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Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America [Kindle Edition]

Christopher Bram
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In the years following World War II a group of gay writers established themselves as major cultural figures in American life. Truman Capote, the enfant terrible, whose finely wrought fiction and nonfiction captured the nation's imagination. Gore Vidal, the wry, withering chronicler of politics, sex, and history. Tennessee Williams, whose powerful plays rocketed him to the top of the American theater. James Baldwin, the harrowingly perceptive novelist and social critic. Christopher Isherwood, the English novelist who became a thoroughly American novelist. And the exuberant Allen Ginsberg, whose poetry defied censorship and exploded minds. Together, their writing introduced America to gay experience and sensibility, and changed our literary culture.

But the change was only beginning. A new generation of gay writers followed, taking more risks and writing about their sexuality more openly. Edward Albee brought his prickly iconoclasm to the American theater. Edmund White laid bare his own life in stylized, autobiographical works. Armistead Maupin wove a rich tapestry of the counterculture, queer and straight. Mart Crowley brought gay men's lives out of the closet and onto the stage. And Tony Kushner took them beyond the stage, to the center of American ideas.

With authority and humor, Christopher Bram weaves these men's ambitions, affairs, feuds, loves, and appetites into a single sweeping narrative. Chronicling over fifty years of momentous change-from civil rights to Stonewall to AIDS and beyond-EMINENT OUTLAWS is an inspiring, illuminating tale: one that reveals how the lives of these men are crucial to understanding the social and cultural history of the American twentieth century.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*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. --Brad Hooper


"Eminent Outlaws is a spectacular overview of our gay literary history." (Instinct Magazine )

"Bram does a terrific job in cataloguing the lives of these important figures, from Vidal to James Baldwin to Michael Cunningham. He reveals their often tortured interior lives. His examinations of the works themselves are original and thoughtful. Eminent Outlaws is entertaining and informative, packed with interesting gossip and opinions." (Columbia Journalism Review )

"As Bram's high-sounding subtitle promises-and these lives from Vidal through Baldwin and O'Hara to White and Kushner deliver-gay lib began as a literary movement; the aesthetic was always political, too.... 'Eminent Outlaws' is the next (last?) step in reporting on literary lives that traces back to the gay dinner parties of yore. Few would have it any other way." (Newsweek )

"Argumentative and often resonant, and lit from below by a gossipy wit. But its power is less sentence by sentence than cumulative. You don't realize how much the details of these writers' books and difficult lives have touched you until the book's final chapters.... With 'Eminent Outlaws' he has filled a gap in our critical literature." (The New York Times )

"Bram's portraits of an often-reluctant gay literary vanguard is fascinating enough, but alongside a 50-year narrative of unexplored gay aesthetic, he also provides a parallel history of the gay-rights movement....Bram's bio-history is fun to read and will be the standard text of the defining era of gay literati glitterati." (Philadelphia Inquirer )

"Bram uses a series of complex portraits of America's most influential gay literary lions to argue for their position in the pantheon of American culture.... Eminent Outlaws offers a crucial and fascinating overview of decades of American literary history." ( )

"With keen insight into the essential relationship between storytelling and gay identity-as well as careful research into the journals, letters and books of America's great gay writers-Outlaws traces the cultural influence of gay literature throughout the second half of the 20th century.... Perhaps we have Bram's early sense of service as a boy scout to thank for the work he's done to preserve history in Outlaws. That Bram pulls it off with such style seems appropriate: it's a gay history, after all." (Next Magazine )

Product Details

  • File Size: 856 KB
  • Print Length: 355 pages
  • Publisher: Twelve; 1 edition (February 2, 2012)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004QZ9P7Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,090 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lives of the Gay Artists January 24, 2012
By Charlus
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In this much needed cultural history, Chris Bram covers American gay literature (novels, plays, poems, essays) from post World War II to the present. Each chapter centers around one writer in a chronologic progression, although as the book proceeds it crisscrosses back and forth to bring previously mentioned writers up to date. Because everyone seemed to know everyone else (in a six degrees of separation manner) Bram is able to keep a potentially confusing narrative straight (so to speak).

As he says in his Intro, "My models were literary histories that mix criticism with biography, social history, good gossip and a strong point of view" (p.xi) and I would say he succeeds admirably although sometimes he presses the pedal a bit hard on the gossip. He is free with his opinions and the social history accumulates a roll call of villains (Philip Roth, William F Buckley Jr, Wilfred Sheed, Elizabeth Hardwick, Stanley Kauffman among many others). The critic Joseph Epstein is quoted as writing of his four sons "Nothing they could ever do would make me sadder than if one of them were to become homosexual" (p.152). And surprises abound: Norman Mailer comes off looking relatively good!

