11.30.2014

Dancer from the Dance

I picked up Dancer from the Dance based on browsing recommended books at The Strand, and was persuaded by phrases on the back cover like "the classic coming-of-age gay novel" and "hilarious" (used in two places).

Overall, I was disappointed.  I found the story repetitive, a cycle of parties with drugs and parks with sex. I would not use the word hilarious to describe the novel. I thought the book lacked humor overall. Given the subject matter, I thought I'd be more interested than I was. Malone was admired by gay New York for his beauty, but seemed dull otherwise. The "doomed queen" Sutherland was a more compelling character, and I found myself wishing the story focused more on him.

I am left wondering if the story was a celebration of these characters' lives, an indictment of them, or a bit of both. This lingering question is interesting; it just was a slog to get to it.

Still, I appreciate having read the book to think about how gay life has changed, how New York has changed since the 1970s, and I have a continuing fascination with Fire Island as depicted in art versus the small piece of it I have known.

Enjoyable quotes:
It was a journey between islands, after all: from Manhattan, to Long Island, to Fire Island, and the last island of the three was nothing but a sandbar, as slim as a parenthesis, enclosing the Atlantic, the very last fringe of soil on which a man might put up his house, and leave behind him all--absolutely all--of that huge continent to the west.
Now of all the bonds between homosexual friends, none was greater than that between the friends who danced together. The friend you danced with, when you had no lover, was the most important person in your life...
'What do we all have in common in this group?' I once asked a friend seriously, when it occurred to me how slender, how immaterial, how ephemeral the bond was that joined us; and he responded, 'We all have lips.'
Any memory of those days is nothing but a string of songs.
God, was that steaming, loathsome city beautiful!!!

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