Who’s Yer Daddy?
Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners
Terrace Books | http://uwpress.wisc.edu
Hardcover, $26.95, e-book $16.95
Jim Elledge and David Groff, the editors of Who’s Yer Daddy? Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners note in their introduction that some contributors had bristled at the bawdy implications of its title and explained that they chose it for a sense of fun and for those offended few to focus on the subtitle.
The book appears almost a year after Christopher Bram’s vital history Eminent Outlaws, which tracks the gay male writers who busted open the literary closet vis-à-vis the post-WWII gay civil rights movement. This anthology is a great companion volume.
39 authors weigh in on their “daddy’s” from the semi-closeted world of Walt Whitman, Thomas Williams, Gore Vidal, James Baldwin and Truman Capote through The Violet Quill revolution and the era of out-and-proud gay writers. Some influencers and mentors are not gay men. Richard Blanco, President Obama’s inaugural poet weighed in with Making a Man Out of Me, an essay about his grandmother as his main literary influence by trying to butch Blanco up. Her harshness drove Blanco to escape in his literary world that would validate his dream of being a gay writer.
Just as present in these essays, are straight men and women, as well as GLBTQ icons Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf, among others, are cited by several of their gay male literary decedents.
Stage artist-writer Tim Miller’s Jumpstart ruminates on having the literary DNA from Nijinsky to Allen Ginsberg and everybody in between. Meanwhile his longtime husband (unofficially) Australian writer Alistair McCartney’s essay Teenage Riot charts his booky puppy love with Tennessee Williams, Oscar Wilde and Jean-Paul Sartre, among other usual suspects.
Kenny Fries’ How I Learned to Drive, The Educations of a Gay Disabled writer is a condensed, but no less moving account of Fries connecting with other writers, notably his 20 year friendship with poet Adrienne Rich, facing the prejudices and isolation of writers with disabilities. Like many of these essays, you hope the author considers expanding to memoir. so compelling , writes of being isolated as a disabled American and his connection to the poetry of Adrienne Rich, connecting him to his brethren of writers facing the same hostile and disconnected world.
The pre-Stonewall stars icons are present (including Judy). Editor Groff threading the ballsy camp of Bette Midler as an invaluable literary persona in the same essay as he writes of the towering elegies of Paul Monette’s ‘Love, Alone’ particularly his poem ‘Buckley’, where he eviscerates William F. Buckley’s diatribe that called for tattooing PWAs as diseased humans. Indeed, a repeated theme in the essays is the profound impact of the AIDS era.
“There was a lot of work being done in the gay community to heal the pain of AIDS and how it affected us.” Noël Alumet (author of Letters to Montgomery Clift) states in Vanity Fairey Interviews sites everyone from Shel Silverstein’s children’s classic The Learning Tree to Arnie Kantrowitz’s Under the Rainbow as literary passions.
The universal theme of reconciled loss is an eloquent, quiet theme through many of these essays. Saeed Jones’ hauntingly poetic Orpheus in Texas is a memoir of a father he never knew, but presence he still feels. The raw emotional loss poetically told through the Orpheus and Eurydice myth against the Texas landscape with the coda “Well aware that this rejection may be my equivalent of looking over my shoulder and trying to ask loss one more question.”
Brian Leung’s tremulously fab of The Seismology of Love and Letters tracks his stability handling earthquakes in San Diego, but growing up Chinese-American he sought the comfort of Edmund White and Elizabeth Bishop, when it came to earth shattering gay romance. As a budding writer he was told that he wasn’t gay or Chinese enough. By the time the earth shifts everyday at the height of the AIDS era, he is an artist chronicling his times- powerfully, poetically and on solid ground.
This anthology is a joyous, unexpected book, so full of drama, comedy and lessons learned. The landscape of gay literati that is connected vitally to personal liberation as the beautiful open rooms of the every expanding GLBTQ library.