One might say gay author Edmund White’s 80th birthday celebration began last year. In the spring, ITNA Press published Crashing Cathedrals: Edmund White by the Book, a scintillating compendium of essays, which together create a comprehensive biography of the iconic writer’s adventurous literary life.
And in November, the National Book Foundation honored Edmund White with the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. “Most writers don’t set out to break barriers or trail blaze, but rather to share their unique perspectives and stories on the page,” said executive director Lisa Lucas. She added that by looking at the body of work, one sees his career as “revolutionary and vital, making legible for scores of readers the people, moments and history that would come to define not only queer lives, but also the broader trajectory of American culture.”
On the Authors’ Blog of my publisher Bold Strokes Books, I write about how life as an expat led to writing my debut suspense novel Calvin’s Head, which comes out in September. Wow. That’s next month, folks! Check out Events Page for latest news of readings, signings, interviews, etc.
Before the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival began last weekend in New Orleans, the friend I stayed with took me to newly opened Crescent Park. We climbed the elegant rusted steel Piety Street Bridge (one block from Desire) to cross the railway tracks and explore the beautiful, if minimally designed, riverfront gardens. All that remains of a once bustling wharf is a lone three-story white wall and the burned out skeleton of beams extending over the muddy water. The city skyline glimmers in the distance. Rusty poles bearing words like Diversity are interspersed with concrete slab benches etched with quotations.
“Culture – The common threads of life that tie us together… roles, rules, rituals, languages, music, spirituality, and soul.”
That quote in particular struck a chord, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Perhaps a premonition of the experience I anticipated having the next four days? I’ve attended many festivals, conventions and conferences in the last two years. Saints and Sinners, with its combined queer and literary focus, was by far the most inspiring, entertaining, enlightening, and – (How do I say this? In Dutch the word is ‘gezellig’ – an almost untranslatable mix of cozy, warm and friendly.) I thought: this is what Christopher Isherwood meant when he wrote about his tribe.
Watching the Eurovision Song Contest on my computer yesterday in the middle of a sunny afternoon in New Hampshire was odd. It’s the kind of live event for which people in Amsterdam and all over Europe have parties, or gather in bars to drink and scream at the television. It’s the most kitsch, gayest, pop-culture must-see TV of the year. And an audience of some 180 million people in 45 countries watched as a torch-singing bearded drag artist from Austria took home the coveted prize.
Here in the USA most people have never heard of Eurovision, or think it’s a brand of eyeglasses. And it’s hard to explain. “Like American Idol?” they ask. Um, no. I tell them it launched the careers of Abba and Celine Dion. “Like America’s Got Talent?” Nope. I try to make clear national pride is at stake, with a geopolitical element in the voting that runs parallel to the music competition. Their eyes glaze over in confusion. Not for the first time in almost thirty years of living abroad, I feel more than a little European.
A talented gay comic book artist is told, “Your work is not publishable.” A stint with Marvel Comics, a couple of graphic novels, and translations of his work in several languages prove otherwise. A long-time editor is shocked to read the headline “Getting Old Sucks Even Worse for LGBT Seniors” on a popular gay website. So he creates a site for the over-50s. A man living in a particularly homophobic country loses his job for speaking with a journalist, who feels it’s his responsibility to help the man get back on his feet.
These are the kind of stories told at the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) conference last weekend in Boston. A lot has changed in the LGBTQ media landscape since 1990 when it was founded. And everything you might want to know about the organization can be found on their website. (Except for the amusing fact that many members tend to avoid the unwieldy acronym and refer to it simply as simply “negligee”!)