As LGBT Pride Month comes to a close, we’re honoring the accomplishments of the LGBT community by sharing a few interesting facts on the five most researched LGBT novelists in our library. To celebrate, we’ve opened up our library to make reference works on each novelist free for a whole month. Continue the celebration with a newer face in writing by checking out the Books on the Radio blog post, “Amber Dawn Wins Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Authors” covering 2012’s winner of the award for emerging LGBT writers.
- Virginia Woolf: Born on January 25, 1882 as Adeline Virginia Stephen, Woolf was homeschooled, spending a great deal of time reading books picked from the library of her father, Leslie Stephen. Her mother Julia passed away when Virginia was 13, and her father when she was 22. Both of their deaths “but especially her father, influenced her work as well as her character in no small degree” (Hafley 3). Woolf wrote her first novel, The Voyage Out, in 1906, though it was not published until nine years later. Virginia married Leonard Woolf, a journalist and political figure, in 1912, and shortly thereafter became involved in the “Bloomsbury Group,” a collection of writers and intellectuals. In addition to nine novels, Woolf was the author of many short stories, lectures, biographies and essays. Woolf committed suicide in March of 1941, drowning herself in the River Ouse. [Hafley, James. Glass Roof: Virginia Woolf as Novelist. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1954. Questia. Web.]
- Truman Capote: Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1924, Capote is known for his Southern gothic short stories and fiction in an innovative style which he referred to as the “nonfiction novel.” His most famous piece, In Cold Blood, came out in 1966 and established Capote as “a leader in the new fiction” (Shuman 233). In his twenties, Capote landed a brief stint at The New Yorker before returning to his home of New Orleans to work on Other Voices, Other Rooms, released in 1948. The piece became a best seller and caused a great deal of controversy due to a controversial dust jacket photo of Capote, an experience that taught him that “his private life could generate as much publicity as his writing, and perhaps more” (Shuman 234). He had a long term relationship with Jack Dunphy from the late 1940s until the late 1960s, when Capote’s life and career began to decline. After authoring multiple novels and screenplays, Truman Capote passed away in August of 1984 in Bel-Air, California at a friend’s home. [Shuman, R. Baird, ed. Great American Writers: Twentieth Century. Vol. 2. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2002. Questia. Web.]
- W. Somerset Maugham: During the final years of his life, W. Somerset Maugham, the acclaimed but very private novelist and playwright, burned his private affairs and asked friends to destroy all letters he had sent to them. In his will, he even instructed his literary executor not to “authorize the publication of any of his unpublished writing or to cooperate with any biographer,” or allow his daughter Liza or his lover, Alan Searle, to give any information (Calder). After his death, Liza and Alan went against Maugham’s wishes and allowed numerous private documents to be published. “Maugham often challenged sexual conventions; that his homosexuality, like that of Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, had taught him how to be an undercover agent; and that his frequent use of clichés, for which he was much criticized, was a narrative strategy to match his narrator’s diction with that of his characters” (Calder). Maugham was also one of the first modern English writers to cover China and Spain. [Calder, Robert L. "Meyers, Jeffrey. Somerset Maugham: A Life." Studies in the Novel 37.3 (2005): 360+. Questia. Web.]
- James Baldwin: In August of 1924, James Baldwin was born to an unwed mother in Harlem. At the age of three, his mother married a fundamentalist Baptist minister with whom she had eight children. Baldwin’s step-father became increasingly violent and abusive as he grew older, and as a step-child, Baldwin became a target for the anger. The abusive relationship haunted Baldwin for years. For three years as a teenager, Baldwin became a minister who preached in and around Harlem, an experience that “left its unmistakable imprint” on the writer (Nelson 12). Baldwin moved to New Jersey as a laborer after high school where he experienced brutal racism and hostility before returning to New York to work and write. As he gained more attention for his writing, his “everyday encounters with racism, coupled with his growing awareness of the personal and political implications of his homosexuality, left him deeply unsettled” (Nelson 13). This feeling of exclusion, both racially and sexually, led Baldwin to purchase a one-way ticket to Paris at the age of 24, where he fell in love with Lucien Happersberger and continued to develop as a writer. Race and sexuality are two common themes in many of Baldwin’s works, including 1953’s Go Tell It On the Mountain. After a long and fruitful career, James Baldwin passed away in Paris in December of 1987. [Nelson, Emmanuel S., ed. Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999. Questia. Web.]
- William S. Burroughs: Born in 1914, William S. Burroughs was a postmodernist known for his controversial life and works, as well as his involvement with the Beat movement, among many other things. “These factors are also the source of extreme emotional responses that have often prevented critics from looking at the work itself” (Lydenberg and Skerl 3). In the 1950s, Burroughs produced a handful of unpublished manuscripts, including “In Search of Yage,” which would go on to become the basis of one of his most celebrated pieces, Naked Lunch. His close friendships with both Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac helped lead to the development of his “underground reputation” (Lydenberg and Skerl 3). Much of Burroughs work, including Naked Lunch, was attacked on questions of morality, as critics claimed that his work was obscene in the sense of his “immorally ambivalent stance toward the world of violence, sexuality, and drugs” (Lydenberg and Skerl 6). Burroughs passed away in 1997. [Lydenberg, Robin, and Jennie Skerl, eds. William S. Burroughs at the Front: Critical Reception, 1959-1989. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991. Questia. Web.]
For further tribute to LGBT Pride Month, take a look last week’s blog post honoring the work of famous LGBT painters!