A writer who was there and did all that chronicles perhaps the most significant period in the history of gay literature.
The Stonewall Riots of 1969 sent gay writers, artists and actors from their closets to their desks, studios and theaters. There for the next 30 or so years they created a body of candid, forthright, often laudatory works about gay life. One of the most prolific of them, Picano (Fred in Love, 2005, etc.) here recalls what happened. The theme is sex: sex as politics, sex as literature, sex as just plain sex. When Picano spotted a tattoo of a seahorse (a male that reproduces) on the bod of a buff Italian man gleaming in the Key West sun, he got the name for the gay press he started in 1976. Five years later, he joined with two other publishers of gay works to form Gay Presses of New York. With six gay writers he formed the short-lived but influential Violet Quill Club. Picano’s history of all this is rich with anecdotes, profiles and background notes. He captures the excitement of a Violet Quill reading at Manhattan’s Three Lives & Company Bookstore. He traces the development of Harvey Fierstein’s Torchsong Trilogy, the play that propelled gay theater into the mainstream and, in book form, helped keep Gay Presses of New York solvent. And he describes authors famous (Gore Vidal) and unknown (the Rev. Boyd McDonald, who wrote scorching accounts of his sexual adventures). Picano’s own adventures feed into the story. After Robert Mapplethorpe photographed Picano’s genitals, the men had sex. The freedom to do that, then write and publish the story, is what his book is all about.
Picano recalls an exciting time with insight, enthusiasm and justifiable satisfaction.