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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lives of the Gay Artists
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...
Published on January 24, 2012 by Charlus

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17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a horrible book, but hardly a great one
Bram probably deserves props for taking on a big task, the history of gay literature and its relationship with gay liberation. The book falls short as history and as a narrative, but hopefully, it will stimulate someone to do a readable, but more scholarly work that more comprehensively tells the story. It may take more than one volume and Bram's book implicitly is really...
Published on February 26, 2012 by Richard A. Jenkins


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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lives of the Gay Artists, January 24, 2012
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This review is from: Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America (Hardcover)
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. And like all social histories of homosexuality, this one is fueled by anger and sadness, at the often wasted, oppressed lives and those lost to AIDS. It is supremely readable and well argued, even when you disagree. If you care about gay literature, this is the book to read now, about where we were and who we are.
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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
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This review is from: Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America (Hardcover)
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.

Although those of us alive when many of these men published their books or first staged their plays knew about them and sometimes read the novels or, less often, saw the plays, what makes this book so exciting is that it is, as the author acknowledges also in his introduction, the first time the stories of all these men have been told in one narrative. Additionally he includes quotations by straight reviewers of the works-- if they were even reviewed at all-- that were often vitriolic and mean-spirited so we see just have difficult it was for gay literature to flourish decades ago. Just one example from dozens: Philip Roth, who should have been ashamed of himself-- in not then, certainly now-- attacked Edward Albee's play TINY ALICE for "'its ghastly pansy rhetoric and repartee.'" This book then should be required reading for all of us, both older and younger gay men, who want a better understanding of how these writers, some of them very brave, helped to change America and our lives.

Mr. Bram includes biographical facts, his critical analyses, and trivia that all come together in a most readable treasure trove. After THE CITY AND THE PILLAR, the daily NEW YORK TIMES did not review any of Vidal's work for fifteen years. Upon moving to California in the fifties to write for the movies, Vidal discovered that hustlers only charged ten dollars before six o'clock, a good deal for him, since that was the time he preferred to have sex anyway. W. H. Auden didn't like Ginsberg's hugely successful book HOWL AND OTHER POEMS (that a federal judge in California-- who taught Sunday School -- found not to be obscene). But then he didn't like Walt Whitman either. James Baldwin wrote an essay in 1949 attacking Vidal's THE CITY AND THE PILLAR, arguing that it was not about "homosexual love" but "the fear of sex between men." Isherwood, on the other hand, wrote a letter to Vidal about the book, acknowledging that "many homosexuals are unhappy," but also reminding him that "homosexual relationships can be and frequently are happy." Craig Rodwell (a hero for me) opened the first gay bookstore in the country Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in Greenwich Village in 1967.

The author writes extensively about the 1970's, that golden time in gay literature when times were so much better and exciting things were happening. In 1978, for example, three very important gay novels, FAGGOTS, DANCER FROM THE DANCE and TALES OF THE CITY were all published. (I remember buying all three from a local independent bookstore.) Then all the hell of the 1980's. On July 3, 1981 that ominous small article appeared in the NEW YORK TIMES about a rare skin cancer found in gay men. And Larry Kramer wrote his now famous and sad article in the NATIVE on March 14, 1983 about the number of reported cases of AIDS, "1,112 and Counting." Then he wrote his play THE NORMAL HEART that eventually was produced all over the country. Of course the play about AIDS that would capture the hearts of America in the 1990`s, sans one Andrew Sullivan, was Tony Kushner's ANGELS IN AMERICA in two parts. Part One won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award. Bram concludes this splendid book with a summary of how things have changed, from the overturn by Congress of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the states where same-sex marriage is legal, the publication of books by many young gay authors, the television drama "Glee," the mixing of gay and straight characters in "Six Feet Under." The list is long.

Even when I disagree sometimes with Mr. Bram's opinions, they are always refreshing and engaging . For example, he says DOWN THERE ON A VISIT "might be" his favorite book by Christopher Isherwood. I would certainly vote, however, for A SINGLE MAN, a novel I have read many times, and would argue that it is the best gay novel written in America. He prefers Michael Cunningham's A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD to THE HOURS. I would not. And I would vote for any of Armistead Maupin's TALES about San Francisco over THE NIGHT LISTENER. But isn't it wonderful that we have all these fantastic novels on which to disagree. He is so right though in his statement that "political activists rarely like fiction of any kind," as he says in his discussion of Craig Rodwell and Frank Kameny's distaste for "BOYS IN THE BAND." And while he offers no opinion on Christopher Isherwood's observation about those TALES that are much loved by gay readers all over the world that "'it is possible to commit art and entertainment in the same moment,'" I suspect he agrees with Mr. Isherwood.

EMINENT OUTLAWS is a book not to be missed.
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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
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This review is from: Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America (Hardcover)
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.

Without preaching from a soapbox Christopher Bram unveils the tortuous route these pioneers walked and in presenting the biographical data along with the ever-present use of gossip so much a part of this movement, Bram tells us a fascinating story as rich as any novel while at the same time producing one of the very finest history book resources yet to be written. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, April 12
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just how large a treasure homosexual writers are ..., February 9, 2012
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... I had no idea. There were a few surprises among the names named, at least for me, but absolutely no quarrel with the quality of the work produced by this contingent of the literary world. I finished reading this excellent, well-written and riveting book a couple of weeks ago, but having now enjoyed all of E.M. Forster's work earlier than 'A Room with a View', books I knew nothing about, I'm now trying to dig out more of the books and writers the author mentions.

