“The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature”–something for everyone

Fone, Byrne R.S. editor. “The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature”.

Columbia University Press, 1988.

Something for Everyone

Amos Lassen

In a single volume we have a taste of gay literature, from Ovid to the present day. In other words, “The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature” has a smattering of everything written by us and about us. It is a great book for the beginner and a wonderful resource for all of us. In includes poetry, drama, non fiction prose, essays, biography. It has articles on love, on friendship, on intimacy and desire and on man-man sex.

This is one book that will never bore you and it includes many items not usually included in the canon of gay literature. Even those of us that read gay literature on a regular basis will find some surprises here. Exclusively male, it covers the entire span of literature, every genre, every major gay author is included and the selections were chosen with care and obviously love and respect. It’s a hefty volume at close to a thousand pages and a bargain at the price of about $30.

Dr. Bryne R.S. Fone has don e an admirable job in assembling this book and he has reason to be proud. He, himself, is no stranger to gay literature being professor emeritus of English literature at City College of New York.

Organized chronologically it not only presents the literature but it interprets it as well. Divided into sections, there is an introduction at the beginning which explains how the selections fit into the scope of gay history and culture. It is extensive and adequately covers the entire gay writing experience and I found it so interesting that no matter the age or the language, we have always loved and that love has always been expressed in the literature of the period.

This was no easy task, assembling a book like this but the selections have been meticulously chosen and assembled in a way that the book flows from period to period, from selection to selection. Beginning with part one “Inventing Eros” we get a chance to see how men loved in ancient times. The texts come from such places as Mesopotamia, the Old Testament and quite naturally from Greece and Rome. Moving forward we learn of sodomy as depicted in ancient texts in the section entitled. “Inventing Sodom”. From romantic friendship between men to more serious affairs of the heart, we get insight about the nature of masculine desire. Moving along the chronological timeline, we cross the spectrum of time dealing with Europe and Asia and enter the brave new world of America and not an author nor an era is left untouched and not included.

This is a monumental work and it is a tribute to men writing about men and should be part of every gay man’s personal library.

I thought I would spend a little time telling you about the modern age but I am not discounting what came before. After all, there would be no modern age of literature, it there had not been those writing prior to it.

In the section entitled “Out There; American Literature from 1969’, the selections are included in sections such as “Becoming Gay” and include “Questions” and “Answers” but also “Celebrations”. “Politics”, “Grieving” and “Surviving” with selections from authors such as Andrew Holleran, James Baldwin, and Edmund White—names familiar to Literary Pride members.

What a wonderful and welcome addition we have with this incredible book. I am so glad to have it and whenever I want to read something about us, I can just pick it up and find something of relevance. That is a blessing in itself.

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