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Love in a Dark Time: and Other Explorations of Gay Lives and Literature

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  260 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Colm Tóibín knows the languages of the outsider, the secret keeper, the gay man or woman. He knows the covert and overt language of homosexuality in literature. In Love in a Dark Time, he also describes the solace of finding like-minded companions through reading.

Tóibín examines the life and work of some of the greatest and most influential writers of the past two centurie
Paperback, 272 pages
Published June 2nd 2004 by Scribner (first published January 22nd 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 755)
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K.D. Absolutely
When I read books by gay authors, I try to see if their gayness find its way to their works. However, it's not only about being gay but their family background or influences. That's why I always check their Wiki entries or read the book's "About the Author" section. I always find out the author's year and place of birth and if his biography is comprehensive enough, at what age and time of his/her life he wrote or published the book.

It never fails to amuse me how the background of the author infl
Dusty Myers
Aug 19, 2008 Dusty Myers rated it liked it
More of a series of profiles and reviews of gay male and female authors than a cohesive study of gay literature, this collection of essays is still a nice work of queer canon formation. Sure, Wilde, Mann, and Baldwin are already at the forefront of this canon, but Tóibín (is it fun typing out that name precisely with those finicky diacriticals? it is not) also includes such figures as Elizabeth Bishop, Francis Bacon, Thom Gunn, and Pedro Almodóvar in his study. His point is to call attention to ...more
U. Cronin
Mar 06, 2014 U. Cronin rated it really liked it
Colm Tóibín uses silky-smooth language that lifts all the efforts of reading off the shoulders of his readers. He writes with a clarity and simplicity that illuminate the complexities of the subject matter. I loved this book. Tóibín takes us through the lives of a number of gay writers, poets, artists and a film-maker, teasing apart what may have made each of them tick and how their homosexuality may or may not have shaped how they wrote or created. There are very different gay lives examined he ...more
Jan 13, 2010 Grady rated it it was amazing
Colm Tóibín, May His Tribe Increase!

This review is from: Love in a Dark Time: And Other Explorations of Gay Lives and Literature (Hardcover)
Once captured by the liquid, informed prose of Colm Tóibín it is difficult to ignore anything this brilliant writer has written. Still under the spell of 'The Master' and having just sadly finished 'The Story of the Night' (that novel could have been extended another 300 pages!), it seemed only appropriate to read an investigative work, just to see how this
Jul 20, 2013 Andreas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe this book of nine biographical essays doesn't offer groundbreaking research. Nor is the reader given sensational insights into intimate details of famous writers' lives. What makes it special is Colm Tóibín's personal and sensitive approach to some important homosexual artists of the 19th and 20th century.
The author's mainly interested in men (and one woman, Elizabeth Bishop) who in some way or another couldn't live their homosexuality openly or felt uneasy about it, such as Oscar Wilde,
Gautam Bhatia
Apr 19, 2015 Gautam Bhatia rated it really liked it
"In the introduction to this set of elegant essays, Colm Toibin lays out his purpose. “Other communities who have been oppressed,” he says, “– Jewish people, say, or Catholics in Northern Ireland – have every opportunity to work out the implications of their oppression in their early lives. They hear the stories; they have the books around them. Gay people, on the other hand, grow up alone; there is no history. There are no ballads about the wrongs of the past, the martyrs are all forgotten.” He ...more
Lore Lippincott
Jul 09, 2014 Lore Lippincott rated it it was amazing
I'm marking this book as "read," when I've actually only gotten through the first chapter. And wept the whole time I read it. Perhaps I'm more emotionally stimulated than usual (PMS? the moon? solar flares? who can say...), or perhaps my awareness of human and civil rights is heightened due to the appeal-happy people in my home state making things miserable for the rest of us... or SCOTUS letting EVERYONE down and thrusting red matter into the universe, a la Romulans, to create a scary black hol ...more
Overall, I liked the writing of the essays, it was clear, concise and informative. I learned things, and got swept up in the description of a party attended by both Tóibín and Spanish filmmaker, Pedro Almodóvar. But all-in-all at the end I wasn’t left feeling an undeniable urge to seek out more work by these authors or learn more about them, like I was with Eminent Outlaws. Tóibín’s collection was more of a miniature study of something particularly specific in these men’s lives, and less of the ...more
Ronan Doyle
Jan 03, 2016 Ronan Doyle rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
It was foolish of me, having been endeared to yet hardly enamoured of the eminently readable Lady Gregory's Toothbrush, to think Tóibín's non-fiction style too academically analytical to recapture the magic that had won me over so starkly in The Blackwater Lightship and The Heather Blazing. This marvellous book is certainly that—from its wealth of citations to the careful arguments it makes for its own mode of structuralist criticism—but it's also brimming with passionate, persuasive prose, writ ...more
Christine Fay
Nov 15, 2015 Christine Fay rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a series of short writings about authors who were privately and openly homosexual, writing in times that were more prejudiced long ago and some recently more enlightened times. He writes about Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Bishop and Mark Doty to name a few. I didn’t really enjoy most of it because most of the writings were based upon academic sources and it was written more in a research-type style of writing.

