A friend wrote this morning to say that he is frustrated by the state of gay publishing. Most gay books that come out are humorous essays about gay life and gay romance novels. I’d like to read something heftier, in which the kinds of things that affect me also affect the characters—that is, politics, race, class, a sense of the characters’ epoch. I’d like the novels I read to answer the question, How is it for you there? And I’d like that question to be treated seriously.
But we don’t much get that kind of novel. The publishing industry is composed of agents, finders for agents, publishers, distributors, booksellers, journals that review books, reviewers, writers, and, finally, the book buyer. I am sure there are others. Most of them don’t seem to know how to deal with a big gay serious book. They are clueless. And, of course, the book buyer going to the bookstore at the end of the foodchain to buy some serious novel is unlikely to go to a gay bookstore, because he has learned that gay bookstores don’t carry serious fiction. Gradually, over recent decades, our whole literature has gotten dumbed down. As readers, we don’t know any more what to demand of serious gay fiction than the rest of the publishing industry.
We are serious people. We confronted AIDS. We survived Reagan and Bush (1) and Bush (2), we have learned to work the political system, we have gotten gay marriage in some places, and we have fought against DADT and are fighting against DOMA. We are transforming what marriage means in this country and what this country considers a family. As gay people, we have fought in the great battles of our time. We have been heroic and successful. We have been fighters. We have preserved those aspects of ourselves which were unique. But our literature does not reflect these things.