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How Long Has This Been Going On?

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  354 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
How Long Has This Been Going On? brings together a rich and varied cast of characters to tell the tale of modern gay America in this remarkable epic novel. Beginning in 1949 and moving to the present day, Mordden puts a unique and innovating spin on modern history. An adventurous, adroit, and fascinating novel by one of the finest gay writers of our time.
Paperback, Stonewall Inn Trade Paperback Edition, 604 pages
Published September 1997 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1995)
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Best Gay Fiction
108th out of 1,420 books — 1,769 voters
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Best Gay Historical Fiction
146th out of 238 books — 336 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 935)
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Jun 12, 2007 Punk rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer
Fiction. You know that feeling you get when you're reading a book and stubbornly wishing that the characters were gay even though you know you're only going to be disappointed? I really didn't have that problem here. Everyone in it is gay: the insecure cop working vice, the Kid putting on a burlesque act at Thriller Jill's, the golden best friends who wrestle on the floor. Gay gay gay.

The story tears through almost fifty years of gay life, from 1949 to 1991, bouncing back and forth between Los A
Jul 13, 2012 Corné rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: glbt
This is a classic novel, as well as a gay classic novel. This is the best novel describing the development of gay culture in the USA since the Second World War. Yet, all its literature quality makes it a) very readable and b) very readable for everyone (straight, gay or otherwise). I have once described this a compendium of American gay life; the poshest word I could come up with and rightly so. But forget all that and let Ethan Mordden take you on a literary journey. Highly Recommended Reading!
Sarah Sammis
Jun 07, 2007 Sarah Sammis rated it it was ok
Shelves: released
What Lassie? Timmy's trapped down the well and he's gay? That's what it felt like to read How Long Has This Been Going On? It is supposedly a well written epic of modern American gay history and it certainly has high reviews on but I found it annoying at worst and laughable at best.

The book covers from the end of World War Two through the mid 1990s. A lot happened in that time but I spent so much time rolling my eyes at the characters that I couldn't take the important parts seriously
Adam Dunn
Dec 10, 2014 Adam Dunn rated it did not like it
Shelves: glbt
I read this for it's inclusion on "AfterElton’s 50 Best Gay Books" and it's length, hoping for a sweeping gay saga I wouldn't want to put down, as some reviews have suggested. This is not that.

The book starts well, illustrating gay life in the 1950's in a straight-forward way, though not always factual. At one point characters say:

"Coming out?"
"Of the closet."

The closet didn't exist in the 1950's. As the book Masked Voices: Gay Men and Lesbians in Cold War America makes clear, Coming Out meant c
Mar 30, 2013 Radu rated it really liked it
I loved it and it kept me hooked. There are several love stories and they are followed through 50 years of tribulations. Unfortunately the couple I was sympathizing with didn't have a happy ending, but I guess there's something for everybody in this book. It was hilarious at the beginning and it cracked me up and the good thing is that as it gradually got more sad and serious, it didn't lose it's appeal. I'll re-read it someday for sure.
Jānis Lībeks
Dec 24, 2015 Jānis Lībeks rated it liked it
Sadly, I was not swept away. For a book with a title so desperate, one would expect to hear something profound! How long has it all been going on? What is "this" anyway? Did "this" really start only in the 1950s? Was there nothing before? Do the characters, often contrived, have much to say about "this"?

Gay history is a tricky subject, one that is often shrouded in mystery and myth. Before Stonewall, it seems, it was mostly lived underground, never documented. Larry Kramer attempted to capture
Oct 08, 2014 Ed rated it it was amazing
How Long Has This Been Going On? by Ethan Mordden is an ambitious, sweeping and panoramic 600 page epic novel that traces LGBT history over a 40+ year span through the lives of a broad cast of characters. The story opens in 1949 at Thriller Jill’s, a Los Angeles gay nightclub where patrons needed to be very discreet; it concludes with the 1991 New York City Gay Pride Parade. Along the way, the story takes the reader to San Francisco, small-town Minnesota and New Hampshire, and of course covers t ...more
Sep 16, 2013 Charles rated it it was amazing
Well, a beautiful book, large and generous and witty, beautiful and gripping for all its passing, venial, perhaps inevitable, faults - there's a certain amount of stereotyping, which would be hard to avoid in the kind of large-scale multi-charactered historical sweep this novel goes for and, substantially, achieves, and an idealisation, which is also, in one way, the point of the novel: that gay people are worth it, worth loving, worth the basic freedoms they're (we're) still struggling to ensur ...more
Apr 02, 2009 Jeff rated it really liked it
Mordden's sprawling epic of gay life from the 1930s through the 1990s was a surprisingly easy read and one I found hard to put down. The book focuses on a fairly finite group of people: friends, lovers, patrons of a bar, and follows some of the side trails of their various lives. Though one central storyline that begins mid-novel rang very false to me (it seemed incongruous to the time it described and the characters felt less "real" than those created earlier in the book) I was pretty intently ...more
Sep 26, 2008 martin rated it really liked it
I'm not into gay lit for gay lit's sake. In the same way that I find exclusively black or Asian minority writing often rather tedious because it deliberately excludes the majority. However, I really like this book and I recommend it to many friends, straight and gay.