A wonderful series of essays on homosexual artists, with a heavy emphasis on writers but also including painters and filmmakers. The connecting theme is the homosexuality of Tóibín's subjects, but the true focus is on their work, not their sexuality. The first section on Wilde is longer than the others and correspondingly more in depth, but all of these pieces are an overview, not a critical study or presentation of their depths. Consider it an introduction to the artistic side of gay history, a ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Ann rated it really liked it
Interesting book. Toibin explores the lives of homosexual writers and artists: Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Bishop, Francis Bacon. One focus is how their homosexuality manifested itself in their work. I don't know enough about any of the writers to do much more than take in what he has to say.

There's also an Irish connection with many of the writers.

I found it odd that he doesn't list this book on his official website, though.

Maybe because it was published in the UK?

A very smart guy.
Sep 05, 2009 Krissa rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Mayumi
I think - if I'm reading the introduction right - Toibin wrote this book in fits and starts for Paris Review. It would explain why the earlier, more historical explorations (Wilde, Bishop, Casement) are in-depth, well-researched and well-written examinations of homosexuality and art/literature; some of the later pieces, particularly on writers that Toibin is personally familiar with, contain none of the researched thoroughness of his earlier chapters.

The book is worth it for the sections on Wild
George Ilsley
Jul 20, 2015 George Ilsley rated it liked it
A collection of essays about gay writers and artists. Found the Thomas Mann article very interesting (although sad). Some of the weaker parts were those where the author was actually interacting with his subjects.
Jerry Delaney
Dec 31, 2013 Jerry Delaney rated it it was amazing
This was written by Colm Toibin. For me, nothing else needs be said. I have never disliked (never not loved) any of his books. These 11 essays on Thomas Mann, Francis Bacon, Roger Casement, James Baldwin, etc. were all fascinating. Even those people I didn't start out interested in intrigued me as Toibin started his explorations. Not short biographies but rather essays on a particular aspect of each life that interested Toibin.
Jan 28, 2013 Bettina rated it really liked it
a collection of essays on gay writers (and Almodovar). Pity only one woman is included. Some of the essays were a bit too literal-scholarly for my humble brain, but most made interesting reading. The angle from which he views the writers is very interesting though and the introduction is highly interesting in this respect. in summary - i am happy to have read this book, some was above my understanding as said, but still, I have a new "to read" list now, he made me want to read some of those writ ...more
David Vanbiesbrouck
Aug 03, 2015 David Vanbiesbrouck rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Tóibín selects the stars of his speculations well, but is is easy to see which are his favorite to write about. I would rather have had him leave out some of the (in my opinion) "filler-flamers" and write more about Wilde, Bishop, and Bacon.

