Eminent Outlaws


What makes a book a gay book, or a writer a gay writer? Walt Whitman, for all his sizzling erotic verses about men, insisted to the end that he was interested only in women. Gore Vidal, who has made no secret of his attraction to men, writes sparingly about gay characters and has asserted that there is no such thing as a homosexual, only homosexual acts. James Baldwin’s novels typically repose on bookstores’ ­African-American shelves, rather than their gay and lesbian sections — even “Giovanni’s Room,” which centers on a relationship between two white men. Christopher Bram, who calls himself a gay novelist (his “Father of Frankenstein” was the basis of the movie “Gods and Monsters”), assumes the task of herding the gay American male writers who emerged after World War II into a coherent history, beginning with the coded innuendo of Tennessee Williams’s “Glass Menagerie” in 1944 and peaking with Tony Kushner’s luminescent “Angels in America” in 1991. In between, Bram writes, a growing stream of gay-themed novels, plays and poems, some bolder than others, prefigured or hastened sweeping changes in the culture at large. “The gay revolution,” he writes, “began as a literary revolution.”

more from John Leland at the NY Times here.