Gay American Autobiography: Writings from Whitman to Sedaris
, . . Univ. of Wisconsin, $29.95 (426pp) ISBN 978-0-299-23044-9
The earlier entries in this panoramic compilation of gay male autobiography rely mostly on letters and journals, mined by Bergman for homo-affectionate allusions: 19th-century writers such as Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and Henry James thus reveal themselves. Excerpts of work by more contemporary authors, from poet Edward Field and historian Martin Duberman to science fiction author Samuel R. Delany and performance artist Justin Chin—the youngest born in 1969—are more explicit about their queer lives. Paul Monette, dying of AIDS, writes movingly about hoping to outlive his dog, and a strutting John Rechy, still very much alive, writes puckishly about prissy homosexuals of the '70s. Gay literary (and living) icons Edmund White, Andrew Holleran and David Sedaris are rightly represented, but works by David Wojnarowicz, David Feinberg, Essex Hemphill and Gil Cuadros, all dead of AIDS, are a poignant reminder of literary lives cut short. Bergman's selections artfully avoid the standard coming-out tropes of 20th-century writers in favor of intimate, immediate literature penned by homosexuals well out of the closet.
Reviewed on: 05/04/2009