October 21, 2014

Michael Denneny: On Working in Publishing During the 1970s, Starting ‘Christopher Street Magazine,’ and the Future of Gay Literature

Posted on October 20, 2014 by in Features, Interviews

“[...] 1978 was a banner year for gay writing; it really marked the dawn of the new gay literary movement that would swell into a torrent over the next fifteen or twenty years.” 

When I started in publishing more than twenty years ago, answering phone calls at a customer service desk, the only gay man in the industry whose name I knew was the renowned editor Michael Denneny. This says as much about Michael as it does about me. I’d been hired for the position literally off the street when I walked in and asked if the company had any job openings for someone with no experience. Michael, on the other hand, had been operating his famed Stonewall Inn Editions imprint out of St. Martin’s for years and produced some of the best-known gay titles of the 1980s and the early ’90s, including books by Randy Shilts, Larry Kramer, Ethan Mordden, Larry Duplechan, Malcolm Boyd, Michael Nava, Paul Monette, and Quentin Crisp, among others. I can’t remember where I’d first heard about Michael or how I’d even come to know about an editor in New York when I was a publishing newcomer in California, but he was what you’d call today a brand: someone known almost more for who he was than the books he published. Put another way, he stood out. In case you’re wondering, this is not standard stuff in publishing circles. Most editors spend their career, however distinguished, unknown to the average person—sometimes even unknown to their fellow publishing colleagues. Michael was different and so were his books.

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Brontez Purnell: On His New Book ‘The Cruising Diaries,’ Silencing the Critics, and the Joys of Writing About Sex

Posted on October 11, 2014 by in Features, Interviews

We have reached a strange moment in gay politics. There’s a strange commemoration and valorizing of the AIDS movement, vis-à-vis recent films like The Normal Heart and the documentary How to Survive a Plague. Whatever you think of these films individually, or the history they tell, part of the reason they managed to get so much attention and accolades is the spike in marriage equality. The excesses of gay male sexual culture is safely tucked away in history, for audiences who already think the riotous sex, and the deaths, have ended. In popular culture, all of the gay fucking happens not in glory holes and back rooms, but under the canopy of the nuptial bed. (more…)

Sarah Waters: On Exploring Moral Complexity and Why Writing Her New Novel Made Her Anxious

Posted on October 5, 2014 by in Features, Interviews

“We see murder represented a lot in movies and pop culture and it can be quite glib. So I didn’t want to be glib; I wanted to be faithful to the moral mess, the emotional mess of it.”

Award-winning, bestselling author Sarah Waters has written six novels. Her newest, The Paying Guests (Riverhead Books), tells the story of Frances Wray, an upper middle class young woman living alone with her mother in post-WWI London. Her brothers have died in the War and her father has died as well, leaving them with a legacy of unsound investments and debt. In order to make ends meet, Frances and her mother take in lodgers—the eponymous guests: a young married couple, Lilian and Leonard. The entrance of this young couple has profound and unexpected consequences for all involved—and as Charlotte Mendelson says in her review of the novel for The Financial Times, “There is too much here to convey in brief, or without revealing the switchback twists that make all Waters’ novels dazzling. She can, it seems, do everything: the madness of love; the squalor of desire; the coexistence of devotion and annoyance; ‘the tangle of it all.’” (more…)

Jonathan Lethem: On Summoning the Black Academic Queer in His Novel ‘Dissident Gardens’

Posted on October 4, 2014 by in Interviews

“I’ll name Baldwin as my influence till the cows come home–I have–but people will not talk about my work in those terms.”

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Saeed Jones: On His New Poetry Collection ‘Prelude to Bruise,’ Art vs. Rhetoric, and Camp Aesthetics

Posted on September 30, 2014 by in Features, Interviews

Writer and editor Saeed Jones’ new collection of poems Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press) is a darkly visceral examination of the often riotous nature of identity, desire, family, and sex, and the ways in which these things shape and warp us. Beautiful, haunting and heartbreaking—Jones’s poems are an emotional punch to the gut. A lyrical shock to the system. (more…)

Christos Tsiolkas: On His New Novel ‘Barracuda,’ Australian History, and the Power of Hip-Hop

Posted on September 25, 2014 by in Features, Interviews

Australian author Christos Tsiolkas is perhaps best known in the U.S. for his novel The Slap, which chronicles life in a Melbourne suburb following an incident at a garden party in which a man slaps a child who is not his own (soon to be a television miniseries on NBC starring Zachary Quinto). Tsiolkas’ latest work, Barracuda (Hogarth), returns to the complicated world of class politics, family, nation and shifting cultural expectations to explore the rise and fall of a queer athlete from the wrong part of town. Danny Kelly’s struggle with failure and the shame that springs from it offers a brilliant glimpse into the adolescent psyche as well as illuminating the perennial calculus of fitting in. (more…)

Roxane Gay: On Messiness, Not Belonging, and What Being Queer Taught Her About Being a (Bad) Feminist

Posted on September 17, 2014 by in Features, Interviews

From covering pop culture, to writing beautifully crafted short stories Roxane Gay has long been a prolific online presence. Her work appears everywhere, including The Guardian, Twelve Stories, XO Jane, Salon, and The Rumpus (where she is also the essays editor). This year saw the release of her first novel, An Untamed State (Grove Atlantic, 2014) which garnered strong reviews. Holly Bass of The New York Times wrote, “In this fable, the princess and a wicked witch relate to each other as real women do, and ultimately rescue each other.”  (more…)

How Everett Maroon Turned Me Into an Unintentional YA Fan

Posted on September 16, 2014 by in Interviews, Young Adult

I imagine it is bad form to start off talking about a book by bad-mouthing its genre, but I felt the need to disclose, if only to emphasize how damn good Everett Maroon’s new young adult novel is: I don’t much care for YA. Well, at least I thought I didn’t. Let me explain. (more…)

John Rechy: On the Gay Sensibility, Melding Truth and Fiction, and His Literary Legacy

Posted on September 10, 2014 by in Features, Interviews

Born erudite, John Rechy, 83, is the author of twelve novels and three non-fiction works.

He was raised Mexican-American in El Paso, Texas at a time when Latino children were routinely segregated. He was assumed to be Anglo because of his light skin. A teacher “changed” his name from Juan to John. (more…)

Rebecca Coffey: On Sigmund Freud’s Relationship with His Lesbian Daughter Anna and Using Fiction to Explore the Truth

Posted on August 25, 2014 by in Features, Interviews

On May 13, 2014 She Writes Press published Rebecca Coffey’s latest book, Hysterical: Anna Freud’s Story which has been getting very positive reviews. Booklist called it “complexly entertaining, sexually dramatic, [and] acidly funny”; Lambda Literary said it’s “got a plot so rife with tension it’ll make you squirm.” And Oprah’s magazine recommended it in its June 2014 issue. (more…)