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Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  477 Ratings  ·  92 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
May 10, 2012 Ivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 26, 2012 Steve Turtell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 20, 2012 Clifton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Michael Armijo
Jul 28, 2012 Michael Armijo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Dec 02, 2012 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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...)
Mar 22, 2012 Nora rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 06, 2013 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 25, 2012 K.M. Soehnlein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jon Wilson
Oct 22, 2014 Jon Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
David Claudon
Apr 22, 2012 David Claudon rated it really liked it
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
Sep 06, 2012 Tosh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 29, 2012 Greg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 21, 2013 Claude Peck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Brian Bixler
Jul 10, 2012 Brian Bixler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 homosexual
Very interesting. Source of interesting informations for future readings
May 18, 2014 Gerhard rated it it was amazing
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
"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
Nov 05, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 no
David Hallman
Aug 05, 2012 David Hallman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2012 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Malcolm Ewing
Jan 19, 2016 Malcolm Ewing rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This work is an excellent overview of American gay male writers from the late 1940s to about 2010. While not comprehensive, it succeeds especially for being fluid, well-written and easily accessible, rather than stilted and academic. Not only are touching personal histories provided of such seminal gay writers as Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, James Baldwin, Christopher Isherwood and many others, but there are juicy accounts of their personal friendships and rivalries which are, ...more
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
Apr 22, 2012 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  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
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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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