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Letter to Councilman LaBonge
Real People as Fictional Characters
Female Actors, Part Two
One Culture Hero Award
Adelante Gay Pride Gala
Best Work of Fiction?
Tom of Finland: Sexual Liberator or Enslaver
Lying Writers
Review of The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson
Promiscuous Thoughts
A Crime of the Heart
A Letter to Michael Silverblatt
"Have you no decency, sir?"
Political Incorrectness: Female Actors and Trojans
He Hugged Moms and Dads
What is a Girly Man?
Review of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
From Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Drive
The Gay Mammies
A Writer Protests
Review of Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro
A Spirit Preserved in 'Amber'
The Supreme Court Case
Review of Live from Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal
Review of Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-1951 by Christopher Isherwood
Review of Out For Good
Review of Hoyt Street: an Autobiography
Review of Sergei Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict.
Review of Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation
Review of Whores for Gloria
Muscles and Mascara
Review of "Blonde"
Brother Paul, Sister Jan, Brother Hinn, God and the Folks
Advice to the Next Generation
Sins of the Fathers
Beatin' Around the Bush

Cruise Not Gay! The Judge Has Spoken

The Horror, The Horror
LA--a Cliché?
Dominick, Mark & Orenthal
Holy Drag!
Ms. Hill & Mr. Tom
Mrs. guy Ritchie 
Supreme Court 
Tom Cruise 
New Times Article 

A Writer Protests

April 13, 2004

Ms. Barbara Epstein
Editor, The New York Review of Books
250 West 57th Street
New York, New York 10107

Ms. Epstein:

In May of 1963, there appeared in your journal a piece of malice posing as a review of my first novel, City of Night. The "review" was written by Alfred Chester. You added the headline, "Fruit Salad." I was young then, bewildered by the assault, and I did not protest. I'm no longer young, I understand the attack, and thirty years later I protest the abuse and its recent extension.

Chester questioned my existence, a twist of meanness seized by others of his ilk in The New Republic, The Village Voice, in tabloids. Impostors emerged, their behavior attributed to me in gossip columns. (I had left the country to retain my threatened privacy.) The impact of Chester's "review" was possible because it appeared in your journal.

City of Night topped bestseller lists, was translated into a dozen languages, has never been out of print. In 1993, Hugo Marsan wrote in Le Monde: ". . . the novel has not aged a bit. . . . We understand better its exceptional authenticity, its premonitory vision, its subtle literary innovations."

Chester's "review" would have become at most a ridiculed footnote if you had not dug it up in 1988 when you issued a collection of early reviews in Selections. Again you exposed Chester's leering remarks about my photograph, his giddy tone ("Oooo, Mary"), his attempted disparagement even of my name. The doubting of my existence was even more offensive when I had gone on to write many more books. The original headline updated your imprimatur on a word gay-bashers use.

I wrote you, objecting and received this answer: ". . . when we reprinted the Alfred Chester piece, we should have removed the title. I'm sorry."

In May this year your advertisement in The New York Times Book Review solicited subscribers and promised a copy of your Selections, reborn. The advertisement invited readers to learn what your reviewers wrote about books by Burroughs and Baldwin, books considered "modern classics." Since City of Night is also referred to as a "modern classic," I assumed the Chester "review" was omitted. I was wrong. A letter from you responding to mine maintained that the edition was--"apparently"--not a new printing, despite the cover. Still, Chester's performance was extended.

Responding to an interview with me in Poets & Writers, Edward Field, Chester's own editor, wrote to the magazine: "It was with a good deal of sadness that I read . . . of the damage done to City of Night by the late Alfred Chester's bitchy review. . . . It was a considerable understatement to call Chester `notoriously disturbed.' . . . He was mad . . . cruel and destructive, as his review demonstrates. . . . In explaining and apologizing for [Chester's] disservice to Rechy, an author I greatly admire, I should point out that the title of the offending review . . . was not Alfred Chester's but the New York Review of Books's, which has long demonstrated homophobia in its essays and cartoons."

In his United States: Essays 1954-1994, Gore Vidal labeled Chester's "review" "totally unfair," yet identified its "murderously funny" approach as a "trick that only a high critic knows how to pull off." I disagreed and pointed out to Mr. Vidal that he, too, had often been the object of "murderously funny" criticism. He wrote back: "I very much admire City of Night. . . . Also . . . I admire a kind of performance in criticism which is often plainly gratuitously destructive but at the same time a sort of art. . . . Chester, a moral monster, one gathers, was, for a time, a master of this sort of thing . . . and I had forgotten about him entirely until I reread his `totally unfair' piece and I'm afraid I succumbed yet again to his black arts." Unfortunately, Mr. Vidal's approval will remain, unqualified, in his book of essays.

By assigning my novel to Chester, you guaranteed invective, since Chester was widely known as a "monster." "[I]t was himself [Chester] was savagely attacking in the review," Mr. Field points out in is letter, ". . . the same rage turned on himself . . . ultimately destroyed him." Chester revealed his true motives in one sentence of his "review." Categorizing the hustler in my novel as "the kind of person we now speak of as `someone incapable of love'" he continues: "And, as with all these people, if you are hot for them enough, or bedeviled and tormented by them enough, and if you look and examine very hard, you will find that it is not at all true that they cannot love. They can; they do; alas, they love too much, which is the problem, for they are always loving someone else." But never Chester.

Chester used your journal to attempt literary murder because of his sexual envies. By having allowed that and by contributing the odious title, you became collaborators in his dishonorable intention; and you assert that role by perpetuating spite on a novel that has proven you and the "monster" Chester wrong.


John Rechy

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