July 5, 2011

Cultural Imperatives: Gay Authors

I have been asking my gay friends to name “must reads” for anyone who wants to understand the modern gay world. I have read dozens of books, but now I’m getting into gay history with such authors as Edmund White, Andrew Holleran, Justin Spring, Armistead Maupin, and most recently Paul Monette.

Monette wrote Becoming A Man: Half A Life Story, a memoir of boyhood growing into a man who finally finds love. The journey to that love takes the entire book; only the final few pages give us any hope for Paul. It is a story of internal struggle and external posturing, trying to be what the world wants him to be. It is only when Monette realizes the fallacy of such expectations that he becomes capable of the love he so desperately wants. It is a familiar theme.

I’m finding so far that many gay men my age have a dark view of men. They lived through a terrible childhood, being told by the world in those innocent and tender years that they are at best “intrinsically disordered.” Ushered into a new era, they celebrated the years between 1969 and 1981 (Stonewall to HIV), which became a brief nirvana that crashed around them with countless funerals and bitter memories of lost hope. I wonder at any gay man’s ability to live through all of that and survive healthy and whole.

Monette’s memoir is bleak. Is it a template for most men of his era? I continue to read (currently a collection from the Violet Quill) and learn. If you have a recommendation for me, by all means let’s hear it.


Ur-spo said...

Ethan Morrden books - four of them, starting with "I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more"
is a good start. It's a bit outdated but it goes on into more contemporary times.

Java said...

I'll have to check into Monette's books. And I'll follow up on Ur-Spo's recommendation, too. I read Mordden's "How Long Has This Been Going On" and it was moving and memorable. Actually, Gregory "manprano" recommended it, as I now recall.

Blobby said...

I've never been a fan of Monette. I can't say why, but his style never got to me. Ditto w/Edmund White.

Meli said...

I liked Becoming a Man... but it wasn't my favorite of his. Borrowed Time was gut-wrenching.. and I really loved Last Watch of the Night.