Regardless- it was a wonderful read. His writing style flows and reads gracefully. It led me to the lives and literary phenomenon behind people who I had never known existed (Casement, Baldwin).

I will want to read his fiction!
Jan 17, 2009 Mommalibrarian rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Personal selection of essays probably an outgrowth of his work as a reviewer for The London Review of Books. All the subjects were gay. Only one was female. They were artists, poets and writers. They lived, even the most recent, in circumstances much less progressive than now. Some of the articles are very 'scholarly' and dry. The best give a sense of the person's personal life but too much of the book is critique of the person's oeuvre.
Dec 16, 2012 Joanna rated it did not like it
Really tried to get into this book, but it just wasn't happening for me. Hugely interested in the subject matter (the lives of homosexual artists), but found the essays too academic and to rely too heavily on quoting sources and references relating to the artist that I had no knowledge or understanding of. A lot of previous knowledge was assumed, and as I didn't have that, it left me frustrated and eventually just gave up on the book.
Michael Flick
Jun 21, 2015 Michael Flick rated it it was ok
I don’t know what to make of this book. It’s too academic and opaque for a general reader and not academic enough for a scholarly work. It fails to engage with the artists’ work in the main while requiring a deep familiarity with it. Seems more like chitchat than anything compelling or helpful.
Jul 25, 2007 Casey rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who want to see behind the popular stories
I really liked this book because it showed where gay writers were coming from. It never occured to me that sexuality would ever come through in a novel unless it was deliberate. It also opened me up to some contemporary writers and creative thinkers to look up in the future
Sep 23, 2015 a rated it really liked it
EXACTLY the kind of stuff i like to read. toibin is better at talking about historical authors than contemporary ones, and better at talking about prose than poetry, BUT i don't care. i loved reading this. the first two essays are sooooo good
James Haliburton
An interesting collection of essays. From James Baldwin and Oscar Wilde to Pedro Almodóvar and Francis Bacon, Tóibín dissects these lives in the context of their times and their art - typically Tóibín without resorting to cliché or easy judgements.
Martha Toll
Apr 09, 2011 Martha Toll rated it it was amazing
This was an extraordinarily enlightening and insightful series of essays into a panoply of gay artists and how their sexuality affected their art. I only knew Toibin as a novelist, but he is an incredibly effective essayist.
Sam Berner
Apr 03, 2013 Sam Berner rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
Probably one of the best written mini-biographies in terms of prose, style and empathy with the subject. More like a painting than a book, really. Read it through on an interstate flight and felt sorry when it ended.
Nov 16, 2012 Martin rated it really liked it
This collection of elegantly written essays--critical and biographical-- about gay writers and artists, from Oscar Wilde to Pedro Almodovar, is enlightening and entertaining. Who knew Kafka was gay?
Dec 29, 2011 Jerry rated it liked it
Fell in love with this book just by reading the introduction alone. I feel guilty not having read more Toibin and this will most certainly just be the beginning.
Jess Driscoll
Apr 27, 2008 Jess Driscoll rated it liked it
page 151: He would fulfill the classic narrative of the tragic queer. He could paint, it might have been said, but he could not love, and so he died.
Oct 31, 2014 Linda rated it liked it
Shelves: gay, highbrow
I hadn't heard of many of the cultural figures described in this book, but now I'll look out for James Baldwin and Thom Gunn!
Jun 23, 2007 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still finishing this one, but it provides some phenomenal backstories on some of the greatest queer authors of recent centuries.
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Colm Toibin was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford in 1955. He studied at University College Dublin and lived in Barcelona between 1975 and 1978. Out of his experience in Barcelona be produced two books, the novel ‘The South’ (shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and winner of the Irish Times/ Aer Lingus First Fiction Award) and ‘Homage to Barcelona’, both published in 1990. When he retur ...more
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