“Art and Sex in Greenwich Village: A Memoir of Gay Literary After Stonewall”– a look at our lives

Picano, Felice. “Art and Sex in Greenwich Village: Gay Literary Life After Stonewall”, Carroll & Graf, 2007.

A Look at Our Lives

Amos Lassen

Felice Picano is one of our A-List authors. He is a pioneer in gay literature and one of our best loved authors. In “Art and Sex in Greenwch Village” he gives us a deep look into what brought about contemporary gay literature as well as gay culture as he looks at life in New York in the 70’s and 80’s. He, himself, has written more than 20 books of fiction, non-fiction and poetry so he is well equipped to provide this look.

When gay liberation began with the Stonewall riots in 1969, a new era in the history of our community began. It seems that politics were affected and, in fact, everything else felt he change except for the arts—literature, movie, and drama. Sure, there were films and plays and a few books written but most did not deal with our newly won liberation. It was not until six years later, in 1977, that things began to take a turn. Picano founded a small press to be devoted to publishing gay books to be known as Seahorse. Coming along to launch another new venture was author Larry Mitchell who began his own press for gay books, Calamus Press. Terry Helbing also began JH Press to publish his plays. In 1981 the three men joined their separate presses together and formed Gay Presses of New York which was to become the most influential gay press of the time. It published books by some of the giants of gay writing including Harvey Fierstein, Martin Duberman, Dennis Cooper, several women writers and brought in some up and coming writers. Here was the beginning of gay literature as we know it and Gay Presses of New York influenced popular culture greatly. What Picano gives us is a behind the scenes look at that press and what it produced.    Those days in New York were a time of moving ahead in gay writing and publishing which held both frustration and fascination. Picano relates stories to us in his beautiful eloquent writing and he also tells us about the writers of the time. We learn about the gay bookstores in New York and the famous Violet Quill writers group and how difficult it was to get gay literature both written and published. This was a time when the pressures of society were great and AIDS was affecting our lives so terribly.

.      Picano tells it like it was and to show how brave he and the others were. It is so interesting to compare this where we are today—seeing mainstream publishers publishing out work and not having to have special houses to do so. We can look back ay and see how things were but we must remember that we are where we are today because of what some heroic people did for us.

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