Eminent outlaws : the gay writers who changed America

by Christopher Bram

Paper Book, 2012


Describes how the trailblazing, post-war gay literary figures, including Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, and Allen Ginsberg, paved the way for newer generations, including Armistead Maupin, Edmund White, and Edward Albee.



Call number



New York : Twelve, 2012.


User reviews

LibraryThing member rmharris
Eminent Outlaws (the title is a mash-up of Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians and John Rechy’s The Sexual Outlaw) is a briskly paced and much needed exploration of how gay male literature created that change. Beginning with Gore Vidal, the “godfather of gay literature in spite of himself”
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who, post-Stonewall, becomes more like a Moses who “pointed us in a new direction, but he could not go there himself,” Bram explores how literature shined a light on the previously unspoken of world of gay men. The work of Vidal, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Christopher Isherwood and James Baldwin were not only guides to that world for courageous heterosexual readers, but also gave gay men their first glimpses of themselves in mainstream print and onstage...Bram continually manages to be personal yet balanced in his assessments of writers of the past and present, as well as deliciously gossipy. Eminent Outlaws is reminiscent of a gay version of the documentary A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, with a practitioner of the art looking back at its history, his influences and his peer. This fleet yet solid literary history was so engrossing that I even read through the footnotes, not wanting stop listening to Bram’s entertaining voice or for the book to end.
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LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
This is a crafted and sweeping literary theory, with the thesis that gay authors/playwrights helped set the stage for the gay liberation of the late 20th century.

Although might dispute the central tenets of this thesis, the biographical discussion of these novelists and their work is worthy enough
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reason to start reading.

This chapter of history starts in 1945 and continues to the present. It starts with Vidal and Capote and Isherwood and Baldwin and moves slowly and inexorably to the present day.

The author, a gay writer himself, offers a fine perspective, and allows personal interviews and archives, as well as literary analysis, to define the story.

It says something about the personal bravery of these authors, to say and think and act on what they did, especially in the 40s and 50s. Even the 1960s, which we like to think of as tolerant, was still filled with angry slurs and dismissive reviews. Of course, the author isn't writing biographies of saints. He details the feuds and botched novels and inner demons of the writers portrayed here, but their best qualities are shown as well. Most often it's bravery.

The big gap is that there aren't any lesbians here - the author confesses as much in the introduction (they have their own grand story to tell, and the volume would easily triple in size), and I'd like to get ahold of a companion volume someday.

A good history of American letters, and of the colorful cast who wrote them.
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LibraryThing member bibliophile_pgh
I found this book very good. I don't read a lot of non fiction but it gave a great history on public perspective of gay history and authors.
LibraryThing member thorold
A quick run-through, more biographical than literary, of the big names of Gay (Male) Lit in the USA from about 1945-2000. We start with the Triumvirate (Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal and Truman Capote), move on to the Beats, then the AIDS generation, the Violet Quill and its handful of survivors.
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It's a pleasant, chatty survey, maybe a little too heavily based on Gore Vidal's memoirs in the early sections, but quite shrewd when it gets to writers Bram presumably knows personally, and it might introduce you to one or two new names. Since it excludes women and writers who didn't live in or come from the USA, it sometimes seems a bit narrow in its focus, but I suppose you can't cover everything in one book.
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Lambda Literary Award (Finalist — 2013)
Publishing Triangle Awards (Finalist — Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction — 2013)
Stonewall Book Award (Honor Book — Non-Fiction — 2013)
ALA Over the Rainbow Book List (Selection — Memoir/Biography — 2013)



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