Sunday, April 10, 2005

January 2005 Publishing Notes

The buzz: The winners of the Project QueerLit unpublished first-novelist contest are Supervillianz by Alicia Goranson and Origami Striptease by Peggy Munson. Both of the winning novels will be published by Suspect Thoughts Press. Colm Toibin’s The Master was named one the 10 Best Books of the Year by The New York Times Book Review. Toibin’s novel, Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, and David Sedaris’s Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim made Publishers Weekly’s list of Best Books of 2004. Sedaris was also among the nominees for the 47th annual Grammy Awards, receiving nods for Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim in the Best Spoken Word Album and Live at Carnegie Hall in Best Comedy Album, a category that finds him competing against Ellen DeGeneres’s The Funny Thing Is... Kristin Davis and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are in negotiations to star in a film version of Sellevision, Augusten Burrough’s novel about the scandal at a fictional home-shopping channel.

Prelude of Things to Come?: During the 2004 holiday season many NPR stations around the country "censored" the annual re-broadcast of David Sedaris’s popular Santaland Diaries. According to several Internet accounts, the author’s flirtation with "Snowball," another gay male elf at Macy’s, was cut. Also in December 2004, Atlanta police raided the bar where the popular musical revue Naked Boys Singing was performing for permitting adult entertainment without a license. The show had run for four months at The Armory as a benefit for the nonprofit theater Actor’s Express. Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin decided, however, that the raid was based upon the misreading of a section of the Atlanta city code. The musical resumed performances the following week to a sold-out audience. And in Scotland, a group of Christian protesters called on police to prosecute a theater company for blasphemy because it was presenting Terrence McNalley’s Corpus Christi, his play about a gay Jesus.

A Big Bonfire Is Also Being Planned: In December 2004, Alabama state legislator Gerald Allen (R-Cottondale), proposed a bill that would ban all books with gay characters from public libraries. Allen, who had also sought to ban gay marriages, told the press that he had filed the bill to protect children from the "homosexual agenda." Allen pre-filed the bill in advance of the 2005 legislative session, which begins February 1, 2005. Allen said that if his bill passed, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed. If the bill became law, public school textbooks could not present homosexuality as a genetic trait and public libraries couldn’t offer books with gay or bisexual characters. When asked about Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Allen said that the play probably could not be performed by university theater groups. Allen said that no state funds should be used to pay for materials that foster homosexuality. He said that would include non-fiction books that suggest homosexuality is acceptable and fiction novels with gay characters. While that would ban books such as Heather Has Two Mommies, it could also include classics such as The Color Purple, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Brideshead Revisited.

Off the Shelves But Still On the Web: Creative Visions, the 14-year-old gay and lesbian bookstore in New York City’s Greenwich Village, closed its doors at the end of December 2004. The store occupied the site on Hudson Street of the former A Different Light bookstore. In an e-mail sent to the bookstore’s customer base, Creative Visions owner Vincent Migliore mentioned that many events and changes in the community and the retail sector prompted the store to close, including the death of founder Randy P. Glaser from AIDS, and the continuing loss of its customer base from both the AIDS epidemic and the economic aftermath of 9/11. The rise of bookchains and Internet ordering were also cited as contributing factors. Creative Visions will continue as an online bookseller via their Web site

