American gay writing as we know it was in its infancy in 1933, when Judge John M. Woolsey of the Southern District of New York cleared James Joyce’s legendary Ulysses of obscenity charges.
Though not a book that dealt with homosexuality upfront, the precedent set by the case (along with the long-stalled American publication of D.H. Lawrence’s randy Lady Chatterley’s Lover) meant that the door was finally open for more frank depictions of sexuality in print. Previously, books by queer authors either largely disguised their true subject—as in André Gide’s The Immoralist—or were published only posthumously, as with E.M. Forster’s Maurice.
Grove Press, the iconoclastic literary publisher masterminded by the redoubtable Barney Rosset, quickly took the helm in printing previously unimaginable portraits of gay life like John Rechy’s eloquent City of Night from 1963, which detailed the lives of male hustlers. They would also wind up the American publishers of Jean Genet, the famed French author of vivid, homoerotically charged novels like The Thief’s Journal, written in 1949.
Genet would soon be joined on American bookshelves by translations of Yukio Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, which would take years to be recognized for the giant leap it was for the visibility of gay writing. Finally, Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man signaled the arrival of the gay liberation movement, as Claude J. Summers wrote in his review of the book: “By associating the mistreatment of homosexuals with the discrimination suffered by other minorities in America, Isherwood legitimizes the grievances of gay people at a time when homosexuals were not recognized either as a genuine minority or as valuable members of the human community.”
In the 1970s, gay visibility in the literary mainstream came partly from two writers who had made their names in the 1950s and ’60s: Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Both were frequent guests on late-night talk shows, and neither one was shy about their sexual orientation either in print or in person (with Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge attracting particular scandal, not least from Vidal’s frequent sparring partner, conservative commentator William F. Buckley). The late ’70s were indisputably a watershed year, with works as exciting and adventurous as Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman and Armistead Maupin’s ongoing series Tales of the City, which used San Francisco to explore alternative and underground lifestyles.
Still, if there was a single work that heralded both the sweeping accomplishments of gay fiction and the direction it would be going in the future, it was Edmund White’s coming-of-age novel A Boy’s Own Story from 1982, the first of a series that would continue with The Beautiful Room is Empty in 1988. White’s fiction presented homosexuality as neither curse nor burden nor as forbidden pleasure—but as a natural fact of life.
The beauty and accessibility of White’s early work helped bring gay fiction into the mainstream, where it has arguably remained not as a subsection of books but up front and center as authors moved to address the AIDS crisis, marginalization, and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” With present-day writers like Michael Cunningham and André Aciman at the very forefront of contemporary fiction, there’s no question that gay fiction has shaped many young writers, and it continues to influence generations.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.