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Faggots Paperback – June 1, 2000
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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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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I think his novel now seems outdated, that, in some ways, it’s poorly written, that there are far too many characters to keep track of and care about, and that many of them are two-dimensional.
However, before rising too high on their high horses, younger gay men might consider this. In the 1970s, following the Stonewall rebellion of 1969, gay men feel liberated, mostly to feast on one another; job security, civil unions, and marriage are faint, romantic dreams that have little hope of being fully realized in our lifetime. Gay bars are the depots of our underground railroad, if I may say so, and in many parts of the country our lives are still out of sight. What Mr. Kramer does manage to do is to pose the question, and he does so prior to the AIDS crisis: Why must the lives of gay men revolve entirely around the next penis they might get their hands on? Might they not settle down, like their heterosexual friends, and pursue a life in which they devote themselves to one another? If nothing else, Kramer does, to great effect, bring this prescient dream alive for us, and we should be grateful.
Sadly, "Faggots," which fancies itself a satire and has been hailed as a tour de force of modern queer literature, merits none of these distinctions. In truth, in can hardly be characterized as a novel at all, since it lacks most of the defining elements of the genre on a very fundamental level—for example, a well-constructed plot or complex and thoughtfully developed characters. The story, such as it is, consists of allegedly witty vignettes or set pieces strung together with little sense of coherence or narrative veracity and populated by an unnecessarily large cast of undeveloped flat characters. A generous reading might presume that Kramer is attempting a stream-of-consciousness style, but if that’s the case, his novelistic skill is not up to the task, since such a style requires profound psychological insight into the complex thought patterns of a character who provides narrative perspective.
Upon its publication in 1978, "Faggots" sowed controversy due to its graphic depiction of gay sex, fetishes, drug use, incest, and other scandalous “perversities.” To be fair, as a depiction of pre-AIDS era gay culture in New York City, the novel retains great cultural value as an artifact of that specific historical moment. But it cannot be considered a work of literature. One suspects that there is good reason why Kramer, who penned the magnificent play (and later screenplay) The Normal Heart and contributed greatly to queer activism in the latter part of the 20th century, never wrote another novel.