Passages: Joseph Hansen, author of nearly 40 books and one of the first mystery writers noted for creating one of the genre’s first gay protagonists, died November 24, 2004, at his home in Laguna Beach, California, of heart and lung ailments. He was 81. Hansen was born July 19, 1923, in Aberdeen, SD, and was raised in Minneapolis and Altadena, California. He co-founded the gay publication Tangents in 1965, produced the radio program "Homosexuality Today" in Los Angeles in 1969, and helped plan the first gay pride parade in Hollywood in 1970. He was also a founder of the Venice Poetry Workshop and taught fiction workshops at the University of California and Wesleyan University. Hansen wrote poetry and gay-themed fiction under the pseudonym James Colton until he published Fadeout in 1970, which introduced his savvy gay insurance claims investigator/protagonist Dave Brandsetter. It had taken him nearly three years to find a publishing house that would accept an unapologetically gay sleuth without turning the story into a sensationalized account of his homosexuality. It was acquired by Joan Kahn, the celebrated mystery editor at Harper & Row. ''My joke,'' Hansen told The Orange County Register in 1998, ''was to take the true hard-boiled character in American fiction tradition and make him homosexual. He was going to be a nice man, a good man, and he was doing to do his job well.'' Brandsetter appeared in a dozen novels (among them Troublemaker, Death Claims, Obedience, The Boy Who Was Buried This Morning, The Little Dog Laughed, Early Graves, Skinflick, and Gravedigger), the last of which was A Country of Old Men, published in 1991, and which showed Hansen’s weary hero in his late sixties in a post-AIDS world. In the series, Brandsetter also had the same lover for 22 years while his father went through nine marriages. In 1992, Hansen received a life achievement award from the Private Eye Writers of America. He is also the author of A Smile in His Lifetime (1981), Job’s Year (1983), and three historical gay-themed "Nathan Reed" novels: Jack of Hearts (1992), Living Upstairs (1993), and The Cutbank Path (which Hansen self-published in 2002). Hansen was married to Jane Bancroft, a teacher and translator, for 51 years until her death in 1994. In 2003, he told Out magazine that his wife was a lesbian and that they had an "agreement" to see other people. The couple had a daughter who later underwent a sex-change operation and is now known as Daniel James Hansen. He is Hansen’s only survivor.

Susan Sontag, novelist, essayist, and critic, died December 28, 2004, in New York City of complications of acute myelogenous leukemia. She was 71. Sontag had been ill with cancer intermittently for 30 years, a struggle that informed one of her most famous books, Illness as Metaphor (1978). Sontag burst onto the literary map with her essay about popular culture, "Notes on Camp," published in the Partisan Review in 1964. Her best-known books, all published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, include the novels Death Kit (1967), The Volcano Lover (1992), and In America (2000); the essay collections Against Interpretation (1966), Styles of Radical Will (1969), and Under the Sign of Saturn (1982); the critical studies On Photography (1977) and AIDS and Its Metaphors (1989); and the short-story collection I, Etcetera (1978). Her most recent book, Regarding the Pain of Others (2003), was a long essay on the imagery of war and disaster. As an author she received many awards, including the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, the National Book Award, and a MacArthur grant. Sontag was born Susan Rosenblatt in Manhattan on January 16, 1933. Her father was a fur trader in China who died when the author was five years old and her mother subsequently moved the family to Tucson, Arizona, where she met and married Capt. Nathan Sontag, a World War II veteran sent there to recuperate. The author took her stepfather's surname. Sontag received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1951 from the University of Chicago. While at Chicago, at the age of 17, she met and married the sociologist Philip Rieff, a 28-year-old instructor who would write Freud: The Mind of the Moralist (1959). The couple subsequently moved to Boston where Sontag earned two master’s degrees from Harvard, the first in English, in 1954, the second in philosophy the following year. She began work on a doctorate in philosophy but did not complete her dissertation. In 1952, Sontag and Rieff became the parents of a son, David Rieff. The couple divorced in 1958. Sontag’s sexuality was a subject she rarely addressed, although in November 2001, Time magazine referred to her and photographer Annie Leibovitz as "companions" when Leibovitz’s daughter was born. Sontag is also survived by her son and a younger sister.

David Brudnoy, the openly gay and nationally broadcast talk radio show host, died December 8, 2004, in Boston, of cancer. He was 64. Brudnoy had also been living with AIDS for nearly a decade. In 1994, Brudnoy revealed that he was gay and had AIDS after he was hospitalized with a viral infection that almost took his life. Brudnoy was best know for his broadcasting career, which started in 1971 at WGBH-TV in Boston. His talk radio career began at WHDH-AM in 1976, then moved to WRKO-AM in 1981, and to WBZ-AM in 1986. Brudnoy was New England’s top-rated talk show host and his call-in radio show touched on almost any topic, including politics, current events, and the arts. In March 2004, Brudnoy’s radio show guests included Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. Brudnoy also contributed to many publications, including The New York Times, TV Guide, and The New Republic. His memoir, Life is Not a Rehearsal (1997), chronicled his battle with HIV. Born in Minneapolis, he received a bachelor’s degree in Japanese studies from Yale, a master’s in Far Eastern studies from Harvard, and a master’s in the history of American civilization and a doctorate in history, both from Brandeis University.