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GLBT Classic Literature

Rainbow FlagIn honor of gay pride month, and egged on by some recent e-mails, I’ll name the five gay literature classics that have one way or another shaped my perspective as a person.

1. The Folded Leaf, William Maxwell. A classic story: Athletic and slightly unruly Spud Latham saves the frail, flat-chested Lymie from going under in time plants a seed of friendship (more than friendship) that will be tested by tough trials that touch the innermost of human heart.

2. Maurice, E.M. Forster. Very few, perhaps none of the contemporary gay fiction paints a more authentic, true-to-life picture of how a coming-of-age gay man is torn between his sexuality and the need to assimilate to social and cultural constructions of the “normal” than E. M. Forster’s Maurice does. It’s most heart wrenching, because Maurice just wants to be loved.

3. Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin. The book explores the troubling emotions of man’s heart with unusual candor and yet with dignity and intensity. It delves into the most controversial issue of morality with an artistry. The most touching and absorbing thing is Giovanni’s unconditional love for David, whose fearful intimation opens in him a hatred for Giovanni that is as powerful as his love for him.

4. The Swimming-Pool Library, Alan Hollinghurst. His first and probably the most powerful. The novel exposes the day-to-day episodes of gay life. Nipping into a library of uncatalogued pleasure is a realm of halt, darkness, and unknown possibility. It is in this uncharted territory where the difference between sex and companionship becomes blurry.

5. Dancer From The Dance, Andrew Holleran. What hits me the most (and that is the one thing that tugs so snuggly in my heart) is that Malone is very melodramatic, sentimental, and clinging on to temperament. He surely lives (and suffers) for love more than others. Whether he finds the love of his life or not, his determination renders his living life to the full. The novel, after all, can be viewed as a bittersweet journey to self-enlightenment: He struggled to come out of the closet. He quit a career in law to pursue with passion the one thing that had eluded him utterly–love.

16 Responses

  1. Wow, I’ve never read any of those books.

  2. I love E.M. Forster and I’m also amazed at how well so much of his work has been adapted into films. Maurice is a great novel and the film’s pretty good, too. Have an excellent weekend.

  3. I’ve only read one, Maurice. Now I’ll have to go check these out at Books Inc. 😉

  4. I’ve read Giovanni’s room and Maurice, both wonderful. I think the Hollinghurst might be the one for me to go for.

  5. You’ve picked some great writers here! I must read the Hollinghurst one as I love his writing

  6. Definitely a great list here! My fav of all time is Holleran.

  7. I’ve read four of the five (I’ll have to check out the Maxwell). Giovanni’s Room is a favorite. If you enjoyed Swimming Pool Library, than read Hollinghurst’s Booker Prize winning novel The Line of Beauty. Michael Cunningham’s justly celebrated The Hours is a beauty, but check out his novel Flesh & Blood (one of the best books I’ve ever read). Barbara Pym’s The Sweet Dove Died is another favorite – shades of Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, only much more subtle and bittersweet. Richard McCann’s Mother of Sorrows is well worth reading as is Alain Claude Summer’s A Perfect Waiter.

  8. I’ve read three of those. My list would include Like People in History by Felice Picano and Quatrefoil by James Barr.

  9. Wow, how moving is Giovanni’s Room??? Fantastic book, and I actually read it for Contemporary American Lit in college.

  10. Jef:
    You’ll have lots of choices for the book club then. 😉

    Maurice is one of my all-time faves. I haven’t seen the movie though.

  11. John:
    I’ll read Giovanni’s Room next if I were you. Swimming-Pool Library is the most arduous read. 😉

    Greg S:
    Folded Leaf is a hidden treasure. 😉

  12. seachanges:
    They are some of the most elaborate writers. Difficult prose though. 😉

    I also recommend In September, The Light Changes, it’s Holleran’s short story collection. 🙂

  13. Ivan:
    I’ll check out your suggestions. I need some new ideas in this subject. 😉 Thanks so much.

    Hollinghurst has also written The Spell which you might find very interesting. 🙂

    Giovanni’s Room puts tears in my eye! 😉

  14. […] but I’m not very well-read in this genre, other than the titles I mentioned in this post. I snag this list from my friend Greg and hopefully incorporate some of these titles in my reading […]

  15. Patrick White’s The Twyborn Affair is worth a look. White has a “difficult” reputation here in Australia and so it was with some trepidation that I introduced this title to my gym’s. book group. Despite requiring some persistence (after the first 40 or so pages, I went back to the beginning then read, enthralled, to the end of the book), those who read it were pleased that they had taken the trouble. We wore delighted by the wisdom, humour and beauty of the writing.
    I don’t know what White’s reputation is like overseas, but he certainly deserves to be widely read.

    • Thanks for the comment Philip. Patrick White is a new author for me, and I will put it on my list. I consider myself a persistent reader so a book with a slow start should be fine for me.

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