HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON? by Ethan Mordden

HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON?

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A seasoned author of gay writing, both fiction and nonfiction (the anthology Waves, 1994; the Buddies trilogy, etc.), returns, this time with a vast and emphatically sweeping saga of queer life since 1949. Beginning in the heady Hollywood years following WW II and concluding with the AIDS-scourged 90's, Mordden chronicles the lives of 15 members of an emerging gay and lesbian postwar community. The premise--that sometime in the 1950's homosexuals began to tire of their insular communities and long for broader acceptance--is less than revelatory, but the manner in which the author plays it out is lively and often scabrously comic. The ball gets rolling when Frank Hubbard, an LA vice cop and closeted queer, abandons the force to start a moving company with his newfound lover. By 1985, he's drifted from LA to New York to San Francisco, encountering torchy cabaret acts like the scoldingly witty Kid, cerebral and entrepreneurial lesbians like nightclub manager Lois, and a gaggle of straights, hustlers, and porn stars. Frank eventually gets sick and kills himself in heroic fashion, but not before he garners a reputation as a sort of gay Achilles, never shrinking from the good fight. Interspersed with his story are several other linked tales, mostly reminiscent of the Edmund White pattern: Misunderstoods on both sides of the sexual fence flee Middle America for the ribald sanctuary of the big cities, where they boink like rabbits just off the farm and, it seems, spend almost all their spare time chatting each other up. (The novel is narrated almost entirely through dialogue.) Mordden covers his history with remarkable effectiveness--particularly gay Hollywood in the George Cukor era--and the banter is priceless. So baggy and so expansive in its generosity to its subjects that it could only be a novel; no one would have time for the movie, and there isn't a theater big enough to stage the play.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-41529-7
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Villard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1995




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