Read The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered Online
Authors: Tom Cardamone,Christopher Bram,Michael Graves,Jameson Currier,Larry Duplechan,Sean Meriwether,Wayne Courtois,Andy Quan,Michael Bronski,Philip Gambone
gay fiction rediscovered
Tom Cardamone, editor
Haiduk Press / New York
Lethe Press / Maple Shade
Copyright 2010 by Tom Cardamone
All rights reserved.
Paperback ISBN 978-0-9714686-3-4
Cover illustration “First Eyes” © 2009 by Mel Odom
Cover design by Kate Shanley
Text design and composition by Bea Ferrigno
Ebook conversion by Toby Johnson
A version of Aaron Hamburger’s essay on J. S. Marcus’s The Captain’s Fire appeared in Tin House #36.
About Haiduk Press
The haiduks were quasi-legendary folk heroes who to this day are regarded as romantic, Robin Hood figures; they are an integral part of the folklore of Hungary and Romania. Inspired by their example, Haiduk Press was formed to publish works that gently challenge the cultural status quo and conventional wisdom.
About Lethe Press
Since 2001, Lethe Press has been giving “voice” to lost and forgotten works of queer and speculative fiction. Our titles have won such awards as the Golden Crown Literary and Lambda Literary Awards.
I often think of the men who planted the orchard, and I have done so many times in the last week while surveying the damage. They must have known they would never have seen the trees mature themselves, but must have hoped that their children and indeed children’s children might one day pick the fruit on summer evenings, and think of them as they did so.
— Neil Bartlett,
Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall
Rabih Alameddine The
Allen Barnett The Body and Its Dangers
Neil Bartlett Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall
George Baxt A Queer Kind of Death
Bruce Benderson User
Christopher Coe Such Times
Daniel Curzon Something You Do in the Dark
Melvin Dixon Vanishing Rooms
Ian Rafael Titus
I’ll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip
Robert Ferro The Blue Star
John Gilgun Music I Never Dreamed Of
Agustin Gomez-Arcos The Carnivorous Lamb
Michael Grumley Life Drawing
Samuel J. Miller
Lynn Hall Sticks and Stones
Richard Hall Couplings
J.S. Marcus The Captain’s Fire
James McCourt Time Remaining
Mark Merlis American Studies
Charles Nelson The Boy Who Picked the Bullets Up
Kyle Onstott & Lance Horner Child of the Sun
Roger Peyrefitte The Exile of Capri
Paul Rogers Saul's Book
Patrick Roscoe Birthmarks
Douglas Sadownick Sacred Lips of the Bronx
Glenway Wescott The Apple of the Eye
George Whitmore Nebraska Victor Bumbalo
Donald Windham Two People
: A History of the Reprinting of Gay Novels
Novels and Short Story Collections of Further Interest
I took my first steps out of the closet in bookstores and libraries. Tentatively, I touched chipped and creased paperbacks and discovered books that let me know I was not alone. Before I knew who
gay authors were, or at least the usually prescribed volumes, I intuited from coded titles, from the allure of certain book covers, the stories that I soon made mine. These literary wanderings were as splendid as they were haphazard. The more I read the more I craved. And I wanted a conversation, a dialogue, a list of
writers adored and championed. Novels and stories and characters that changed readers’ lives, woke them to their rights and futures and destinies and lovers. Books that cried to be passed down from one man to the next, hand to hand, with whispers of sincerity, “you
to read this.” Books that were used, re-read, bookmarked, dog-eared, highlighted, footnoted, forgotten, spines broken, out-of-print, history.
history. These books whisper back, “Remember what you felt the first time you found me?”
As gay culture is absorbed into the mainstream, our history has been quickly forgotten or simplified -history that always existed in the margins, passed along from one generation to the next in bedrooms and smoky bars. Television, a few films every year, and the Internet have replaced the thrill of visiting a gay bookstore. Now these bookstores are closing. Chain bookstores have ceded us a few rows in the nether regions of their gigantic barns; for every episode of
and rerun of
Will & Grace
today that speaks directly to a young gay man, there are a multitude of neglected books, consigned to used bookstores and boxed in attics, collecting dust.
After I started sketching out novels and sheepishly submitting short stories and attending book readings I met other gay writers. Inevitably, we would recommend texts to one another. Time and time again, I was struck by how often the novels and short story collections that I was breathlessly urged to read were then just as speedily lamented as out-of-print and hard to find. Worse, I surprised myself when recommending relatively recent titles only to find that the book I deemed so important, so solidly valuable, was already remaindered. Often I ended up buying multiple copies of these favorites whenever I stumbled across them, storing them like talismans to push hopefully on fresh converts. Of course I read some brilliant gay books that continue to stay in print, have won awards, and have been adopted into a gay canon, but I was increasingly curious as to whether they represented the whole of gay literature; were these titles the genuine pinnacle? So many of the books that came up in conversation embodied diversity and history that was either pre-Stonewall or went far beyond the available urban story. The current canon does not make room for campy pulp paperbacks from the fifties and sixties, so unrepresentative of our current lives yet so important as historical documents and, in their day, as proof of our very existence. Serious pioneer texts from these periods and even earlier have been obscured by more forward, modern works. Transformative novels were lost as the dark and dangerous eighties were consumed by the heady nineties. Yet contemporary novels can have a fleeting existence within the current multiplication of medias and the technological rapidity with which art is delivered and consumed. A cultural lacuna has opened, one that needs arresting. So I dug deeper. I sifted for more fiction in non-fiction books like Michael Bronski’s
and Gregory Woods’
A History of Gay Literature
(both writers accepted invitations to contribute to this collection). I researched small presses come and gone. I made lists of obscure or forgotten titles and rushed to the Strand bookstore to comb the stacks on my lunch break. What I also required, though, was for the conversation to continue. I wanted to
what books mattered, from writers I liked and knew or wanted to know. I wanted a gay version of Anthony Burgess’
99 Great Novels
but from a multitude of voices, different generations and ethnicities and backgrounds -meaning this wasn’t a book I wanted to write, but one I wanted to
This project was and is completely organic. When I decided to embark upon this anthology, I simply looked at my bookshelf and e-mailed the authors I had recently read and the writers I knew personally. Of those who were immediately struck by a title and author they wanted to write about (and I do mean immediate; I rarely had to wait more than a day before I received an enthusiastic response) I then asked “Can you think of anyone else who might be interested?” And they did. So straight away I let the contributors drive this project. They even suggested the title.
While waiting to collect their essays, I gathered the books they were writing about and in doing so decided that this anthology should be organized alphabetically by author covered, to best honor and illuminate these writers whose work deserves our attention, reconsideration, and possibly a place, once again, in the realm of the printed and read. I envisioned this collection as more of a round table; writers discussing, defending, remembering and explaining favorite out-of-print gay books or forgotten titles. As I read these books I was constantly surprised. I certainly did not expect to discover a book concerning a gay teen published in 1969, much less a
gay young adult novel from that period. The searing epistolary Vietnam War-era novel that was too hot to read in public; books about a gay black detective and a Roman Emperor’s marriage to his favorite gladiator. These stories spanned centuries and took me from Rome to Boston, Capri to New Orleans, South Africa to Canada, Lebanon to Franco Spain, from the Golden Gate to Times Square. These are the books that challenged young minds, shaped careers, and saved lives.