Click topic below for commentary.

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 
Eminem 
New Times Article 


  
  
  
  
  
A Writer Protests

March 10, 2000

Mr. Charles McGrath
Editor, Book Review
The New York Times
229 West 43rd St.
New York, New York 10036

Dear Mr. McGrath:

When you called in November in response to my letter asking about a review of my twelfth novel, The Coming of the Night, you informed me there had been no review because "a reviewer would not be able to find a single page to quote from." You offered to reconsider the matter. Since no review appeared, I assume you agreed with that assessment.

On the telephone, I did not have a chance to rebut. I do so now. Glancing over an issue of your Book Review, I find many reviews that do not quote from work discussed. That leaves, as reason for not reviewing my novel, the implicit claim that even a review of it would assault the sensibilities of your readers.

Reviews of the same novel have appeared in the Los Angeles Times Book Review (the lead review, given the front page), San Francisco Chronicle, Dallas Morning News (another lead review), Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, A&U magazine (a leading AIDS-awareness publication that also gave it the cover), etc. None of those reviews has aroused indignation; nor has the novel itself, a Southern California bestseller for five weeks, publication scheduled in six foreign countries this year.

My novel is sexually graphic, by serious intent, documenting the moments before AIDS, when "sex was everywhere." But a reviewer needn't dwell on that. He might note the careful structure of the novel, its sentences, its gradual move toward surrealism. He might discover that to each of the 12 main characters I assign a mimetic tone that characterizes them further, and that--although there is no reference to "AIDs since the word did not yet exist--the imagery of indifferent contagion is woven into the language describing the Sant'Ana winds and the fires sweeping the City on the day documented. A reviewer might note that, without judgment, my novel is admonitory, asking the all-too-relevant question: "Would you die for sex?"

Some years back, a highly regarded publisher-editor of mine (not my present publisher) informed me that he had learned on "inside information: that I was "blacklisted at the New York Times, notably the Book Review. I disbelieved that--difficult to accept that people committed to respect for the arts would indulge such malice and arbitrary interference with a writer's work and reputation. Now, however, I do believe that statement has validity.

Of course, I still reject the notion of an "official" blacklist--much too sinister--but certainly there is some entrenched resentment there, no other way to account for the many manifestations of recalcitrant dismissal, despite my being the first novelist to receive PEN-USA West's Lifetime Achievement Award, and being the recipient of a second lifetime achievement honor, the William Whitehead Award, given through the Publishing Triangle in New York last year; despite my work's being translated into 20 languages, taught in universities throughout the country and Europe.

Would another writer of comparable recognition be ignored in your Book Review?

Years ago, the first reviewer of my first novel (City of Night) went so far as to question my existence in the New York Review of Books. I was young then, baffled by the personal attack, and I did not protest. Since then, I've learned to breach the ancient admonition that a writer must never challenge mistreatment.

It must have been clear to you, Mr. McGrath, that I was not so much soliciting a review--which, in asking, I was guaranteeing to be dismissive and negative it there would be one--as I was asserting pride in my work.

I am proud of my work, novels, non-fiction, plays, essays. I've written about night-streets, drag queens, hustlers, figures who haunt my novels as they do my memories. I've also reinterpreted the war in heaven, retold the stories of Adam and Eve, Medea, Jesus and Judas, Helen of Troy, etc. I've documented a day in the life of a Mexican-American maid demanding a miracle. I've explored the legend of Marilyn Monroe. I've followed four Texas teenagers so bruised that they set out to stop feeling. With acknowledged arrogance (the act of artistic creation is not humble), I can say that, viewed without prejudice, my body of work can hold its own among the work of my contemporaries.

Of course, finally, only the work matters. Reviews and reviewers fade, remembered, if at all, in footnotes about their mistakes.

I find vast irony in the fact that the same resentments that I and my work aroused when I was in my 30's are still being stirred in the same quarters as I approach age 70.
I thank you again for the courtesy you initially extended
to me.

Sincerely,

John Rechy

Table of Contents


Back to top 

Original material by John Rechy appears frequently on these pages.


© John Rechy, 1999-2006. All rights reserved.
Original material may not be used without author's permission. 
For questions please contact Speakingout@JohnRechy.com