Gay lit classics deserve a better list than what the LA Times cooked up.
The list of gay literary classics cobbled together late last week by LA Times lit mavens Carolyn Kellogg, David Ulin and Nick Owchar is laudable top to bottom, but it leaves out many important, significant and just plan fun titles.
I do like that it starts with Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin’s pioneering novel of gay love, and includes classics like Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood, E.M Forster’s Maurice, as well as pop fiction like Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City and Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle.
But the oversights are baffling: If we’re going to include Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, then why not Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman? If Paul Monet’s Borrowed Time: An Aids Memoir (a personal favorite, by the way), then why not Randy Shilts’ landmark investigative nonfiction book, And the Band Played On?
How could any such list not mention Andrew Holleran’s Dancer From the Dance? Edmund White’s A Boy’s Own Story? Where’s David Leavitt? Mary Renault? Michael Cunningham? Hilda Doolittle (who wrote as “H.D.”)? Christopher Isherwood?! Anne Rice? Larry Kramer? Audre Lord? Dorothy Allison? Truman Capote? Elizabeth Bishop?
And if the list is headed by Giovanni’s Room, wouldn’t it be groovy to include The Motion of Light in Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village, Samuel R. Delany’s award-winning 1989 memoir of coming of age black and gay during middle of the 20th century?
Once the decision is made to include Sappho, some of whose love poems are addressed to a man, then why not Shakespeare, some of whose sonnets are likewise addressed to a man? If Sappho’s Greek poems, then why not Petronius’ Roman novel Satyricon?
Ahhhh…It is so much fun to sit in the back of the class and throw spit wads.
My point is that a rich and varied literature by gay writers on gay subject matter exists to be celebrated, read, enjoyed, savored. And that’s not even counting novels-in-drag, like W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, or Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, written during the long love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name era.
I’m sure I’ve left out worthy authors and books. So: What are some of your favorites?