I had a discussion this weekend with a friend about a blog post where a gay author stated he’s still waiting for the great gay novel. It’s all subjective; it’s all personal taste. But it stunned me a little because I’ve read “great” gay novels I thought were not only great, but are great classic gay novels.
So I did a search and this is what I came up with. I didn’t want to list my own favorites, or what I think is the “great” gay novel. I wanted to show that others have taken the time to write lists of what it most commonly considered great gay literature. And the lists below cover several generations of gay authors, not just older gay authors.
The article lists twenty great gay novels, and you can check out the other fourteen by clicking this link.
“Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin — a man discovers his sexual identity in Paris
“Nightwood” by Djuna Barnes — early postmodern fiction of women in Paris in love
“Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel — a graphic novel memoir of her troubled gay father and her own coming out
“Rubyfruit Jungle” by Rita Mae Brown — the 1973 tale of a young woman’s coming of age
“Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs — the focus of a breakthrough obscenity trial, a landmark experimental novel
“Oscar Wilde” by Richard Elmann — bio of the lively writer whose gay relationship got him sent to prison for “gross indecency”
I’ve read four out of the six above. I highly recommond “Giovanni’s Room” and “Rubyfruit Jungle.” In fact, I urge anyone reading or writing gay fiction of any kind to read “Rubyfruit Jungle,” specifically.
Here’s another web site that lists ten great gay novels. Some lists repeat others, as well they should. That’s what makes the books classics and great. One of my favorites on this list is “Dancer from the Dance.” I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I read it in college and it was one of the gay novels that changed my life.
And here is yet a third list, where again, some of the books on other lists are relisted. You can see a pattern, and it becomes less and less subjective. But for someone to say he’s still waiting for a great gay novel to come along sounds either uninformed, or leaning toward pompous. Or, just highly, highly selective.
As a side note, Elisa Rolle has compiled many lists of great gay books. You can check that out on her blog, here.