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Faggots by Larry Kramer
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Faggots (1978)

by Larry Kramer

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Great works of literature transcend their specific cultural context. "Hamlet," for example, or "Candide" or "Moby-Dick" or "The Canterbury Tales" are still considered masterpieces that resonate with significance and artistic integrity hundreds of years after they were written. Perhaps it is trickier for a satire to preserve its accessibility or its appeal as time passes, since a satire often targets topical rather than timeless concerns. Brilliantly written and insightful satires, such as “A Modest Proposal” and "Don Quixote," however, manage to remain relevant long after their heyday.

Sadly, "Faggots," which fancies itself a satire and has been hailed as a tour de force of modern queer literature, merits none of these distinctions. In truth, in can hardly be characterized as a novel at all, since it lacks most of the defining elements of the genre on a very fundamental level—for example, a well-constructed plot or complex and thoughtfully developed characters. The story, such as it is, consists of allegedly witty vignettes or set pieces strung together with little sense of coherence or narrative veracity and populated by an unnecessarily large cast of undeveloped flat characters. A generous reading might presume that Kramer is attempting a stream-of-consciousness style, but if that’s the case, his novelistic skill is not up to the task, since such a style requires profound psychological insight into the complex thought patterns of a character who provides narrative perspective.

Upon its publication in 1978, "Faggots" sowed controversy due to its graphic depiction of gay sex, fetishes, drug use, incest, and other scandalous “perversities.” To be fair, as a depiction of pre-AIDS era gay culture in New York City, the novel retains great cultural value as an artifact of that specific historical moment. But it cannot be considered a work of literature. One suspects that there is good reason why Kramer, who penned the magnificent play (and later screenplay) "The Normal Heart" and contributed greatly to queer activism in the latter part of the 20th century, never wrote another novel. ( )
  jimrgill | May 20, 2017 |
I wanted more insight into the Gay culture of my yesteryear, and so thought this novel a great place to look. While Faggots is technically a satire, I think that what he is depicting is a very real and frank look at what life was like for gay men of that time.
Sex has always been and will always be a huge part of Gay culture, and so, a huge part of this novel. Like 99%!
The extremely graphic aspect didn't bother me too much, I'm no prude, but I did feel it was a bit overdone. You can have graphic scenes and still allow for more of a story and character development, which seemed to be lacking.
In the end I found the writing frustrating. I didn't find a single character likeable. It was so full of characters I had a hard time keeping track of who was who. I hated how it sometimes felt like some third party was narrating it and other times it didn't.
I can see why it was such a polarizing novel in its day, as it was clearly a giant spotlight on the gay community and certainly didnt paint them in a pretty light.
I did think that Kramer wrote a beautiful glimpse at just how hard it can be to find love in a world that only values sex. A problem the Gay community still has today in my opinion. Still, while this aspect of the story was the part I enjoyed, the character looking for love was, as mentioned before, not in the least likeable. So I didn't really care if he succeeded or not.
Ultimately I came out of the novel half way between hating it and loving it. ( )
  Kiddboyblue | Mar 20, 2016 |
mostly he overdoes it. i get that that's what you do if you're writing satire, but he really beats you over the head with it. too much, too much. there are some good lines, funny ways of using language (hence the .5 stars) but in general i didn't really like what i was reading. (and on principle i don't think i could rate much higher a book featuring a major character named dinky.) ( )
  elisa.saphier | Apr 2, 2013 |
(one of 24 books found today at 2nd hand shop...24 for $10!)
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
However lost on critics, not to mention members of the gay establishment at the time, "Faggots" is a brilliant Mepinnean satire that takes as the object of its satire the intellectual conceit of gay sexual liberation, and the notion that gay culture would occupy a leadership position in showing America how to overcome its sexual prudery and commitment to values such as fidelity, monogamy, and true love. In fact, Kramer explores a subculture is which nothing is taboo except for the concept of monogamous love between men, which everyone says they want and no one does anything positive to achieve.
The central protagonist in this epic sexual-cultural-historical novel is the screenwriter Ned Lemish, who is a stand in for Larry Kramer. He descends into an underground sex world in New York City, as in Fire Island, in which no position, combination of positions, times and places for sex, or sexual behaviors are off limits. The grand scene occurs when a drop dead gorgeous young man who wants to be a model comes to New York, is given drugs, and is gradually swooped upon by an army of vulturous men, who gang rape him and others until the point of unconsciousness. There is a scene, in Fire Island, of the ultimate sexual masochism, in which a man who refuses to love Fred submits himself to anal fist sex administered by a horde of men who participate in and watch this spectacle as if it has the sacred meaning of a transformational ritual. Kramer deplores the taboo on faithful love, as he deplores the situation where the only way gay men can communicate is through sex and more sex. ( )
3 vote corinneblackmer | Oct 10, 2011 |
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Epigraph
...the ancients located the deeper emotions in the bowels.

(Evelyn Waugh, Put out more flags)
Dedication
First words
There are 2,556,596 faggots in the New York City area.
Quotations
Of the 2,639,857 faggots in the New York City area, 2,639,857 think primarily with their cocks.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802136915, Paperback)

Very few writers have the prescience or audacity to produce one of the standard works of their era--not a classic, necessarily, but a book that defines its own cultural moment in startling new terms, like One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest or Portnoy's Complaint. Activist and rabble-rouser Larry Kramer has the distinction of having written not only one of the earliest and best-known plays on AIDS, The Normal Heart, but also the astonishing satire of gay urban sexual mores Faggots, perhaps the most reviled novel in the gay literary canon. A grim, graphic expansion on John Rechy's Numbers, which chronicled a hustler's soulless game of sexual conquest, Kramer's pornopticon turns off many readers by about page 3, when its hero, the screenwriter Fred Lemish, is offered an array of dubious pleasures in a private room at the infamous Everard Baths in New York. What Lemish really wants, of course, is true love, preferably from his elusive boyfriend, Dinky Adams. But as long as he's in the room...

Celebrated and excoriated when it first appeared in 1978, this reprint of a gay anticlassic is not for the faint of heart. For the rest of us, it is a harsh, fascinating, and somewhat eerie revisitation of the carnal excesses of a generation that couldn't hear the bell tolling over the disco beat.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:15 -0400)

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