Further excerpts from Gay Fiction Speaks (what are “fiction speaks”?) by Richard Canning (Columbia, 2000; Cf. Hear Us Out):

James Purdy

(who has frigging well got to stop feeling sorry for himself)

— You’ve written an impressive body of work. Does writing come easily?
— Yes, yet I have terrible problems putting it all into shape. But I can sit here and write all day without any trouble.
— Do you write at regular times?
— Usually in the morning. You get stuck, you know. It’s like driving an old car. It breaks down and you’re wondering how to get home. Each day you have a Waterloo. You’re defeated. The next day, you find a way to do it.
(pp. 20–21)

John Rechy

— I began writing in longhand; then moved to a Royal typewriter my father had bought me. Then I moved to a rented Underwood, which is still here, on which City of Night was written. I couldn’t part with it, so I bought it. Then I bought an IBM Selectric; now I use a computer. However, I still print out all the drafts and rework everything in pencil. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything, including my articles, that hasn’t gone through at least twelve complete drafts. […]
City of Night was written chapter by chapter. I wouldn’t let a chapter go until it was finished. That was stupid and drove me crazy. Numbers was written from an outline…. I stopped One Line of Babylon, which was already a thousand-page draft, to write The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gómez. I stopped something else to write Marilyn’s Daughter. I’ve stopped several books when another one takes over.
— Do you have all the drafts of your books?
— Yes, except for the original manuscripts of City of Night, which were all destroyed. But I have the galleys on which I rewrote that book…. Now I keep all my manuscripts. I could show you boxes of pages of Our Lady of Babylon.
(pp. 54; 58; 65 [reordered])

Andrew Holleran

And I waited tables. But I think once you start waiting, you’re not really trying to do another kind of career. You’re putting all your eggs in the basket of writing. It’s a terrible chance you take with the arts. You either succeed or not, whereas if you go to work for a corporation, no matter how high you rise, you’ll always have a function for the corporation. But the arts are really a make-or-break kind of thing. (p. 141)

Felice Picano

Like People in History… is written in a fake gay English. It’s not an English anybody’s ever spoken, except me and my group in the seventies. The German translation took a year instead of six months because it’s written in what I call “gayspeak.” You picked up on it instantly, I’m sure. Younger American and British Gen Xers had no trouble getting into the book either. I’d think a 60-year-old woman living in the suburbs might have trouble. It’s about the way we use language; where one boyfriend says “See you downstairs in Szechwan Sewer” – just the idea of calling a restaurant that; automatically making fun of things. We do that; I don’t remember my parents doing it….
Ambidextrous may have been the last book I wrote by hand. I always hated typewriters, which gave me a great deal of trouble. After the first computers came out in 1983, and as soon as I could afford to, I got one with a pretty good writing system on it.
— Some suspect they cripple one’s potential for revision.
— I do much more revising now than I ever did on those damn typewriters. I guess I was lucky. Computers came to me when I’d already been writing pretty solidly for about ten years. I knew what I was doing….
— Can you work all day?
— No, I work two or three hours in the morning, tops. Toward the end of a project, when I can’t shake it off, I may do some more work later in the day, or work four hours. Then my mind turns to jelly. I have a very short attention span. I’m really scatterbrained.
(pp. 193; 219; 221)

Ethan Mordden

(hugely fun to read, with his scathing-Irish-queen persona)

— The idea of making your characters bisexuals and straights because otherwise the straight world isn’t going to like it is extremely dreary.
— Do you think it’s untrue to life?
— Not necessarily, but I find a lot of fanciness about it. My term for the bisexuals I’ve known is “60/40s.” They tend to be working-class men from a very narrow background…. The notion of a gay life, of coming out or admitting they’re attracted to men, is absolutely unthinkable. However, only 60% of their sexuality needs women. 40% wants men. The 60% enables them to have sex with women, be happily married, have a family, even cheat on their wives with other women. But there’s always that 40%, lurking and beckoning.
— Some novelists say writing only about being gay would be limiting.
— That’s amazing. Can you imagine a black writer saying that about an all-black-characters novel? It’s homophobic, stupid, self-hating….
— Has writing always come easily?
—I have extremely good work habits [if I do say so myself]…. I think “writer’s block” is a euphemism…. A real writer never gets blocked.
(pp. 267; 273)

David Leavitt

(whom I met once for thirty seconds)

— Gordon Lish once said that the mistake everyone makes in writing about sex lies in thinking the sexy thing is the black silk stocking; what’s really sexy is the dirty white sock. […]
I never write longhand. I always write on computer…. I think it’s essential, though, to read material over in hardcopy, because it looks totally different on the page than on the screen. I can’t explain why, but a sentence that looks good on the screen can read horribly on paper. I’ve talked to other writers about this and they all agree.
— Can’t the neatness of a printout also pose a danger – it looks great; why change it? [Oh, make up your mind, Canning. Either paper makes revisions harder or computers make them harder, but not both. In fact, the answer is NEITHER!]
— No, because I mark it up.
(pp. 385; 393)

Patrick Gale

— Is it important not to write things down?
— Yes. It keeps it fresh and fluid. I feel if an idea works, I’ll remember it. If it doesn’t, it wasn’t worth remembering. I don’t get paranoid about things slipping through the net. […]
We wanted to write a sitcom that was entirely gay, though not all the characters were gay. My idea was that all the straight characters, sooner or later, would be proved to have had some kind of gay experience or temptation…. Every bit part, like a policeman in the first episode, would turn out, by coincidence, to be somebody’s lover….. Once the viewers realized this was the format, they’d have great fun waiting to see when somebody was going to turn up in the central position. […]
In the mid-’80s I got a word processor like everybody else. I very quickly learned to mistrust it. It produces a superficially polished version…. whereas if you look at a big fat notebook full of crossings-out, it stops you relaxing too much….
— Have you ever lost one?
— No, thank God. I’ve lost things on the computer, though – whole chapters. [Ever heard of Save, Patrick?]

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2004.12.25 16:52. 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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