PLAYING THE GAME: The Homosexual Novel in America by Roger Austen

PLAYING THE GAME: The Homosexual Novel in America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Gay masterplots (1843-1965) for ""gay readers"" (male only) by the editor of The Sentinel (""a gay West Coast newspaper""), mixed with the sort of hit-and-run pseudo-criticism that tags Herman Melville ""the nineteenth century godfather of homosexual fiction in this country"" and backs it up with only four paragraphs. Tracking homosexual authors, characters, and stories, analyzing the degree of openness or concealment (""playing the game""), spotting ""homophobia"" in critics--when the approach is this narrow, the result is inevitably the simplistic diminution of art (James, Anderson, Cather, Baldwin) and the exaltation of junk. In Billy Budd, why is Claggfirt ""the villain of the piece?"" ""Homophobic nineteenth-century literary standards."" Why is the hero of Other Voices, Other Rooms thirteen years old? ""Safely prepubescent. . . Capote has played it safe."" Craft and bigger-thansex themes don't enter much into Austen's treatment of gifted writers--or his appreciations of the less gifted. ""He knew the wild tenderness was now upon them."" That's a ""lyrically beautiful moment"" from The Bitterweed Path. And Austen quotes enough from that ""breezy, star-spangled poem,"" a novel called The Gaudy Image, to let us know how overblown his evaluation is. Still, the 100+ bibliography will be useful to the serious scholarship that's surely ahead, as will Austen's occasional highlighting of the worthwhile (James Barr's Quatrefoil) and his recognition of the truly awful. Whether or not Leslie Fiedler takes Austen's advice--""to complete his education"" by reading the Loon books, wherein ""muscular white men and muscular red men love and fuck each other""--someone is bound to do an authoritatire restoration job on the homosexual novel, a job Austen can't handle.

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1977
Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill