Some further excerpts from Hear Us Out: Conversations with Gay Novelists by Richard Canning (Columbia, 2003):

Christopher Bram


And then there’s Larry Kramer. You wrote a generous essay about Faggots, arguing that we should listen to the tale and not the teller.

Christopher Bram

Yes, well, Kramer is a better playwright than he is a novelist, but Faggots is not the one-dimensional screed that his enemies or even Kramer said it was. It’s as if he believed the attacks and no longer notices what’s in his own book. Faggots is actually a very good novel folded up inside a bad novel. The good novel is full of wonderfully dangerous, mixed feelings about sex and love and community, but Kramer can no longer admit that, now that he’s become the village scold. […]

A few years ago I thought: “It’s going to happen soon. The breakthrough’s around the corner. They will read our books as naturally as we read theirs.” But I’m getting impatient. Even Michael Cunningham, after the success of The Hours, said in an interview: “I can’t help noticing that as soon as I write a novel without a blowjob, they give me the Pulitzer Prize.”

(pp. 80; 82)

Michael Cunningham

I wrote Golden States in order to have finished a novel by the time I was 30. I wrote it in about 45 minutes.

It’s not a bad book, but it’s not good enough…. Even at the time it came out, I was never anxious for it to have an extensive life in the world. Writers crank out too many books that aren’t the best goddamn book they could possibly write – that don’t contain much in the way of heart’s blood. I feel like we as readers are all drowning in “OK books.” […] But I’m adamant about that: It will not be reissued. It’s done. It served its purpose. Jeanette Winterson has a book no one knows about – Boating for Beginners, her second. It’s my impression that the book disappeared for similar reasons. Winterson simply didn’t think it was part of a dialogue. […]

I think sex – the actual depiction of sex that transpires between characters – is overlooked by most writers, for reasons I understand…. And the English language actually deserts you. There’s no useful term for the female sex organ. “Vagina” feels a little more clinical than you might want. “Cunt” feels derogatory. We’re literally deprived of language in the face of this. Yet it’s obviously hugely important. It seems to me the one one area available to writers who are alive and working now.
(pp. 91; 105–106)

Paul Russell

Writers work differently. I tell my students all the time to figure out how their own brain works. If it works in a weird, messy way, there’s nothing they can do about it, as much as they might like to transform themselves into a different kind of writer. […] Usually I’ll start collecting stuff for the new novel when I’m in the final year of writing the previous one. I wish I were like Anthony Trollope and could draw a line at the bottom of the page and start the next novel. But I have about a year of mental exhaustion before the next book starts to coalesce.

(pp. 209; 211)

Matthew Stadler


Did [whatever] ever lead you to verse? [Question redacted so it makes sense]


Do you mean linebreaks and stuff? Linebreaks never occurred to me…. Dennis Cooper is both [a prose and poetry writer]. How do we know which piece of his is a poem and which is prose? The distinction is made mostly because of linebreaks, I think.

(p. 268)

Stadler also suggests two books by Steve Weiner, The Museum of Love and The Yellow Sailor.

Philip Hensher

I have a sense of what an incredible imposition it is to ask anybody to read a manuscript. I wouldn’t readily do it. I don’t know why reading manuscripts of typed A4 [stationery] is such hard work, but it is. I’ve done it a few times. Every time I’ve found it difficult to come to a view as to the quality of the thing. Once it’s bound up, you do have a sense of how good something is.


It’s something to do with typesetting.


That’s right. Typefaces can influence your reading. I’m obsessive about typefaces. I’ve always got a clear sense of the right typeface for a particular novel. The Kitchen Venom typeface was wrong. It gave everybody a headache. For Pleasured, it looks like a children’s book.


I noticed in Kitchen Venom that you appeared to be rendering “Trafalgar square” with a small s deliberately.


That was a tiny joke to tease the clerks in the House of Commons. It’s Hansard style. Whenever they refer to a street or square, they use the lower case in Hansard.

(pp. 309–310)

And a question I’ve always wanted to ask

I’m just gonna vent for a moment here. Paul Russell, p. 225, emphasis added: “When I tried to render Allen in the first person, all I was getting was this flat, clipped, inflectionless astronaut-speak.”

What the hell does “clipped” speech sound like?

Does it sound as if the transitions between words (surely you are aware that we speak in a continuous stream; we only interpolate individual words) are removed, with all the segues “clipped” away? Does it sound like bad speech synthesis? Choppy? Overdiscrete?

Or does it refer onomatopœically to the voiceless stops at the end of the word “clipped” itself (-pt)? The -pt- sequence always sounds like a tidy, self-contained drumbeat (in the word “optical” particularly).

Why do people resort to the word “clipped”? It’s a discomfiting term, with many synæsthetic connotations, including cigars, fingernails, and foreskins, the last of which are often described by hateful leftist girls, with a cutesy smirk of comeuppance, as being “clipped,” with a distinct misunderstanding of anatomy that men could never get away with in discussing equivalent alterations of their genitalia.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2004.12.14 22:42. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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