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Larry Kramer To Release 'The American People,' An Examination of U.S. Gays Past


Leave it to seminal gay activist and writer Larry Kramer to achieve the impossible: strike a two book deal.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux publishing company announced today that it will publish Kramer's latest tome, The American People, about the history of gay people on the North American continent, in two volumes. He insists, however, that his payment was "only six-figures:" "The days of the $8 million publishing deal is over."

Kramer's contribution to American gay history, meanwhile, has just begun...

Kramer hesitates to call the 4,000 page history a novel, as publisher Jonathan Galassi has, but does conceded, "[Galassi is] probably right because it makes a lot of claims, and some of them are substantiated more than others, and I don’t want to be forced to have to defend everything." In addition to covering golden oldies like Abraham Lincoln's gay tendencies, Kramer delves into little regarded aspects of American life in the nation's early days.

"All history really up to now has been written by straight historians, and they just haven’t got a clue," Kramer tells The New York Times' Patrick Healy. "When you read about a lot of them like George Washington, or about Samuel Clemens, you see how important other men were in their lives. Yes, they were married, but the overwhelmingly important relationships and outlook in their lives was homosexual."

The book took Kramer three decades to write, largely because he simply couldn't stop himself from looking even further back than the colonial era. "The history of homosexuality in America starts even before America did, but I didn’t know that when I started writing... And the more I wrote, the more I wanted to find out. It became this wild adventure of learning so much about how long we’ve been here and what we’ve accomplished and all the pain that we have been through." 

Too bad today's gays have to wait until 2012 for The American People's publication.

Image via David_Shankbone's Flickr.

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  1. It's over for Miss Kramer, but it ain't over, rest assured.

    Posted by: TANK | Sep 28, 2010 5:25:30 PM

  2. Ugh. He lost all credit with me when he decided to talk about the history of homosexuality. I have a feeling this book/ magnum opus will have a lot of sweeping generalizations about male-male homosociality and conclude automatically that they are just gay.

    I should mail him a copy of Sedgewick's intro to _Between Men_

    Posted by: dan | Sep 28, 2010 5:30:06 PM

  3. As cranky as Larry Kramer is, I have to respect him as a visionary activist and thinker. As the saying goes, "Nice boys don't make history." He's our angry, articulate, relentless advocate - and even though he rubs many in the GLBT community the wrong way, his ideas have validity and longevity.

    And BTW - the only people getting $8 million advances are ex-Presidents. Even the most famous writer is lucky to command a solid six-figure advance these days.

    Posted by: Steve | Sep 28, 2010 5:30:33 PM

  4. You don't know what the fuck you're talking about, steve. Ain't nobody gonna buy kramer's books save for "Faggots" (pardon the pun)--it's simply not a mainstream genre. Yes, there are authors other than ex presidents who command more than $8 million book deals. I know them.

    Posted by: TANK | Sep 28, 2010 5:36:04 PM

  5. I am so looking forward to this. I agree with STEVE, Larry Kramer's crankiness has been necessary (and with the current spate of GOproud appeasers, maybe as necessary as ever).

    I read some of his exerpts, and what I am really looking forward to is his evidence-based argument for Lincoln as a homo.

    Now that's worth buying a book for!

    Posted by: Strepsi | Sep 28, 2010 5:37:40 PM


    Posted by: dan | Sep 28, 2010 5:38:42 PM

  7. 4000 pages! Geez, edit much? I don't need to know if Lincoln was a top or bottom AND the color of the sheets.

    Posted by: kansastock | Sep 28, 2010 5:45:46 PM

  8. Let's see:

    Washington looked a Lafayette "in that way", therefore gay.

    Ben Franklin was very fashion conscious, therefore gay.

    Native Americans had special initiation rites for young males, therefore all gay.

    Andrew Jackson and Abe Lincoln bunked with men, therefore gay.

    Everyone called a "confirmed bachelor" was therefore gay.

    Get the drift? It now goes on for 4000 pgs!

    Posted by: anon | Sep 28, 2010 5:59:48 PM

  9. Cranky RULES!!!!

    Go Larry Go!!!!

    I've been waiting to read this since the early 90s when I vsitied Larry at his condo and saw PILES of it stacked up all over the living room. At that time I thought it was going to be pubished posthumously.

    But as we all know Larry's too mean to die.

    Can hardly wait to read this.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Sep 28, 2010 6:01:53 PM

  10. sorry Anon

    Ben franklin was a notorious lover of the french whores (females)

    Ben was also considered the handmaiden of satan for the lightning rod "removes the power of god" (quote unquote by hundreds of preachers in the day)and for his debunking xtianity of being anything more than a myth with some moral parables

    Posted by: | Sep 28, 2010 6:40:49 PM

  11. To state that "All history really up to now has been written by straight historians" is woefully ignorant of the last 30 or more years of (at the very least) academic history. What, did those not count because they weren't written by someone with enough ego to make patently false generalizations? How is Kramer going to give a decent history of several centuries if he's so out of touch with the last three decades?

    We already have plenty of amazing histories of queer folks in America, most of them written by folks trained as, well, historians. What exactly is Kramer going to add to the discourse except for some judgmental rhetoric and (by his own admission) a lack of academic rigor?

