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Faggots Paperback – June 1, 2000


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Faggots + The Normal Heart and the Destiny of Me + And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, 20th-Anniversary Edition
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (June 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802136915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802136916
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Very few writers have the prescience or audacity to produce one of the standard works of their era--not a classic, necessarily, but a book that defines its own cultural moment in startling new terms, like One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest or Portnoy's Complaint. Activist and rabble-rouser Larry Kramer has the distinction of having written not only one of the earliest and best-known plays on AIDS, The Normal Heart, but also the astonishing satire of gay urban sexual mores Faggots, perhaps the most reviled novel in the gay literary canon. A grim, graphic expansion on John Rechy's Numbers, which chronicled a hustler's soulless game of sexual conquest, Kramer's pornopticon turns off many readers by about page 3, when its hero, the screenwriter Fred Lemish, is offered an array of dubious pleasures in a private room at the infamous Everard Baths in New York. What Lemish really wants, of course, is true love, preferably from his elusive boyfriend, Dinky Adams. But as long as he's in the room...

Celebrated and excoriated when it first appeared in 1978, this reprint of a gay anticlassic is not for the faint of heart. For the rest of us, it is a harsh, fascinating, and somewhat eerie revisitation of the carnal excesses of a generation that couldn't hear the bell tolling over the disco beat.

From the Inside Flap

Graphically sexual and one of the all-time best-selling gay novels, Faggots is the story of Fred Lemish, who at thirty-nine has built up his body into a fatless state of being in Great Shape. Lemish is ready to find Mr. Right. But from the Everhard Baths to the Pines on Fire Island to that place of myth and story, The Meat Rack, he is looking for his dream lover in all the wrong places. Faggots is a fierce satire of the gay ghetto and a touching story of one man's desperate search for permanence, commitment, and love.

"A Vesuvian explosion about the gay life that spares no one and no thing...there is much truth and honesty to be found here."--Seymour Krim, Chicago Tribune

"True comic brilliance--a vicious Swiftian satire that, like all satire, contains a strong moral voice."--New York

"Faggots, for all its excesses, is frequently right on target and, when it is on target, is appallingly funny."--Edward Albee

"Larry Kramer has more than come out of the closet, he's housecleaned the neighborhood. Faggots is a novel of courage...a journey worth the chronicle...a noble gesture."--Baltimore Sun

"Larry Kramer is one of America's most valuable troublemakers. I hope he never lowers his voice."--Susan Sontag

"The liberation of sexuality from the bonds of moralism has left in its wake a crying need for principled, intelligent, vigorous explorations of how a genuine morality can be introduced to our newly minted freedom. This exploration is a central part of Kramer's historically significant literary work, of which Faggots constitutes an important beginning and a key. As a documentation of an era, as savage and savagely funny social parody, as a cry in the wilderness, and as a prescient, accurate reading of the writing on the wall, the novel is peerless and utterly necessary. It is brilliant, bellicose, contemptuous, compassionate and--as is true of everything Kramer writes--behind its delectable, entertaining, sometimes maddening harshness is a profoundly moving plea for justice and for love. There are few books in modern gay fiction, or modern fiction for that matter, that must be read. Faggots is certainly one of them."--Tony Kushner

"Since his screenplay for D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love in 1969, Larry Kramer has been a prophet of psychic health and catastrophe among us--a prophet unmatched for the accuracy of his omens and the reliability of his anathemas and remedies. His uncannily foresighted novel Faggots appeared in 1978 just as the AIDS virus flooded whole wings of the American bloodstream; now its Swiftian portrait of an all but vanished subculture stands as that culture's visible memorial. His later plays have been clear as firebells, memorable as tracer bullets."--The American Academy of Arts and Letters citation, May 1996

"[Faggots] sends up New York's self-imposed gay ghetto, doing for its gyms, discos, orgy rooms, army fatigues, mustaches, and advertising agencies what Portnoy's Complaint did for Mom and masturbation. Faggots is the Uncle Tom's Cabin for homosexual men whose worst oppression is their lack of courage to change the way they live."--Library Journal

"A corrosive study of the gay underbelly of New York.... Faggots has the air of a Restoration comedy in its mix of Baroque style and bawdy, scathing humor."--Women's Wear Daily

"A book of major historical importance--the first contemporary novel to chronicle gay life with unsparing honesty and wild humor. Larry Kramer has changed the way we think about gay men. He is one of our great humanists."--Erica Jong

"Writing as always from an affirmatively homosexual point of view, Kramer in this novel conveys a sense of premonitory unease, even foreboding, about the spread of promiscuity, sadomasochism and narcotics among the homosexual population...more graphic than James Baldwin or Hubert Selby."--Times Literary Supplement

"It would come to resemble her, Picasso said of his Stein portrait-and so with Kramer's of New York gay life, which I had thought so entertaining, so extravagant, ever so preposterous a lustrum ago. It has come to resemble it, in tr


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Customer Reviews

I couldn't finish this book.
Etta R. Schaeffer
The book is of important historical significance and should be considered a classic in gay literature.
Mark A. Biernbaum
There are way too many characters and they are all too thinly drawn.
H. Williams

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 27, 1996
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This novel is a classic. Actually, when I first read it upon publication, the style kind of drove me nuts. But the honesty of the content is astonishing. Of course, Kramer didn't know it, but he was describing a way of life -- the late 70's New York gay party scene -- that was about to vanish into history as a result of the onslaught of AIDS.

