Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Birthday, Armistead

Armistead and Christopher
Yes, today is the birthday of Armistead Maupin (shown here left, with his husband Christopher Turner), author of the Tales of the City books, The Night Listener, and my favorite Maybe the Moon. Many happy returns of the day!

I've always been proud of the fact that I've been openly gay longer than just about anybody writing today [...] but I never intended for that declaration to mean that I was narrowing my focus in any way, or joining a niche [...] now publishing has decided there's money in this, or at least a market [...] now a formalised thing has sprung up which I think is extremely detrimental to anybody beginning to write today. [...] It's possible to write a novel now which has gay themes, which has any truth you want to speak, that can be sold to a mainstream publisher and sold in a mainstream bookstore, so the notion of people who've narrowed their focus to only write books for a gay audience for gay people about gay people is stifling to me; in some ways, it's another form of the closet, as far as I'm concerned. I think Jerry Falwell must be very happy with those little cubby-holes at the back of book stores that say 'gay and lesbian' - it's a warning sign, they can keep their kids away from that section. I'd like people to stumble on my works in the literature section of Barnes and Noble and have their lives changed because of it.
It's complicated. I don't want to feel any less queer, but I think for us to march along in a dutiful little herd called 'gay and lesbian literature' and have little seminars that we hold together is pointless at this point, it makes no sense to me at all. [...] I cringe when I get 'gay writer' each time. Why the modifier? I'm a writer. It's like calling Amy Tan a Chinese-American writer every time you mention her name, or Alice Walker a black writer. We're all discussing the human condition. Some of us have revolutionised writing by bringing in subject-matter that nobody's heard about before. But we don't want that to narrow the definition of who we are as an artist. [...] I don't mind being cross-shelved. I'm very proud of being in the gay and lesbian section, but I don't want to be told that I can't sit up in the front of the book store with the straight, white writers.

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