Sunday, April 10, 2005

March 2005 Publishing Notes

The buzz: Riverhead will publish Harm, a new novel by British author Sarah Waters, in March 2006. The novel tells the story of a group of Londoners during and after World War II. Harper will publish John Hall’s Young Adult novel Is He or Isn’t He?, in which two best friends — a gay guy and a straight girl — try to figure out if their crush, a new guy at their Upper East Side private school — is gay or straight. Dutton will publish Lammy-nominee T. Cooper’s second novel Lipshitz Six or Two Angry Blonds, spanning much of the twentieth century by following the Lipshitz family as they escape the Russian Pogroms of 1903 and immigrate to the United States. In the Fall of 2006 Warner will publish I Like You, comedienne Amy Sedaris’s "entertaining guide to entertaining" that includes recipes, complete meal plans, decorating suggestions, music choices, conversational ice-breakers, and hospitality tips. David Ebershoff, author of The Danish Girl and who was publishing director for Random House trade paperbacks and the Modern Library, is becoming an editor-at-large, "a position he requested in order to better accommodate his editorial duties with the demands of his own literary career," according to an announcement from the publisher. He will continue to acquire and edit hardcovers for the publisher, while spending more time on his writing (Random will publish his next novel) and teaching. Among the speakers lined up for BookExpo in June in New York City is Michael Cunningham. Variety reported that John Travolta is a leading contender to slip into Harvey Fierstein’s gowns in the upcoming screen version of the Broadway musical Hairspray. Robin Williams and Toni Collette are set to star in a screen adaptation of Armistead Maupin’s The Night Listener, which is set to start shooting in New York in March 2004 under the direction of Patrick Stettner. The book deals with a famous author who begins a telephone friendship with a young fan, only to find himself doubting his new friend’s identity. Maupin wrote the screenplay with Terry Anderson and Stettner.

Kudos: Nominees for the New York Public Library’s 2005 Young Lions Award include Andrew Sean Greer’s The Confessions of Max Tivioli. The library awards the $10,000 prize each spring to a writer age 35 or younger for a novel or short story collection. Last year’s prize went to Monique Truong for The Book of Salt. The shortlist for The BBC Book Club includes David Sedaris’s Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Finalists for this year’s Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Awards program include Alison Smith for Name All the Animals in the Nonfiction category. The winner receives a $10,000 prize and a year of additional promotion in B&N stores. Author Wesley Gibson (You Are Here) has joined the teaching staff at Saint Mary’s College of California. The International Gay Film Awards were presented in February 2004 in Los Angeles, honoring the year’s best gay and lesbian films. Pedro Almodovar’s Bad Education was named Best Picture, Best Foreign Film, and received the Gay Press Award and Best Actor award for star Gael Garcia Bernal. My Mother Likes Women won for Best Lesbian Film, while Brother to Brother was honored as the Best Indie Film. Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation was voted Best Documentary. In the performers category, presented this year for the first time, Laura Linney won Best Actress In a Leading Role for Kinsey, while Veronica Cartwright was named Best Supporting Actress for Straight Jacket. Peter Sarsgaard won for Best Actor In a Supporting Role in Kinsey.

Fairy Tales Revisited: Hans Christian Andersen, a new biography of Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, reveals that the writer was gay but may never have acted on his homosexual tendencies. Biographer Jens Andersen states that the writer had infatuations with both men and women but could not bring himself to overcome societal strictures against homosexuality. The biographer also postulates that many of the fairy tales may be read as gay allegories, and some are clearly autobiographical. For instance, "The Little Mermaid" was written after a crisis Andersen suffered in 1836 at the marriage of Edvard Collin, who may have been the love of Andersen’s life but who refused to play the part of his romantic soulmate. Andersen’s novel O.T., depicting an intimate male friendship, is also influenced by this unrequited love, according to the biographer. Although Andersen typically conducted one-sided infatuations with young men, he did experience a more reciprocal romantic friendship with the Hereditary Grand Duke of Weimar, Carl-Alexander von Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, whom he met in 1844. In his later years, Andersen was infatuated with the young ballet dancer, Harald Scharff. Born in April 1805, Andersen died in 1875. It was not until 1893 that his sexuality was publicly discussed, when a newspaper hinted that he may have been a homosexual. In 1901, an article in Magnus Hirschfeld’s Jahrbuch fuer sexuelle Zwischenstufen also discussed him as a homosexual. An earlier biography of Andersen by Jackie Wullschlager, which documented Andersens’s love for both men and women, caused a scandal when it was published in Denmark, where the sexuality of the national poet is a controversial topic.

