Depressing gay fiction

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Do you remember when gay fiction was depressing?

Huh - ? - would be a fair reaction. In the days since AIDS much gay fiction is anything but cheerful.

I'm thinking of what might be called The City and the Pillar school of gay fiction. Possibly I'm being unfair to Vidal (no harm in that, to whom has he been fair). What I'm remembering are 'paperback original' gay novels where the men's sexual encounters were unerotically sordid (no Marc Almond playing in the background). These overly sober hunks would give in to the lust that wasn't supposed to speak its name. The unrelated sucking and fucking was always regretted or at least unsatisfying. Why? Well it wasn't - damn if I know what it wasn't. I've never met a man who had that bad a relationship with his penis. Relationships, if attempted, didn't last for unclear reasons that seemed to suggest gay romantic love was a damned queer idea (sorry). (Maybe it was the Boys in the Band school of gay literature.)

Our hero, a normal Joe like you and me, would be just discovering or admitting his love of men. He'd fall into the demimonde of lisping sissies and rich urbane men of the world. Everybody was miserable. There must've been an implied better life to come if not happy ending. I read these too long ago to remember. Hackneyed, undistinguished narratives notwithstanding the paperbacks have gone on to be what eBay addicts call collector's items.

Was this what coming out felt like for some men back then? I don't regret not having made their acquaintance.

Admittedly John Rechy went his own distinctive, overwrought way.

The tales of misery were followed by the fat fiction of the gay Harold Robbins, Gordon Merrick. I quit reading gay fiction so it was only after the fact that I noticed gay novels had become an established publishing and book club niche.

From the queer fiction I've begun but often never finished it seemed two schools had emerged. There were your angsty tales of beautiful guys, often artistes who moped in the wake of AIDS. And breezy stories beautiful young men who have Troubled Relationships but it All Turns Out Right in the end.

Depressing gay fiction of another sort.

[Listening to: Magic Carpet Ride - Pizzicato Five - (5:13)]

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Thanks,
Richard

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