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, aboFirst, 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 or Victor Banis.
Seriously Mr. Bram?
Both Preston and Banis are giants in the field. Neither was ever up for a Pulitzer or a National Book Award that I know of -- they didn't write that kind of book. But Mr. Bram mentions other writers who were what he called "midlist" gay writers, people who weren't incredibly literary, much less winners of big snotty awards, so why completely ignore Preston and Banis?
I could almost understand Preston, if Mr. Bram were trying to downplay the presence of sex in gay literature, but he's not. But Banis? I've only read a few of Banis's many books, but none of the ones I read were particularly sex-heavy. And Banis (and his publisher) stood up and published books about gay characters who got happy endings at a time when that very act had recently sent other men to prison. Banis put his freedom on the line to give gay readers books that didn't tell them they were sick or perverted or deserved to be murdered or doomed to suicide, at a time when no one else was doing that. He deserves a prominent place in any history of American gay literature, and it's shameful that he has no so much as a mention in this one....more
Victor Banis is arguably one of the founders of modern gay fiction in the US, and his memoir is a very readable look at the formative period of the gaVictor Banis is arguably one of the founders of modern gay fiction in the US, and his memoir is a very readable look at the formative period of the gay rights movement, coupled with (and arguably built upon) the fight for writers and publishers of gay fiction to be allowed their first amendment rights. This would be a rewarding read even if it were a struggle to get through, but Mr. Banis's style is light and entertaining. Even when discussing incidents which are anything but pleasant, the book never drags or gets preachy.
As a recent beneficiary of that first amendment fight, I learned a lot from this book. I knew people were harassed and even imprisoned for publishing gay fiction in the sixties and thereabouts, but I'd always assumed there was some sex in those books, or at least some making out. Actually, there wasn't; there was nothing in those books you couldn't show on TV on a broadcast network at 3pm these days. The idea that people were sent to prison -- for twenty-five years in two cases mentioned -- simply for writing or publishing novels where gay characters didn't either repent and convert, or come to a bad end, is horrifying. Happy Gay = Obscene according to far too many people who had much authority but little intelligence in those days. That level of vicious bigotry in those in power is what's obscene, moreso than anything in any book.
Any writer who wants to feel like a slacker should read the chapters on writing, where Mr. Banis casually mentions how quickly he wrote most of his novels. Seriously, I'll just go crawl under a rock now.... O_O The writing advice is commonplace, but useful; it's always good to hear the basics again, particularly since he's one of those who recognizes that there are no absolutes, only suggestions which might be helpful.
And it's good to know that someone tried to tell the producers of Double Jeopardy that their basic concept was badly flawed. Props to you, Victor; at least you made the attempt. :)
There's more, of course, and it's all worth reading. Keep going through the Acknowledgements and beyond; this is the only book I've ever read where the Acknowledgements ran to multiple pages but were actually worth reading.
Great stuff. Anyone who's interested in gay fiction or the gay rights struggle should read this one....more