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.
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The book centers around Malone, a wildly good-looking Midwestern lawyer who realizes his same-sex attraction and hightails it to the big city. He quits his dull job and links up with Sutherland, a socialite of the highest order and hobby drag queen who introduces Malone to fictional nightclubs such as the Twelfth Floor in Chelsea.
The book is ultimately a cleverly disguised city symphony, coolly asserting that the love these characters so desperately seek is not that of other men, but of New York itself. Though Dancer is a work of fiction, what emerges is a sense of the extent to which underground gay parties built the foundation of all that is recognized as club culture today. What can any man do with his life? After writing multiple novels, short stories and articles and spending time teaching English Literature at American University, he is now working on new material.
With Dancer poised to become a feature film in , Ali Gitlow spoke to Garber over the phone from his home in Washington, D. It was really ten years after that. I had been trying and not getting anything published and I was about to quit. One winter I was in Florida visiting my parents and I was getting letters from gay friends in New York.
They were written in this campy, wonderful style that I just love. But once I wrote that it came pretty easily, actually. After many years of not succeeding I was lucky enough to hit on a subject that worked for me. And I was lucky enough to be describing a time in New York which for some reason has become a subject of nostalgia, apparently. Do you still feel this way about the world you created? Absolutely, it was. I was trying to portray the harshness, the bleakness of gay life, of a life based really on aesthetic values where it was all about beauty and pleasure.
They just were suddenly free and New York was kind of empty then; nobody cared what was going on. Everyone had fled to the suburbs, so there was this wonderful empty playpen in which gay men and gay women created these wonderful spaces.
It was very involved with dancing. But it was also bathhouses, gymnasiums, Fire Island, parks: the whole city. I look at it in a much more sympathetic way now. And AIDS is what brought it to an end. Since AIDS is no longer necessarily life threatening, people are able to experience gay nightlife now relatively similarly to how you portray it in the book. How do you feel about the state of the scene today? It was so much fun being there. I wonder what the music has evolved into.
Disco evolved so rapidly. I remember thinking that Donna Summer was heartless and slick and just too manipulated. Maybe I will go out. Many of the passages about going clubbing feel like they could have been written today.
Were you writing from personal experience? And yeah, absolutely. Really, we were in his living room on Lower Broadway. And then I was taken to the Tenth Floor, which was a very small disco. And then I started going to Fire Island, and it was still called The Sandpiper then, and that was a wonderful dancing experience.
I started going to Flamingo and Paradise Garage. They did everything perfectly and that was the problem by then: it had become kind of sterile.
But by that time, the people I had started out dancing with at The Loft, we were all getting jaded. But it also coincided with this increase in size and in making it a big deal. We were getting so tired of the mainstream clubs.
By the time we quit dancing we were already just burnt out. There was a secrecy about it, and the music took you out of yourself in a way religious ceremonies can. I didn't do research. I kept a diary but it wasn't about the dance clubs, it was about the bars. It all just came back to me when I started writing Dancer. The book even posits that a dancefloor is a holy place via its religious references. When you went dancing in those days, it was a group gathered in a room at strange hours.
I think I took this from my roommate and his best friend. They were inseparable, they always danced together, neither one had lovers. But I would notice other pairs like them. Clubs in the outer boroughs are mentioned a bit in Dancer. These places were probably very exotic at the time?
Going to the outer boroughs was put in to indicate the way people go through a romantic fixation and then need to find renewed expressions of it — which often entails going to less sophisticated places, perhaps, to capture the original thrill. A film version of the book is in the works. How do you feel about it? I think it has to succeed on the basis of clever use of the music, because the music was so much a part of it. And that music is still so powerful.
A friend of mine calls it the white picket fence era. I think about this at the oddest times. I think human history is a zigzag. It careens from one thing to the next and goes bouncing around and I think this is all a reaction.
I would love to be around in 60 years and find out what a gay person is; what does that mean to be gay 60 years from now? I have no idea. By Ali Gitlow on November 9, Jerry Butler - One Night Affair. What inspired you to write Dancer from the Dance? Andrew Holleran. Did you do research for the book? Barrabas - Woman.
Dancer from the Dance
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. One, about young women on the New York subway, has come to stand for all the non-gay stories he was made to tell.
Interview: Dancer from the Dance Author Andrew Holleran
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.
Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran; Out of the Shadows by Walt Odets – review
The book centers around Malone, a wildly good-looking Midwestern lawyer who realizes his same-sex attraction and hightails it to the big city. He quits his dull job and links up with Sutherland, a socialite of the highest order and hobby drag queen who introduces Malone to fictional nightclubs such as the Twelfth Floor in Chelsea. The book is ultimately a cleverly disguised city symphony, coolly asserting that the love these characters so desperately seek is not that of other men, but of New York itself. Though Dancer is a work of fiction, what emerges is a sense of the extent to which underground gay parties built the foundation of all that is recognized as club culture today.