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This select series of profiles and literary analyses by the author of Gods and Monsters (turned into an Oscar-winning film) explores with brio the gay temper in American literature, from 1948 to 2000. Segmenting his book into five parts, by decade, Bram concentrates on the giants among them: Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, James Baldwin, Edward Albee, James Merrill, Larry Kramer, Tony Kushner, and, above all Edmund White (the "central figure" for his generation, as Vidal had been for an earlier one). We're treated to their successes as well as to the juicy rivalries that sometimes marked their careers. Bram doesn't indulge in canon formation. In fact, he only mentions Henry James, Willa Cather (one of the few women of this book on a male tradition), Hart Crane, and Thornton Wilder in passing. Rather, Bram succeeds in integrating the politics and culture of homosexuality from the postwar period through McCarthyism and Stonewall to the decimating specter of AIDS and a healthy new liberation. Storytelling, Bram says, was central to the gay revolution. "And why not?... what is homosexuality but a special narrative of love?" Unified by the keen observations of a novelist working in the tradition that re-energized American letters, Bram successfully informs and entertains. Agent: Edward Hibbert. (Feb. 2) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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This book is a history, literary critique, and collective biography in one. Novelist Bram (Gods and Monsters), himself an essential gay writer, discusses gay men (no women here, with no explanation) from Gore Vidal in the early postwar years up through the 1990s and close to the present. His main thesis, that "good art can lay the groundwork for social change," is demonstrated and contextualized in dozens of examples of how literature can be not just a reflection of the times but also a catalyst for change; for example, Mart Crowley's 1968 play (made into a 1970 movie), The Boys in the Band, is shown to have produced conflicting reactions that spurred the debate of what gay culture should look like. -VERDICT The men Bram focuses on, from James Baldwin to David Leavitt, are beautifully drawn, and Bram has a knowing critical eye for the strengths and weaknesses of their works. Bram's own prose is wonderfully immediate and readable, combining biography, gossip, literary criticism, and social history. Highly recommended for all literary historians and for those interested in American or LGBT studies or the rise of gay literature. [See Prepub Alert, 7/18/11.]-David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Highly regarded novelist Bram's needed, spirited survey of post-WWII gay literature in America begins with this compelling line, The gay revolution began as a literary revolution. In his view, many prominent gay novelists, playwrights, and poets as their novels, plays, and poems rose in critical and public acceptance from outlaw to pioneer status led the way for a social change that swept the country, by which gay life in general gained in increasing acceptance. The image the reader gathers from this learned but never stuffy analysis, brimming with Bram's own well-considered and entertaining opinions, is a door of a darkened room slowly opening to admit the light from without. We begin our visitation to seminal writers with the first wave following the end of WWII, which included such figures, now thought of as luminaries, as Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Allen Ginsburg, and James Baldwin. Just as recovery from illness is not a perfect trajectory upward, the reaction to gay lit wavered, even in increasingly tolerant times, certainly hitting a speed bump during the AIDS crisis. Bram notes an irony in the present day: even as the economy has resulted in a shrinking publishing industry, vast strides in gay acceptance have been made. For all literature collections striving for inclusion and relevance.--Hooper, Brad Copyright 2010 Booklist
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Bram presents an impeccably researched narrative of the changes in post-WW II America up to the present era, changes in part thanks to the efforts of gay writers. Implicit in Bram's substantive work is the need to plot a history of these writers and of gay issues that began to appear in US literature in the middle of the 20th century. The author includes vignettes as well as extensive narratives about the rivalries, sparring matches (rational and irrational), and interactions that were taking place between gay authors during this period. Moving from early writers like Allan Ginsberg to still-living writers like Gore Vidal, Bram not only informs readers about these individuals' lives but also forces them to reexamine (or in some cases examine for the first time) the works of the American gay "canon" that have been influential in helping to define and provide an identity for gay men in the US. A must read for those interested in culture, sexuality, literature, or history, but most important, for anyone who enjoys reading about true "characters" integral to the production of some of the greatest works of literature of the 20th century. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers. T. J. Haskell Northwestern Connecticut Community College