Having reviewed the list of books recommended on the reading list designed by Kevin Jennings (and the subject of a recent post), a reader said she found a curious shortage (absence?) of books published before the 1980s. Indeed, she was struck that he did not include E.M.Forster’s early twentieth century novel of homosexual love, Maurice.
Beyond Maurice and the novels of Jim Grimsley, there is a paucity of gay fiction that deals eloquently and deftly with the emotional aspects of coming out and coming to terms with homosexuality. Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar does have its moments. In the comments to that aforementioned post, some of our readers mention Mary Renault‘s fiction, particularly The Charioteer (which I have not read). (And Patricia Nell Warren’s The Front Runner has some choice passages.)
Given the paucity of good gay fiction, especially of such fiction without scenes of explicit sex, if Jennings had decided to compile a list of books without sex scenes, that list would be small indeed. It is sad that so many gay men who take it upon themselves to write about their (our?) lives must needs describe the sex act itself whereas gifted writers for millennia have written about sexuality without describing the act itself.
We need need serious fiction, stories which help us explore the complexity of our sexuality and can describe the emotional rewards of monogamous love. Perhaps, such books are out there, perhaps, they are even on Mr. Jennings lists, but given what I’ve read, given the conversations (and publications) in the debate on gay marriage, I’m doubtful. Too many see marriage as a right and gratuitous literary descriptions of the sex act an entitlement.
All that said, there are a few books out there which do explore the emotional aspect and complexity of our sexuality. It just doesn’t seem that (m)any of them are on Mr. Jennings’ list.