It's not just a very expertly sculpted and very human account of the journey from grubby, secretive, 'hole in the basement' bars and anonymous sex afraid of any emotional attachment. It's also a great story to read. In many Western c
George Ilsley
Apr 04, 2016 George Ilsley rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Just the right book at the right time. This is a big book, almost 600 pages, with many characters. I did have trouble at times remembering who someone was (Derek Archer? who was he from 400 pages ago?) but overall I have to say that I loved this book.
Richard Jespers
Jan 05, 2016 Richard Jespers rated it liked it
The gay Roots, I suppose. Mildly entertaining compared to his previous books, but the book has too many characters for the reader to care. [Or maybe it’s the Lortab talking.]
Jan 12, 2014 Jacob rated it it was ok
Shelves: never-finished
I wavered between finding this interesting and being supremely annoyed at how confusing this damn book was. I never understood why the characters did any of what they did, and they *never* said anything literally or directly the first time; everything was couched in metaphor, or communicated without the reader being aware of what was said, like the characters understood each other implicitly. The premise had potential - "straight" cop conducting sting operations on lonely gay men in the 1950s fa ...more
Jul 07, 2016 Shannon rated it liked it
This is like Tales of the City, but more serious, with better-drawn characters, and with more pathos. Some character's love stories made me smile -- there is one about an undercover cop, or an anecdote about searching for love in the used pages of a Gore Vidal novel, that is really sweet. Still, there were too many characters to really care about any of them and almost none of the relationships last for more than 100 pages really or make it a novel of character growth or relationships, and it's ...more
Sep 17, 2014 Sam rated it it was amazing
This book went on forever and I never wanted it to end.
Derek Gover
Jul 21, 2012 Derek Gover rated it it was amazing
This book is so compelling..It is the story of a group of people whose lives touch each others over a period of 30 years or so. the main characters are a lesbian couple, a drag queen, and four gay companions. the book is narrated by one of the characters and what makes it so good is that his actual identity is kept secret until the last few pages so all the while the reader is wondering just who he is. This book is not only a good piece of fiction it is also a slice of gay history in the usa and ...more
Kenneth Rastello
Mar 01, 2015 Kenneth Rastello rated it it was amazing
loved this book! great characters, great history. follows gay history from the 30 ' s through the 90 ' s in NY, SF, and Minneapolis, through the lives of an interesting cast of characters.
Dec 25, 2013 John rated it it was ok
Long, involved and preachy. Parts were very engaging, but so often in the effort to chronicle 40 years of gay history, characters become wooden, dialogue preachy and expository, events TOO symbolic. Have enjoyed other work of his; this seemed too ambitious.
Oct 08, 2007 Noel rated it it was amazing
MOST POIGNANT MOMENT: A terminally ill young man, not having the courage to say good-bye to his lover, arranges for the teddy bear that was once the lover's gift to him to be sent back to him along with a letter (signed by the teddy bear) to break the tragic news of his demise.
Aug 05, 2016 Jwsrauch rated it really liked it
Will re-read because it is an epic novel, more than 175 pages, about humans and society. Is it scandalous and pornographic? No. It is a human novel about us.
Thanks Ethan.
Jun 03, 2009 George rated it liked it
Shelves: collection
Epic and glorious. The sweeping saga all those other generation/lifestyle chroniclers must wish they had written. A moving portrait of four decades of gay life.
Feb 20, 2012 Jeanne rated it it was amazing
This book became a friend. I was so sad when it ended. I still pick it up every year or so to read again.
Dec 07, 2009 Daniel rated it it was amazing
Extremely validating and insightful as well as engrossing and entertaining.
Gary Lee
Mar 21, 2008 Gary Lee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gayish-lit
Decent, if a bit cliché and overlong.
Nov 04, 2007 Trin marked it as to-read
Shelves: fiction, queerlit
Five stars from Punk.
Scout marked it as to-read
Oct 21, 2016
Denis marked it as to-read
Oct 16, 2016
Grant rated it it was amazing
Oct 16, 2016
Summer marked it as to-read
Oct 12, 2016
Joseph Jones
Joseph Jones rated it liked it
Oct 11, 2016
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“ wasn't more school, as Chris had anticipated. School was a normalization of the familiar. College was a penetration into the exotic.” 2 likes
“The problem with you middle-class gay guys is, you pass for white. You move to the metropolitan gay centres, and you're more or less closeted--"private", you'd call it--when you step outside the ghetto. You assimilate yourselves, and suddenly you've got property to protect and money invested. I ask you, what impelled the militants of the civil rights movement of the sixties? You know what impelled them? They had nothing to lose. That's how they could brave the police dogs and the fire hoses. Even torture and death. Could you have done that?” 0 likes
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