the writers,gives a bit of biographical detail, then mixes in interesting revelations about their personal lives and how they related to one another. The usual suspects are featured: Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Edmund White, James Baldwin,the ever impassioned Larry Kramer, and my favorite,Andr ...more
"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
Shawn Thrasher
I liked the first half or so of this much better than the latter; the narrative was sharper, the spotline shone upon the writers was more illuminating, the connections between the writers more clear cut. I was more bored by the second half than outright dislike; it seemed more like a laundry list. I suppose as gay fiction and theater grew, the need to include more writers grew as well, which became more unwieldy; it's easier to write about five or so writers. Although those five or so writers ar ...more
David Hallman
An Awesome Privilege

It is an awesome privilege to belong to the gay artistic community.

I’ve just finished reading Christopher Bram’s “Eminent Outlaws – The Gay Writers Who Changed America.” I’m an inveterate highlighter when reading a well-written book with thought-provoking material. Almost every page of my copy of “Eminent Outlaws” has phrases, sentences, and on occasion whole paragraphs that are highlighted.

"Eminent Outlaws " provides wonderful biographies of the authors that Bram argues la
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Bram grew up in Kempsville, Virginia. After graduating from the College of William and Mary in 1974 (B.A. in English), he moved to New York City four years later. There, he met his lifelong partner, documentary filmmaker Draper Shreeve.

Bram's novel Father of Frankenstein, about film director James Whale, was made into the movie Gods and Monsters starring Ian McKellen and Brendan Fraser. Bill Condo
More about Christopher Bram...
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