When I moved to NYC 22 years ago, I came to work as an editorial assistant at St. Martin's Press. I worked for Gordon Van Gelder (who edited science fiction and pop culture books) and the late Linda O'Brien (who was a manager of the “grid,” the list of all the company's hundreds of titles). Linda was close to SMP's longtime gay-interest editor Michael Denneny, whose Stonewall Inn Editions imprint published many of the most popular and respected gay books of the '70s and '80s, so I was able to speak with him and even attended a party at his apartment. (As a young gay guy, I will never forget that he proudly had a picture of porn actor Steve Fox on his fridge.)
Michael was someone we looked up to as a pioneer and as a cerebral man whose taste was both literary and commercial. He had to fight to publish books he knew would sell a few thousand copies, and would balance that with books he knew would sell many times that—yet he usually had to fight to publish those as well.
I was so disappointed when, while still working at SMP, my gay novel Boy Culture was not deemed fit to be a part of Stonewall Inn (not by Michael). I still own a lot of the free books that came from Michael's office, a den of literacy and iniquity, not to mention my Divine paper doll book that he published.
Denneny just granted the Lambda Literary Review a long interview. In it, he talks about the state of gay writing today by noting its past:
“[T]he assimilationist wave has been dominant for the last decade, balancing the first decade (the ’70s) dominated by the liberationists–the middle two decades essentially devoted to the fight against AIDS. I suspect these two poles of the culture will always be with us. Which is the right strategy depends on the historical moment. We’ll see what emerges.”
Check out this fascinating interview for more.
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