Entertaining, informative, and endlessly readable, which compensates for a perhaps inevitable thinness. As a survey/overview it likely won’t yield a whole lot–aside from the choice bits of tasteful gossip–to a reader already somewhat aware of the terrain it covers, which is perhaps is why I had more or less the opposite reaction of many here who thought it ran out of steam as it went along; I happen to be know much more about the authors covered early in the book (Baldwin, Vidal, Capote), but not as much about more recent authors, so for me the latter half was more compelling. The highlight, I think, is Bram’s astute analysis and defense of Christopher Isherwood‘s oeuvre, who still remains rather underrated despite a recent recognition of interest in his work (I admit to being startled to find out how many of his novels I had never even heard of).
Bram’s style is very approachable and lucid, and it’s like listening to a literate and culturally knowledgeable friend hold forth on books, art, and history. I personally was hoping for something more along the lines of Shari Benstock’s magisterial Women of the Left Bank, a more dense undertaking that combines literary analysis with historical scholarship, but I don’t hold my personal expectations against Bram. Because this is clearly intended to be accessible cultural scholarship, and on that level it overall succeeds admirably. And if it gets people, myself included, to pick up the work of more of these authors, well then, all the better.
[A version of this review was originally posted on Goodreads.]
Benstock, Shari. Women of the Left Bank: Paris, 1900-1940. Austin: U of Texas, 1987. Print.
Bram, Christopher. Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America. New York: Twelve, 2012. Print.