Items on the Agenda: In Arkansas, a bill that would have forced schools to use only books that omitted any reference to gay families failed to win the endorsement of the Arkansas Senate Education Committee according to a report by The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Roy Ragland, had previously said "the bill was designed to block efforts to promote a gay agenda in schools." The committee cast a 3-3 tie vote and needed at least four votes to move to the Senate floor. It had already passed the House. In Utah, the Nebo School District is not only looking for psychology textbooks which do not advocate homosexuality, but wants to find textbooks which simply don’t mention it at all. State law does not allow the advocacy of homosexuality to be taught and the Nebo district wants no discussion of it at all. In North Carolina, students at the University of North Carolina protested Alabama Rep. Gerald Allen’s (R-Cottondale) bill that would prohibit state funds from purchasing literature that acknowledges homosexuality or written by gay authors. Students and faculty did a 24-hour public reading of works which would be banned if the bill passed. Olivia Henderson, a UNC senior who participated in the event, told a reporter for The Crimson White, the student paper, "This may be Alabama, but Alabama’s not that far from North Carolina." In Canada, the Strong Communities Campaign raised $35,000 to buy books promoting tolerance of different sexual orientations for libraries in the elementary and secondary schools in the Thames Valley District. In the UK, the Haringey Libraries in London have launched a new LGBT book collection to mark the UK’s first ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month. The collection of more than 150 books will be housed at Wood Green Central Library and will be accessible to users of all Haringey Libraries through the library catalogue. All books in the collection are easily identifiable and placed together making it easier for users to browse. In addition to the central collection, Haringey Libraries are introducing LGBT interest magazines at a number of branches. Haringey Libraries have worked closely with local arts organization Wisethoughts and other community groups to ensure that the collection meets the needs of Haringey’s LGBT communities.

For the kids: In March, author and former LBR editor Greg Herren received an e-mail from a reporter at the Richmond Times-Dispatch telling him that his upcoming speaking engagement with the Gay-Straight Alliance at Manchester High School near Richmond, VA had been canceled. A concerned parents group had decided that Herren was an inappropriate speaker and had circulated an e-mail with the heading "What is being taught in our schools?" "The thing that bothers me the most about this situation is that I was never given an opportunity by the school board or the superintendent to express my opinion, or was even asked what I was planning on talking about," Herren wrote in an e-mail exchange about the event. "As someone who went to high school in an extremely repressive school myself, my heart breaks for the kids at Manchester High, particularly those who have had the courage to be openly gay and join the Gay-Straight Alliance. The message being sent here by their school superintendent, and the ‘concerned parents,’ is clear: gays are bad, gays are evil, and they must be stopped at all costs. How this will effect the students psychologically, I don’t know... but if there are homophobic and gay-bashing students at this school, they’ve just been given a stamp of approval." Undaunted, Herren, 43, and local organizers moved his personal appearance off-campus to the Metropolitan Community Church’s worship space in Richmond. "The trip to Virginia, as it turned out, was probably one of the more educational and inspiring experiences I have had in my life to date," Herren wrote on his blog site ( after more than eighty people attended the event and gave the author a standing ovation. "The lesson I learned from all of this is: we need to do more for queer youth. If you’re a queer writer, keep writing. If you can, find a local GSA and go talk to the kids. If you’re on tour, see if you can find one wherever you are signing, and at least invite the kids to come."