Kramer caught considerable flak at the time from other gays who felt he was telling too much, exposing sexual excesses that enemies of gays could use. Only one problem: the lifestyle he was documenting existed, and his take on it was accurate and true.

The novel now stands as a cultural artifact as much as work of fiction. After decades of repression, the gay excesses of the seventies were perhaps inevitable and certainly understandable. But the side-effects of sex as a drug, sex as everything, were not always pretty, and Kramer doesn't flinch from the emotional damage.

It would be nice to think that time has vindicated him, which to my mind it has. But the matter of gay sexuality will probably always remain controversial -- among gays themselves, let alone straights. Kramer's novel stands as a brave and honest record of a brief time when sex (gay or otherwise) seemed to be without consequences.

James Robert Bake
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Joseph P. Barri on February 5, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It took a bit of serendipity for me to purchase FAGGOTS--I was in the check out line at Borders when I noticed this marked-down soft-cover with the alluring images. For someone who was married in 1978 when the Book was first published, came out to himself and the world a year later and was diagnosed with HIV in 1994, this Book explains better than any other the history of gay life in the 70's. Most importantly, it explains why loving relationships between same-sex oriented people are what makes life worth living for most of them, just like for most everyone else.
The characterizations are complex and sometimes it seems that there are too many characters to keep track of, but Mr. Kramer manages to pull it all together in a Book that reveals a multi-faceted mosaic of all the faces and souls and all the tensions in an environment frought with everything but enduring love. Reminiscent of LORD OF THE FLIES, except in reverse, this Book shows the struggle of an evolving community, lost at the time in its own excesses and looking for love in all the wrong places, set up by destiny for the plague to hit. It is a must read for every member of our community, new or old.
FAGGOTS provides an excellent opportunity to learn from history.
Joe Barri
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Tanja L. Walker on August 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
Larry Kramer does a masterful job of satirizing a lifestyle and mindset that treats men as commodities and sex as a game. His characters are over the top, overwrought, and overindulge in everything from drugs to "nasty" little sex games. Underneath all the excess, though, are characters who are looking for love in all the wrong places, in all the wrong people, and for all the wrong reasons. I suspect that those in New York's Gay ghettos of the late 1970's, though, were, and are, not the only ones who struggle with the boundaries of love and sex, when they cross and when they don't, and the pain and emptiness of pursuing sex to the exclusion of love.
Two aspects about Kramer's writing style, though, did bother me. First, so many characters ran in and out of the novel that I couldn't keep track of them all. Could we have done without, say, Gatsby, Paulie, or even Anthony, and still had a great story? I think so. Also, Kramer's deliberate use of run-on sentences made the narrative hard to follow at times. I can live with run-on sentences to some degree (just read my sentences sometime), but some of Kramer's were too convoluted even for me. Still, a book worth reading.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Allen Smalling TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 4, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Nobody would read "Faggots" for an introduction to the gay community today, and whether you remember the late 1970s with fear, loathing or warm affection says a lot about you and what's happened to you in the twenty years-plus since this novel was written.
The novel's main character, Fred Lemish, is a neurotic gay man on the edge of his 40th birthday. Fred is determined to find love and he thinks he has it in the form of "Dinky" Adams. Fred pursues Dinky through the worst (or "best" if you feel nostalgic) sexual excesses New York and Fire Island could offer in those years. No party, orgy or drug was off limits. People today may think that Kramer was exaggerating the gay scene for shock value, but actually he was taking the most excessive side of things and telling the story pretty straight.
Kramer's moral, that gay men should treat each other as people and not as commodities, has worn well with time, and the book is an interesting read from a time gone by. I just hope we understand it isn't representative of gay life today, and probably wasn't typical of all gay life even back then.
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
First published in 1978, Larry Kramer's controversial novel FAGGOTS offers the story of Fred Lemish, four days short of his 40th birthday, determined to find true love and on an odyssey through the bars, clubs, baths, and various orgy rooms that catered to gay New Yorkers during that period. The result is a kaleidoscopic vision of the era, a novel that swirls with many characters, many locales, and as many sexual activities as can be crammed into its 350 plus pages.

The novel is, in theory, a satirical condemnation of the lifestyle it displays--but Kramer makes a very fundamental mistake. He tends to assume that this sexual hedonism is the norm for gay men. He also creates a cast of characters who lack the inner resources to create any viable alternative to it. Consequently, the novel reads rather like a cleft stick: Kramer condemns his characters for failing to escape from what he essentially posits as an escape-proof trap.

That is a tremendous flaw, but it is hardly the only one. With relatively few exceptions, the characters are shallow--and while that is part of the point of the novel, it also makes it very difficult to think of them as anything more than names on the page. As a result, you tend to read the novel less for story than in order to see what unexpected sexual acrobatics might be described next. And that's the hallmark of pornography plain and simple. It becomes very, very difficult to accept the book as the serious work of fiction that it proclaims itself to be.

There is a tendency now to look upon FAGGOTS as a portent of the AIDS epidemic--and certainly it does give you a very good idea of how easily the disease was spread within gay subcultures like the one Kramer describes.
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