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Faggots by Larry Kramer

April 14, 2016

FsThis book portrayed the 1970s New York’s very visible gay community in a time before AIDS. The novel’s portrayal of promiscuous sex and recreational drug use provoked controversy, not least amongst gay men.

The main character, Fred Lemish, is loosely modeled on the author. He wants to find a loving, long-term relationship but his desires are frustrated as he stumbles through an emotionally cold series of glory holes, bathhouses, BDSM encounters and group sex. He becomes disillusioned with the 1970s “fast lane” lifestyle dominating the gay subculture in and around New York.

Lemish also expresses discomfort with the widespread use of multiple street and prescription drugs helping to maintain the party atmosphere. Faggots details the use of over two dozen 1970s party drugs and intoxicants such as poppers, LSD, Quaaludes, alcohol, marijuana, PCP, cocaine and heroin.

Locales include Fire Island, a gay bathhouse called the “Everhard” (based on the Everard Baths, and a club called the Toilet Bowl.

Its fans see social critiques embedded in a Rabelaisian vulgarity while the other side might agree with critic Don Shewey’s claim that “Kramer’s clunky, careless writing ultimately renders Faggots unreadable….. “creates too many characters and gives them farcical names (Randy Dildough, Dordogna del Donga, and Miss Youtha Truth)… so you don’t take them seriously; but then he keeps bringing them back and asking you to care about them when you can’t even remember who they are.”

It has been in print since its original publication in 1978 but the author, post the advent of AIDS has recanted what was originally his celebration of casual sex. Then again, there’s a moral in the novel itself: the protagonist comes to the conclusion at the end of a weekend of high living that having so much sex makes finding love impossible.

Talking to Salon Magazine the author said: “I am a gay person before I’m anything else. I’m a gay person before I’m a white person, before I’m a Jew, before I’m a writer, before I’m American, anything. That is my most identifying characteristic and I don’t find many people who would say that… You know what my real crime was? I put the truth in writing. That’s what I do: I have told the fucking truth to everyone I have ever met.”

Fs 2Quotations:

“There are 2,556,596 faggots in the New York City area.”

He had been dismayed at how many of the names he no longer remembered. Who were Bat, Ivan, Tommy, Sam Jellu, Beautiful Henry, Kelly Hurt (or Kelly hurt?), Joe Johns, François, Watson Datson, too many of the 23, not to mention the 87, were now unrecognizable and obviously equally as unmemorable as the how many–? 100? 200? 50? 23? Orgasms he had probably forgotten to tally.

And who the hell was Tiddy Squire? Or was it Ditty Squirt? Even his handwriting was not helpful. He recalled no Tiddy Ditty, nor what they did, nor how it felt, nor where they did it, though his notation exclaimed: “really Hot, must do it again!”

 “Give me all your gism, baby! Pile drive that ramrod cock right through my brain!”

“Dinky Adams’s ass was the first ass Fred had ever rimmed”

We have been taken in! Where others have not! We have risen to the top, to be in control, always providing we not be too obvious, not rub their noses. How many places allow us to be so creative? Where else could we be so much the unseen power! […] Yes! We have commercialized the human body! Yes! To Advertising!

“Why aren’t you using it on a girl?”

“Uncle Richie, I don’t think you’re very well-adjusted.”

Don’t you know that what you’ve, correction, we’ve just done is considered by ninety-nine and ninety-nine one hundredths percent people as abnormal, immoral, illegal, dirty shameful, wretched, that’s it, wretched, oh, oh, Oh…”

“Why do you always get so upset and run away? What I did doesn’t mean anything.”

Why don’t you say it, Fred? Yes, it does. To me. It’s deeds that talk and count. Action is character, old F. Scott said. Yes, it does. To me.

[Fred] blinks his eyes. He’s in the most beautiful garden, Fairyland. Here, among some sand and scrub pines, nestles, is growing, a huge symphony of flowers and planters and weeping tubs of willows and man-made stars of light and cupolas and gazebos and cozy swings for two and tiny benches for intimate picnics and breezy lanterns swinging out to say Hello.

“I said I love you!” Randy’s anger briefly spurted out. He hadn’t said that before.

“Oh, I know you said it. But doesn’t everybody just! It’s too boring…”

Yes, we were the quintessential faggots, Dinky. One cockteaser and one doormat. Afraid of love. Using our bodies as barter instead of our brains as heart.

Now it’s time to just be. Just like I have brown eyes. I’m here. I’m not gay. I’m not a fairy. I’m not a fruit. I’m not queer. A little crazy maybe. And I’m not a faggot. I’m a Homosexual Man. I’m Me. Pretty Classy.

I must go forward… to encounter all and to forge in my smithy the uncreated conscience of my sex”.

“Why do faggots have to fuck so fucking much? It’s as if we don’t have anything else to do. All we do is live in our ghetto and dance and drug and fuck – there’s a whole world out there, as much ours as theirs. I’m tired of being a New York City-Fire Island faggot, I’m tired of using my body as a faceless thing to lure another faceless thing, I want to love a person!”

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