Cover image for Queer street : rise and fall of an American culture, 1947-1985 : excursions in the mind of the life
Queer street : rise and fall of an American culture, 1947-1985 : excursions in the mind of the life
McCourt, James, 1941-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiv, 577 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ76.3.U5 M383 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Beginning with the influx of liberated veterans into downtown New York in the golden age before McCarthyism, Queer Street tells the explosive story of gay culture in the latter half of the 20th century. his own homosexual experience against the whirlwind history of the era, summoning a pageant of characters that includes Harry Hay, Judy Garland, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal and Truman Capote amongst many others. Village, McCourt highlights the major events fo the period: the landmark eruption at the Stonewall Inn; the AIDS crisis that brought an end to the bathhouse culture; the ascendancy of the Christian right; and finally the social acceptance of gays that paradoxically marked the demise of queer culture.

Author Notes

James McCourt is the author of three novels and two shortstory collections. He has contributed to the Yale Review, The New Yorker, and the Paris Review. He lives in New York City and Washington, DC

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

McCourt is the author of perhaps the best novel about opera (Mawrdew Czgowchwz, 1975, his first book recently reissued by NYRB Classics) as well as the best novel about AIDS (Time Remaining, 1992). Queer Street marks his debut in nonfiction, if such it can be called. His fans formerly waited eight or nine years for the master of camp glamour perfection to issue a new novel, yet the years since the century's turn have brought three books in rapid succession. Is this new productivity linked to a newfound confidence born out of Harold Bloom's elevation of McCourt in his appendix to The Western Canon (1994)? In McCourt's historical collage, an autobiographical thread prevails: young Brooklyn boy discovers Manhattan, grows up instinctively drawn to the artistic and pleasure centers its title evokes. Yet the book swells to bursting with other elements essays on film, lists of essential gay bars, invented characters bursting into Compton-Burnett chitchat. His wit is superb. "One cannot help noticing that a remake of Vertigo set in San Francisco today would be untenable: there is almost no one in California who does not believe in channeling and retrieved memory from former lives." McCourt can sometimes strike a needlessly provocative note (he implies a devotion to the Log Cabin Republicans just, it seems, to annoy) but readers straight and gay will be dazzled by the erudition he displays in listing every important event that happened in gay Manhattan over a 40-year period. They're all here Cardinal Spellman pinching altar boys; Douglas Sirk's shrewd casting of Rock Hudson as U.S. everyman; The Golden Apple as quintessential A-Gay musical. The staggering scale, the lighthearted valor and, most strikingly, a heavy reliance on Joseph L. Mankiewicz's 1950 film All About Eve make this book, in every sense of the word, monumental: a Mount Rushmore with the familiar presidents' faces chipped away, replaced with those of Leonie Rysanek, Luchino Visconti, James Schuyler and Bette Davis. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Within a very few pages of this glittering mirror ball of a memoir, novelist and story writer McCourt (Time Remaining) makes clear his assertion that history, like memory, is a lie. What, then, are we to make of this work, which recounts queer culture during the last half of the 20th century? Maddening, frustrating, divine: history is here presented as memory, faulty and nonlinear, without the messy intrusion of facts and dates. Despite the often ponderous language and the need for an unabridged dictionary by the reader's side, McCourt's book brilliantly captures queer New York life just before mainstream pop culture came nipping at its heels to swallow it up. Every cultural stereotype is lovingly recounted: drag, disco, the baths, and an almost fanatical obsession with all things Bette Davis. Part autobiography, part cultural history, this book combines the self-conscious sensibilities of the poet with the dispassionate eye of the social commentator, where queer was found in every Hitchcock film, Judy Garland chanson, and Wagnerian aria performed at the old Met. Recommended for larger public libraries and queer studies collections.-Jeff Ingram, Newport P.L., OR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Part 1 Origination
Chapter 1 Predicamentp. 5
Chapter 2 The Wherewithalp. 19
Chapter 3 Certain Shades of Limelightp. 29
Chapter 4 Identity and the Masks of Enclosure (The Existential Queer)p. 45
Chapter 5 How It Got to Be So (Study Period)p. 57
Part 2 Investigations
Chapter 6 Forensic Societyp. 79
Chapter 7 A Sample Progress on Queer Streetp. 105
Chapter 8 Mirror, Mirror: Same Difference (From the File on the Astor Bar)p. 123
Chapter 9 The Sunday Matineep. 143
Chapter 10 A Performance to Give (The First Callback)p. 157
Chapter 11 Stipulations (Post-mortem with the Party in Full Tilt)p. 173
Part 3 Breaking Out
Chapter 12 Dirty Boulevard (Originating at the Meeting of Clearasil and Eye Shadow)p. 187
Chapter 13 The File on Fire Islandp. 207
Chapter 14 The Theaterp. 219
Chapter 15 While on the Townp. 239
Part 4 Expatriates
Chapter 16 Author's Letters from London to a Former Schoolmate in New York (A Farrago of a Four-Year Stay Abroad)p. 265
Chapter 17 Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, but Not Yetp. 281
Chapter 18 Vilja de Tanguay Exultsp. 293
Part 5 Return Engagements (Postquam Rearrived)
Chapter 19 Moving Back and Moving On (Stonewall and Ever After)p. 321
Chapter 20 Fielding Shortstopp. 343
Chapter 21 Two Serious Laddies: Raymond Chandler and Herman Melvillep. 391
Part 6 Dead Reckonings
Chapter 22 Two Jimsp. 403
Chapter 23 Personnel and Bulletins from Zones of Dreadp. 429
Chapter 24 Two Almost Tragic Charactersp. 447
Part 7 Lost Angeles (Inside Story)
Chapter 25 Storyboardsp. 459
Chapter 26 On Locationp. 477
Chapter 27 1416 North Havenhurst (Bette Davis)p. 487
Chapter 28 Star Soul (Prelude to a Postscript) Richard (Sauls) Rouilard, 1949-1996p. 513
Epilogue: While You Were Out (The Book Talks Back)p. 539
Captions and Creditsp. 561
Indexp. 565