THE GAY METROPOLIS, 1940-1996 by Charles Kaiser


Email this review


 This chronicle of gay life in New York City over the last half a century tells a story of progressive cultural, social, and political vindication. Seasoned journalist Kaiser's earlier book, 1968 in America: Music, Politics, Chaos, Counterculture, and the Shaping of a Generation (1988), examined a seminal year of modern American experience. Here he takes on six decades, beginning with WW II and its aftermath of sexual openness. One interviewee described it as ``a little distilled moment out of time,'' when the horrors of war sparked a tolerance of and even a zest for the varieties of sexual experience. But when ordinary life and older prejudices resumed in the 1950s, gay activists had to work all the harder to win both self-respect and social acceptance from often hostile parties. Kaiser recounts landmark events in the struggle--such as the Kinsey Report, Stonewall, the American Psychiatric Association's reclassification of homosexuality, the first descriptive use of ``gay'' (instead of ``homosexual'') in the New York Times--as well as offering the personal reflections of people then on the scene: mostly gay men (and several lesbians), many of them well-known artists or public figures. He shows a weakness for alluding to the rich and famous (Philip Johnson, Leonard Bernstein, Montgomery Clift, for example) and for stacking up sequences of anecdotes about their private lives. Amid all the glitter, at least one omission is conspicuous: the lack of any mention of Andrew Holleran's defining 1978 book, Dancer from the Dance, which ushered facts of New York's gay reality into a fictional work of beauty and pathos still cherished by readers. Nevertheless, Kaiser has done gay men (and others) a service with this brightly toned narrative--many will find a sense of themselves and their experiences in it, warmly affirmed. (33 b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1997
ISBN: 0-395-65781-4
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997


NonfictionGAY BERLIN by Robert Beachy
by Robert Beachy
FictionTHE MAN ON THE THIRD FLOOR by Anne Bernays
by Anne Bernays
NonfictionMASTER OF CEREMONIES by Joel Grey
by Joel Grey