    Posted by: TomSkylark | Sep 28, 2010 7:27:32 PM

  12. Who's that farmer in the pic on top? And what's he smelling?

    Anyway, I hope it's a coffee table book with lots of pix, like Lincoln doin' it with Mark Twain.

    Maybe Gore Vidal will write the Intro?

    Posted by: Is He In the Book? | Sep 28, 2010 8:01:10 PM

  13. Oh you are so full of shit "Tomskylark." The ONLY histories of queer folk in America were written by queers. "Gay New York" by George Chauncey, "The Gay Metropolis" by Charles Kaiser, "Gay L.A." by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons, "Open Secret" by me,and "Secret Historian" by Justin Spring. Larry knows more about gay life and times over the past 40 years at least more than almost anyone currently breathing.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Sep 28, 2010 8:21:23 PM

  14. Doubt that's true, DE. But he is a tireless self promoter and exhausting egotist, and those are qualities that clearly appeal to you.

    Posted by: TANK | Sep 28, 2010 8:29:02 PM

  15. @ David Ehrenstein: Nice language. And I agree entirely, incidentally, and had those exact same books (all of which are on my bookshelves) in mind--which is why I was baffled by Kramer's assertion, quoted above by both myself and the article in question. So I guess I'm "full of shit" even though we're in absolute agreement here, yes?

    If Kramer wants to make dramatic statements in order to make his book sound more groundbreaking, then fine--I'm sure it will sell copies. But it's disingenuous to state, as Kramer does, that the only histories we have are from straight academics--he's performing the exact erasure of queer visibility he's always railed against, and is still railing against here. That doesn't strike me as particularly helpful.

    Posted by: TomSkylark | Sep 28, 2010 8:30:35 PM

  16. @DE: On second glance, I don't actually have _your_ book. Of course, since I'm apparently "full of shit," I'm not in any particular rush to pick it up.

    Posted by: TomSkylark | Sep 28, 2010 8:34:56 PM

  17. I'll save my critique for after I take a look at the book. I have a tremendous appreciation for Mr Kramer's tenacity and bravery.

    Posted by: Jersey | Sep 28, 2010 9:31:58 PM

  18. Let the shit storm commence!!!

    While Kramer is a hero, it's outrageously self-promoting to say "All history really up to now has been written by straight historians".

    It undermines the work of such great gay historians as Charley Shively and Louis Crompton.

    Posted by: Jimbo | Sep 28, 2010 10:26:20 PM

  19. You tell 'em DE & LK! All these self-hating gays who have so much shame invested in keeping the status quo.

    How about buying the book when it comes out and learning YOUR history? Losers!

    Posted by: Louie | Sep 28, 2010 11:17:50 PM

  20. As a gay historian (in training) of gay US history, I shudder to think what amateurish broadsides Kramer will launch in this book. Not ever male friendship is a gay relationship. There's such a thing as evidence. Just because you want someone to have been gay doesn't make it so. Indeed it's equally erroneous to describe every same-sex attracted person in history as "gay" in the way we currently understand the term. For quick proof take a look at how male same-sex activity was understood, by those engaging in it, in the 1919 Newport Naval Scandal.
    The historian's role is to reconstruct the past, as it was, to the degree he or she can. It is NOT to project current perspectives backwards, and certainly to remake the past as you'd like it to look. I'd be interested to see what archival work Kramer has done. It took George Chauncey a decade to research and write "Gay New York," with access to enormous untapped records and the best possible professional training. For huge chunk of US history there is simply not the source base on which to build general statements.

    With respect to David Ehrenstein, tomskylark is quite correct (indeed he doesn't contradict most of the substance of what you say, which makes vomiting on him a strange response). You are incorrect in your assertion that only gay historians have written histories of gay people. I personally know straight historians who have done worthy, even groundbreaking, work in this area. An example would be "Imperial Brotherhood" by Robert Dean. GLBT History, History of Sexuality, etc are vigorous, expanding fields right now, with growing numbers of trained professionals working in them.

    If Kramer publishes a masterpiece I'll formally apologize on this forum. Unlikely.

    Posted by: Clay | Sep 28, 2010 11:31:03 PM

  21. Kramer's "bitter old queen" schtick has gotten sooo tired. Time to wrap it up "doll" because nobody but your "best best girlfriends" are going to buy that homemade pamphlet.

    Posted by: Marty | Sep 28, 2010 11:53:19 PM

  22. Oh yay, more from the "There has only been homosexual identity as I've personally imagined it" school of history.

    I'm sure he'll also use it as a platform to hector anybody under 50 about how we are a bunch of narcissistic, crystal addicted fairies and not doing it right like he does. His ego is big enough to span the Hudson.

    Posted by: missanthrope | Sep 29, 2010 1:21:46 AM

  23. I'm with you Jersey! And I'm looking forward to it.

    Posted by: Van in San Diego | Sep 29, 2010 4:11:26 AM

  24. @ tomskylark

    Take it in your stride. Someone of the commenters on this blog are so quick to bitch even if you are saying the same thing!??

    Posted by: Rowan | Sep 29, 2010 7:35:00 AM

  25. This sounds more like fiction than history, given Kramer's admission that he doesn't substantiate a lot of the claims, nor does he want to "defend" what he says.

    I'm still looking forward to reading it because he's interesting. I just won't take much of it seriously.

    Posted by: Anthony in Nashville | Sep 29, 2010 8:23:06 AM

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