Synopses & Reviews
In the years following World War II a group of gay writers established themselves as major cultural figures in American life. Truman Capote, the enfant terrible, whose finely wrought fiction and nonfiction captured the nation's imagination. Gore Vidal, the wry, withering chronicler of politics, sex, and history. Tennessee Williams, whose powerful plays rocketed him to the top of the American theater. James Baldwin, the harrowingly perceptive novelist and social critic. Christopher Isherwood, the English novelist who became a thoroughly American novelist. And the exuberant Allen Ginsberg, whose poetry defied censorship and exploded minds. Together, their writing introduced America to gay experience and sensibility, and changed our literary culture.
But the change was only beginning. A new generation of gay writers followed, taking more risks and writing about their sexuality more openly. Edward Albee brought his prickly iconoclasm to the American theater. Edmund White laid bare his own life in stylized, autobiographical works. Armistead Maupin wove a rich tapestry of the counterculture, queer and straight. Mart Crowley brought gay men's lives out of the closet and onto the stage. And Tony Kushner took them beyond the stage, to the center of American ideas.
With authority and humor, Christopher Bram weaves these men's ambitions, affairs, feuds, loves, and appetites into a single sweeping narrative. Chronicling over fifty years of momentous change-from civil rights to Stonewall to AIDS and beyond-EMINENT OUTLAWS is an inspiring, illuminating tale: one that reveals how the lives of these men are crucial to understanding the social and cultural history of the American twentieth century.
"This select series of profiles and literary analyses by the author of Gods and Monsters (turned into an Oscar-winning film) explores with brio the gay temper in American literature, from 1948 to 2000. Segmenting his book into five parts, by decade, Bram concentrates on the giants among them: Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, James Baldwin, Edward Albee, James Merrill, Larry Kramer, Tony Kushner, and, above all Edmund White (the 'central figure' for his generation, as Vidal had been for an earlier one). We're treated to their successes as well as to the juicy rivalries that sometimes marked their careers. Bram doesn't indulge in canon formation. In fact, he only mentions Henry James, Willa Cather (one of the few women of this book on a male tradition), Hart Crane, and Thornton Wilder in passing. Rather, Bram succeeds in integrating the politics and culture of homosexuality from the postwar period through McCarthyism and Stonewall to the decimating specter of AIDS and a healthy new liberation. Storytelling, Bram says, was central to the gay revolution. 'And why not?... what is homosexuality but a special narrative of love?' Unified by the keen observations of a novelist working in the tradition that re-energized American letters, Bram successfully informs and entertains. Agent: Edward Hibbert." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Eminent Outlaws is a spectacular overview of our gay literary history."--Instinct Magazine
"Bram does a terrific job in cataloguing the lives of these important figures, from Vidal to James Baldwin to Michael Cunningham. He reveals their often tortured interior lives. His examinations of the works themselves are original and thoughtful. Eminent Outlaws is entertaining and informative, packed with interesting gossip and opinions."--Columbia Journalism Review
"As Bram's high-sounding subtitle promises-and these lives from Vidal through Baldwin and O'Hara to White and Kushner deliver-gay lib began as a literary movement; the aesthetic was always political, too....EMINENT OUTLAWS is the next (last?) step in reporting on literary lives that traces back to the gay dinner parties of yore. Few would have it any other way."--Newsweek
"Argumentative and often resonant, and lit from below by a gossipy wit. But its power is less sentence by sentence than cumulative. You don't realize how much the details of these writers' books and difficult lives have touched you until the book's final chapters.... With 'Eminent Outlaws' he has filled a gap in our critical literature."--The New York Times
"Bram's portraits of an often-reluctant gay literary vanguard is fascinating enough, but alongside a 50-year narrative of unexplored gay aesthetic, he also provides a parallel history of the gay-rights movement....Bram's bio-history is fun to read and will be the standard text of the defining era of gay literati glitterati."--Philadelphia Inquirer
"Bram uses a series of complex portraits of America's most influential gay literary lions to argue for their position in the pantheon of American culture.... Eminent Outlaws offers a crucial and fascinating overview of decades of American literary history."--Salon.com
"With keen insight into the essential relationship between storytelling and gay identity-as well as careful research into the journals, letters and books of America's great gay writers-Outlaws traces the cultural influence of gay literature throughout the second half of the 20th century.... Perhaps we have Bram's early sense of service as a boy scout to thank for the work he's done to preserve history in Outlaws. That Bram pulls it off with such style seems appropriate: it's a gay history, after all."--Next Magazine
In the years following World War II, a small group of gay writers established themselves as literary power players, fueling cultural changes that would resonate for decades to come, and transforming the American literary landscape forever.
In EMINENT OUTLAWS, novelist Christopher Bram brilliantly chronicles the rise of gay consciousness in American writing. Beginning with a first wave of major gay literary figures-Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Allen Ginsberg, and James Baldwin-he shows how (despite criticism and occasional setbacks) these pioneers set the stage for new generations of gay writers to build on what they had begun: Armistead Maupin, Edmund White, Tony Kushner, and Edward Albee among them.
Weaving together the crosscurrents, feuds, and subversive energies that provoked these writers to greatness, EMINENT OUTLAWS is a rich and essential work. With keen insights, it takes readers through fifty years of momentous change: from a time when being a homosexual was a crime in forty-nine states and into an age of same-sex marriage and the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
About the Author
Christopher Bram is the author of nine novels, including Gods and Monsters (originally titled Father of Frankenstein), which was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Bram was a 2001 Guggenheim Fellow and received the 2003 Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement. He lives in New York City.