But the focus is on literature and that is the reason to read this book. Judgements are plentiful. Of Christopher Isherwood: "A novel is such a small thing, but "A Single Man" has endured, like a mammal surrounded by dinosaurs" (p.116). Of Gore Vidal and Edmund White: "Yet while Vidal writes best about power, politics and history, White's strengths are sex, art, and - sometime - love. Each tends to stumble when he enters the other's domain" (p.175).

Like all good books of criticism, this one makes one eager to read the many works one may have missed or re-read others.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bram's Eminent Book February 4, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Christopher Bram's EMINENT OUTLAWS covers roughly fifty years of writing by gay authors of fiction, poetry and plays that he believes changed America. In his introduction, Bram says that the book is not an "all-inclusive, definitive literary history" and that he is not objective. Works that he admires are often works that influenced him or that he feels a "kinship with." GoreVidal is central to the first half of the book while Edmund White dominates the second half. Beginning with the publication of THE CITY AND THE PILLAR, Bram traces Vidal's long life and career, his writing of MYRA BRECKINRIDGE, his essays, his very public fights with William F. Buckley, Truman Capote and White, suggesting that Vidal in old age has "suffered a hardening of intellectual arteries." Bram calls him "a godfather of gay literature in spite of himself--a fairy godfather." Edmund White, "a brilliant prose stylist," gets equal treatment: his early days in New York, his role as one of the founders of GMHC, his life in France, and the publication of his many books, both fiction and nonfiction. Bram also includes Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Christopher Isherwood, Mart Crowley James Merrill, Edward Albee, Larry Kramer, Andrew Holleran, Armistead Maupin, Thom Gunn, Michael Cunningham, and Tony Kushner along with many other writers as well. The book begins with Part I, "Into the Fifties," followed by the sixties, seventies, eighties and the nineties and after. Mr. Bram also includes Notes and an exhaustive Selected Bibliography. Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History from an Informed Source: Knowledge as Novel April 24, 2012
Christopher Bram is so well known and respected as a writer that it is no surprise that when he elected to compile a history of the emergence of gay writing in the 20th century it would turn out as fascinating a read as EMINENT OUTLAWS: THE GAY WRITERS WHO CHANGED AMERICA. Bram's previous books (Exiles in America, Gods and Monsters, The Notorious Dr. August, Lives of the Circus Animals and Surprising Myself) have become staples in the libraries of all who respect fine contemporary writing. How we arrived at the current state of brilliant literature about and by men of gay persuasion is the subject of this enormously entertaining and informative book.

Bram opens with a preparatory history of what literature in America (not France, or England etc) included and excluded. He gives an interesting concept that it was largely in part to WW II that the public began to pay attention to same sex stories and relationships. And from this matrix he introduces the likes of Gore Vidal and Truman Capote and how their initial forays into books about gay themes began to catch on, a fact that encouraged Tennessee Williams to rise rather rapidly to fame as one of America's most important writers and playwrights. He then marches us into the 1950s and decade by decade he mirrors the milieu of the social and psychological state of the country with the rise and acceptance of such greats as Allen Ginsberg and the other poets of the Beat generation, the eloquent James Baldwin, and ultimately Armistead Maupin, Edmund White, Tony Kushner, and Edward Albee, Frank O'Hara, Christopher Isherwood, Mart Crowley James Merrill, Edward Albee, Larry Kramer, Andrew Holleran, Armistead Maupin, Thom Gunn, Michael Cunningham, Felice Picano, and Tony Kushner and others.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brampton, an excellent writer!!!
I just finished this book. Very good read!!! So god, in fact, that I then bought his other book, "Gods & Monsters".
Published 1 day ago by Jude Barnes
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very well written and infiormative. Holds your attention.
Published 6 days ago by Jorge C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
beautifully written, did a good job of weaving together the lives of these writers.
Published 1 month ago by rhubarb jones
4.0 out of 5 stars extremely engrossing nonfiction
As a twentysomething queer from a small town in a small state, I have always been sorely detached from gay culture and history but this lovely book took me to school and reminded... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Michael
5.0 out of 5 stars a must read for historians and activists alike
Christopher Bram does our LGBTQ community a terrific service with EMINENT OUTLAWS. His writing pulls together a perspective on the history of many of the most important "gay... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Don Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book on LGBT authors.
Great book about the start of gay authors. Packed with great information and anecdotes about significant authors lives and writings. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and Real Insight
Mr. Bram provides the reader with well researched insight to important gay male authors and playwrites. You feel that depth as you read. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Yieldcurve
4.0 out of 5 stars Great primer for future reading
Definitely worth while read. Part history, part critical look at the works of great authors. Warning this book will make you read other books (a good thing)
Published 9 months ago by Jamie P
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat biased coverage of some significant gay writers
This is a pretty good introduction to some of our twentieth-century gay writers, but gaping holes--John Rechy?--come to mind. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Wanda H. Giles
4.0 out of 5 stars Old Friends Revisited
This book allowed me to take a walk down Memory Lane. Most of the writers and their works were familiar to me. Read more
Published 9 months ago by J. E. Mynchenberg
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