Christmas for meâ€”and Iâ€™ll go out on a limb and venture that Iâ€™m alone on this oneâ€”means James Purdy. As the author of some of the most inventive and distinctive and surreal fiction anyone has ever written, he stands alone among gay novelists, even if he didnâ€™t self-identify as such. At the time of his death at age ninety-four in 2009, I was his editor. Working together over four books (one new, three reissues) I developed a special fondness for him unlike any Iâ€™ve felt for another writer. So much so that on a few Christmas Eves I made the trek from my apartment on the Upper West Side out to his place in Brooklyn Heights to bring him groceries and say hello. Purdy had no family as far as I could tell and he lived alone, basically cooped up in his one-room apartment. He seldom left home, even if he ran out of food, which is why groceries were appreciated. I would sit with James, listening to his stories from fifty years of writing, until his devoted friend and all-around literary champion, John Uecker, would arrive to spend Christmas with him. (more…)
Whatâ€™s wrong with a Turducken? Why am I so worked up? No reason. Iâ€™ve always wanted to be murdered and stuffed with two other birds. Itâ€™s the American dream. And to cap it off with a name like â€śTurducken,â€ť you guys thought of everything. Hey, Iâ€™ve got an idea! How about next year we stuff you inside a silverback gorilla and jam a rhesus monkey down your throat? Weâ€™ll call it a â€śGormankey.â€ť Whatever, Iâ€™ll workshop it. Youâ€™re the ones who named everything anyway.
….And happy Thanksgiving from all the jive turkeys here atÂ Lambda Literary.
Iâ€™m sure I had heard of the â€śzipless fuckâ€ť or Fear of Flying before, but my first real introduction to Erica Jong was when I read Kathy Ackerâ€™s scathing 1982 piece, Hello, Iâ€™m Erica Jong in my senior year of college. I was only a little curious about Erica Jong, singled out as she was for Ackerâ€™s ire. I figured Erica Jong was some uptight square, a bourgeois celebrity writer whose work struck Acker as worthy of scorn. If Kathy Acker thought she was worth making fun of, then I did too. She parodies the title of Jongâ€™s sophomore novel (How to Save Your Own Life) as How to Die Successfully. Acker gives a mock impersonation: â€śI would rather be a baby than have sex. I would rather go GOOGOO. I would rather write googoo.â€ť By the end of the two page screed, Erica Jong becomes a cipher through which she vents (possibly her own) sexual frustration. In retrospect, this was probably a fair enough introduction, not unlike learning about disco icons from drag impersonators, or being educated in the Broadway diva canon by bitter but patient show queens. (more…)
The New York TimesÂ wrote a sharp, seething, unpleasant four-page screed of an obituary about her that was both shocking and unsurprising. The piece reminded me of how much Lessing was loathed by many because her ideas were so strong, her vision so demanding, the inability to pigeonhole her maddening and misogyny still so rampant. Those of us who loved her work were often taken to task for itâ€“much as the Nobel Committee itself was for choosing her in 2007. (The gay literary critic, Harold Bloom, said of her winning, “Although Ms. Lessing at the beginning of her writing career had a few admirable qualities, I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadableâ€“fourth-rate science fiction.”) (more…)
This month sees the publication of journalist Tim Teemanâ€™s new biography In Bed with Gore Vidal: Hustlers, Hollywood, and the Private World of an American MasterÂ (Magnus). As the subtitle suggests, the book for the first time looks at Vidalâ€™s romantic and sexual lives and their influence on his writing and political advocacy. I say â€śfor the first timeâ€ť because a book on this topic could not have been published before Vidalâ€™s death in August 2012; not only would he have sued the publisher, but his family members and closest friends, interviewed at length in the book, would not have spoken on record as they haveâ€”and with surprising opennessâ€”because they too would have incited Vidalâ€™s fury. Vidal spent a lifetime suing people, and I gather this only became more prevalent as the years passed. When asked late in life what replaces sex when one gets older, Vidal answered, â€śLitigation.â€ť (more…)
â€śA heartbreaking surprise,â€ť is what the New York TimesÂ calls the first mainstream musical to feature a lesbian protagonist on the stage. Queer culture-vultures have known a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdelâ€™s Fun Home has been in the works for yearsâ€”it turns out, in the very good hands of “Five Lesbian Brothers”Â virtuoso Lisa Kron, with music by Jeanine Tesori, and directed by Sam Gold. (more…)
When I moved to Las Vegas from San Francisco, some said I was going from Sodom to Gomorrah. But just as the heart of San Francisco is a Catholic Sacred Heart of Jesus, so here in Las Vegas the sharp spires of the Mormon Church loom over every neighborhood. The city was originally founded as an outpost of the Mormon territory of Deseret and a sparkling white Mormon temple sits in the hills above the city like an atomic version of Cinderellaâ€™s castle. (more…)
â€śMarcie,â€ť my department chair began trepidatiously, keeping her eyes fixed on the paper in front of her, â€śI heard that youâ€™ve been talking about eating out girls in class?â€ť (more…)
I believe that when you are a creative person you intuitively find your peopleâ€”your influences, your teachers. These are the artists who came before you, who talk to you through their works, so that literature becomes an ongoing dialogue from generation to generation. When I first came across John Rechyâ€™s novel City of Night as a teenager, I knew I had found one of my first great teachers. Rechyâ€™s novel touched something in me and unleashed it. It excited me. It made me want to write. I discovered an important mentor in John Rechy. City of Night was the first time a book perfectly expressed my most secret feelings without telling my own personal story. (more…)