'Eminent Outlaws' is not only worth reading, but worth re-reading. It'll definitely have a place in my virtual library.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely indispensable!!!, February 28, 2013
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This review is from: Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America (Hardcover)
Stop reading the reviews and just go read this book. Snarky trolls back under your rocks. This is delicious fun reading on every page. Bram is a delight! This is education and history at their best. Disagree with his opinions if you wish but only after you have done your homework. This is not the kind of book you can just take out of the public library and be satisfied. You will insist on owning this one to study and mark up till it falls apart. Destined to become a classic. Seminal reading that will open many doors and windows. Take your time! Enjoy every page.

Christopher Bram has made an immense contribution. This should be required reading on every college campus and for progressives of every color and stripe! Five stars is an understatement - three is an almost an insult.

Books are one of my biggest expenditures. This is one of the best I've read in a long time. Captivating. Engrossing. Any 'defects' are dwarfed but it's virtues. READ THIS BOOK!! I am enjoying every page. What fun! What a gift.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A treasure for those looking for gay history, May 10, 2012
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This review is from: Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America (Hardcover)
The first two thirds are fascinating...in part because Bram gives the history of fascinating people such as Christopher Isherwood, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin and Edward Albee. Included here are detailed portraits of the artists along with a deft analysis of their most representative works.

I found myself completely enthralled despite the fact that I am intimately familiar with much of the history and anecdotes collected here. Indeed, this is a great book for anyone who wants to increase their knowledge of these great gay writers but isn't necessarily interested in reading any of the many exhaustive biographies available. The writers covered in the first two thirds truly changed America; their works have become an indelible part of our history and culture. [I do wish Bram would have included a few ladies; certainly a chapter could have been dedicated to Gertrude Stein, Lorraine Hansberry, Patricia Highsmith, Carson McCullers, Alice Walker, Rita Mae Brown, et al.]

Armistead Maupin and "Tales of the City" are discussed at length, and Mart Crowley's play "Boys in the Band," deservedly gets a thorough going over. These works are beloved to gay men of a certain age. Novels by Peter Cameron, Stephen McCauley and Michael Cunningham are mentioned to varying degrees. The author writes compellingly about the AIDS epidemic and the poetry and prose written in response to the disease. Long passages are dedicated to the brilliant dramas "Angels in America " and "The Normal Heart," though he ignores the musicals "Falsettos" or "Rent," which also dealt with the plague.

As interesting as these topics are, there is no denying that the last third is not nearly as interesting or focused as the first two.

Bram overreaches when he tries to place contemporary writers Edmund White and Andrew Holleran in the same arena as the aforementioned giants. Though enormously gifted writers, White and Holleran have never achieved much notoriety, popularity or acceptance outside of the gay community. Neither has produced a break out "hit" on the scale of "In Cold Blood," "Myra Breckinridge," "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" or more recent works like "The Hours" or John Berendt's "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," nor have their works been translated (to my knowledge) to other mediums such as theatre, television or film.

The author also stumbles when talking of playwrights and drama by omitting Harvey Fierstein (his "Torch Song Trilogy" gave 1,222 performances on Broadway and was filmed in 1988), and making too little mention of Terrence McNally or Lanford Wilson, despite the fact that they produced plays and musicals with gay characters and themes that won awards, enjoyed long runs and were adapted for the screen. He talks about "drama" but again does not include such landmark musicals like "A Chorus Line," "La Cage aux Folles" or "Kiss of the Spider Woman."

It seems I have more complaints than praise. Not so. This book is so good I wanted more, and at the same time I wanted it to be more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars lit crit without jargon, April 11, 2013
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Because Bram is a writer and not an academic, this survey of gay American male writers in the second half of the 20th Century is free from critical jargon and immensely readable. That is not to say that it is not also insightful and provocative. One might quibble with some of his conclusions -- he seems unaware of subtextual readings of William Inge for instance -- but his blending of biography and criticism and social history makes this a really fine book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars long overdue, original, brilliant, insightful - read it!, August 25, 2012
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Jazz fan "blops12" (New York, New York United States) - See all my reviews
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Bram writes, in his acknowledgements, that he "spent much of my life preparing to write this book." It shows. It seemed such a simple thing - a literary history of gay writers after WWII. But in the hands of a writer - a gay writer, and one of our very best - this mundane task is transformed. What might have been an academic plod becomes a gripping, moving, funny, stay-up-all-night-can't-put-it-down pageturner. As a gay man who reads, this was like reading my own life. And Bram's insights, often provocative but always fair and based in intelligent writerly observations, always cast new light. He knows these books - and these writers - like no one else. He's lived with them both. I would urge anyone with even the slightest impulse in this direction to hurry to read this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a good conversation with a brilliant friend, July 13, 2012
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This review is from: Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America (Hardcover)
Christopher Bram's "Eminent Outlaws" is both touchstone and analysis of the gay writers in the Post WW II era. While it's a non0fiction collection of essays, it reads beautifully as a complete narrative. Because so manyo f the men knew each other, their ideas and lives are not contained in just one essay, but they spill over the years and the pages as they made their way in the world of letters and the evolution of gay life in America.

Christopher Isherwood is in many ways the book's leading character: his journey as a writer and as a man in a longterm relationship in some ways predicts and mirrors the the way gay people grew into their own culture (and on occasion approached or were adopted by the mainstream).

The vivid looks at such writers as Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote and Edward Albee are beautifully drawn and well-told. Put into the context of their times, the lives of the artists have a lot to say to today's queers.

I look forward to dipping into this book and getting different nuances in each read; and also I've got more books to add to my "to read" list.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, readable and informative, June 15, 2012
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This review is from: Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America (Hardcover)
This book moves along at a nice pace, which is quite an achievement for a broad survey. The author is the perfect guide to the story , and offers insightful, sometimes sharp, commentary about the books and writers. You will come away anxious to read or re-read some of the major works discusssed.
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Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America
Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America by Christopher Bram (Hardcover - February 2, 2012)
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