Thereafter, he becomes incredibly enamoured with a Puerto Rican man; however, their relationship sours and they become enemies. Malone then becomes extremely promiscous, sleeping with everyone—and forming a curious friendship with a man called Sutherland. There is very little apparent plot. There is no suspense, no direction, and no hope.
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July 02, Andrew Holleran's Dancer From The Dance was published in but I'd never heard of it until I happened to see it in the buy-one-get-one-half-price offer in Waterstones a couple of weeks ago. I don't know if it's been in print constantly since it was published, or whether until relatively recently it would have been shelved in the LGBT sections of bookshops rather than the general fiction shelves, but anyway - I'm so glad I picked it up because it's beautifully written, incredibly atmospheric and evocative and, although it has an aching sadness at its heart, there is a note of hope at the end.
At the centre of of the story is Malone, a young middle-class lawyer, who after years of struggling with his sexuality leaves Ohio for New York where he abandons his career. Taken under the wing of a middle-aged, drug dealing drag queen called Sutherland, Malone becomes a key figure on the drug-fuelled underground gay 'circuit' of nightclubs, saunas, bath houses and beaches, where his mysterious charm and stunning good looks make him the subject of constant attention and gossip.
It's a colourful, chaotic existence, full of parties, casual sex, amazing clothes, all-night dancing and eccentric characters - all of which are richly described in lush detail - but underneath it all, what Malone really wants is to fall in love. Life in gay New York might be one long fabulous party, but what happens when the party's over and it's time to go home?
Holleran's writing is almost as overwhelmingly relentless as the hedonism of the club scene he describes. The book is a dizzying cascade of beautiful prose, even when what he's describing is tragic or sordid; it's an intoxicating tale, and perfect for a hot, sticky summer evening like the one on which I was reading it. One thing that comes across particularly well is the feeling of living in the moment.
This book is set before AIDS, yet characters are constantly mentioned in passing as having died - from drug overdoses, from suicide, from fires in underground venues. There's a strong sense that none of the men on the circuit really have much of a future - indeed, several of them of say as much. There's glitz and glamour and excitement and a sense of carefree decadence, but there's an underlying tarnish to it, a nagging hollowness, which in combination with the character of Malone, self-reinvented and lonely, reminds me of The Great Gatsby.
It reads like a love letter to a lost age and a lost New York, where the old industrial districts now overtaken by gentrification are almost deserted, rents are affordable and the city really does never sleep.
Some reader reviews of Dancer From The Dance complain that the novel propagates a stereotype, suggesting as it does that there is an underlying tragedy to being gay. I think this is certainly a valid criticism, but I also think it's important to remember that this is a book of, and about, its time. A man like Malone today would probably have come out to his family and his employer and eventually met a man to whom he'd have ended up happily married, but these simply aren't options for him in the early s.
And indeed, the narrator points out that when he attends a gay rights march he only sees four or five men he recognises from the club scene. There are thousands and thousands of gay men in New York, it suddenly dawns on him, who have never danced all night in clubs or been to beach parties at Fire Island, men who are simply living quiet, harmonious lives and having long, happy relationships.
This, I think, is partly where the end note of hope comes from. It's also important that this book is occasionally funny too. Sutherland, for all his faults - and believe me, he really does have faults - made me laugh out loud, and some of the observational detail is sharp and witty. As I hadn't heard of Dancer From The Dance before, I don't know how wide a readership it's had over the years, but I loved this book, and hope this latest reprint brings it to new audience.
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Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran; Out of the Shadows by Walt Odets – review
Joining an unbridled world of dance parties, saunas, deserted parks and orgies — at its centre Malone befriends the flamboyant queen, Sutherland, who takes this new arrival under his preened wing. But for Malone, the endless city nights and Fire Island days, are close to burning out. It is love that Malone is longing for, and soon he will have to set himself free. First published in , Dancer from the Dance is widely considered the greatest, most exciting novel of the post-Stonewall generation. Told with wit, eroticism and unashamed lyricism, it remains a heart-breaking love letter to New York's hedonistic past, and a testament to the brilliance of our passions as they burn brightest.
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He had spent the better part of the previous decade in New York City cruising and writing, attempting to become the professional writer he always saw himself as. After a year and a half of law school, he realized he was spending all his time writing a novel on the side rather than doing his school work, so he dropped out. It was wonderful. His writing at the time was void of any sort of queerness. This was a time when gay writers had to change pronouns in their stories if they wanted them to be published, obscuring the same-gender romances originally at their cores. He says the straight stories he wrote at that time had such dreadful plotlines that he can barely remember them.
Dancer from the Dance
Master Michael Quinn. Book Report. Now celebrating its second year! Too many books are forgotten as soon as they're published —that doesn't mean they're not worth reading , writing , or talking about.