The Huffington Post's fine series of lgbt writers on gay books climaxed yesterday with a smart, funny discussion between Stephen McCauley and Carol Anshaw. Your initial delight at their effervescent charm --
"Carol: Well, to adhere strictly to the format of a queer chat, I think I need to begin by asking what you're wearing.
"Steve: I'm wearing tight jeans, a flannel shirt, and cowboys boots. Which, I assume, is exactly what you're wearing."
-- will bubble up to intellectual euphoria as they discuss queer lit, greater tolerance in publishing, secondary and "tertiary" homophobia, the randy lesbian at the heart of Carol's pansexual new novel Carry the One [Kindle], and a dozen favorites: Barbara Pym, Trollope, Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Rachel Cusk, Alan Hollinghurst, Edmund White, E.M. Forster, Henry James, Emma Donoghue, Colm Toibin, and David Sedaris.
They go on to say,
"Steve: ...It's always jarring (and boring, no?) to have gay characters presented as the perfect neighbor and friend whose main function is to fix someone's hair or make a fabulous outfit for them. It seems to me that really expresses a great deal of discomfort around the subject. You have to justify their presence in a work of fiction by having them be supernatural in their goodness. You still see that in the way African-American characters are presented as the all-good supporting cast who help the white folks get in touch with their feelings and solve racism.
"Carol: I think of those as "gay" characters. They give absolutely no manifestation of sexuality; they are composed only of their affect. Gayer than springtime hairdressers. Women with tool belts [although, to be honest, I kind of don't mind those]. Probably African-Americans feel the same way about "black" characters.
I think if you're going to attempt to write narratives with gay characters, you have to let go of worrying about homophobic responses. Queer is the place you start from, not a condition you are going to argue on behalf of."
Huge news for those of us who measure our lives by the roughly five-year intervals at which McCauley releases his treasures: He says, "I've been writing a series of novels about a yoga studio in Los Angeles under a different name. The books have no gay characters. Well, one woman who has a girlfriend but is in the closet. I'm not sure I would have done that if I'd been writing under my own name. The new novel I'm working on is about three siblings, one of whom is gay."
When touring for Insignificant Others, he said his next novel was set in the 1920s or 40s; is this the same book as the three siblings? I have no idea about the yoga series but the pseudonym "Rain Mitchell" is drenched in genius, so, maybe.
Other pairings in the Huffington Post series are Charles Busch and Robert Leleux, Christopher Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn, Val McDermid and Ellen Hart, Joan Larkin and Tony Leuzzi, and Edmund White and Felice Picano.