GLBT Literature: Christopher Bram

Christopher Bram"If only more novelists approached their craft with the imagination and skill of Christopher Bram." — The New York Times Book Review

Christopher Bram is one of the most accomplished, and acclaimed, of contemporary novelists. His writing shows a deep understanding of human nature, and of society's impact on individual lives – both gay and straight – during the past century. His diverse novels have taken us inside a contemporary gay male relationship (Surprising Myself), on a thrilling Hitchcockian adventure among spies and hustlers in WW II Manhattan (Hold Tight), into the life and creative genius of filmmaker James Whale (Father of Frankenstein), on a unique journey through late 19th and early 20th century America (The Notorious Dr. August), and much more.

The Gay & Lesbian Reading Group is honored to have had Mr. Bram join us, to discuss his work, on several occasions. Here are general articles on Mr. Bram at glbtq and Wikipedia. Below is information about each of his books, along with selected links to reviews and other materials.

His Novels

Exiles in AmericaExiles in America: A Novel (2006)

From the Publisher: Zack Knowles and Daniel Wexler have been together for twenty-one years. Zack is a psychiatrist, Daniel an art teacher at a college in Virginia. In the fall of 2002, a few months before the Iraq War, a new artist in residence, Abbas Rohani, arrives with his Russian wife, Elena, and their two children.

But Abbas is not quite what he seems, and soon he and Daniel begin an affair. After love throws the two families together, politics threatens the future of both in ways no one could have predicted.

A novel that explores how the personal becomes political, Exiles in America offers an intimate look at the meaning of marriage, gay and straight, and demonstrates the breathtaking skill and daring imagination that have garnered Christopher Bram widespread critical acclaim.


Lives of the Circus AnimalsLives of the Circus Animals (2003)

From the Publisher: Critically acclaimed novelist Christopher Bram has written some of his best work about life in the performing arts. In Father of Frankenstein, the basis for the Academy Award-winning movie Gods and Monsters, it was Hollywood in the thirties and fifties. In The Notorious Dr. August: His Real Life and Crimes, it was the strange world of Victorian music and spiritualism. Now, in Lives of the Circus Animals, Bram explores contemporary New York theater, spending several days and nights with a diverse handful of men and women.

There is Caleb Doyle, a hot new playwright whose newest work, Chaos Theory, has just bombed. His sister, Jessie, also loves theater but has no outlet for her talents except to work as the personal assistant to British actor Henry Lewse, "the Hamlet of his generation," while he does a Broadway musical. Henry loves Shakespeare, money, grass, and boys.

Then there's Frank Earp, an ex-actor who courts Jessie and is directing a troupe of acting students in a homemade play. Among the students is Toby Vogler, a nice kid from the Midwest who has a whole other career at night. Toby was once Caleb Doyle's boyfriend.

Overseeing this world like an unhappy god is Kenneth Prager, second-string theater critic for the New York Times.

Leaping from one life to another, one day to the next, the novel throws these people together in a serious comedy about love and work and make-believe. Lives of the Circus Animals is a cross between a Mozart opera and a Preston Sturges movie. A look at theater people who are just like everyone else, only more so, it's a comic celebration of how we all strive to stay sane while living in the shadow of those two impostors, success and failure.


Notorious Dr. AugustThe Notorious Dr. August: His Real Life & Crimes (2000)

From the Publisher: Spanning more than 60 years, from the Civil War to the early 1920s, and moving from the battlefields in the South to New York City, through Paris, London, Constantinople, and Coney Island, The Notorious Dr. August features August Fitzwilliam Boyd, a.k.a. Dr. August, an improvisational pianist who believes his music is sometimes inspired by the spirit world. He is in love with Isaac Kemp, an ex-slave who sporadically returns his affections and who himself successfully woos Alice Pangborn, a rather prim, white governess. The trio, locked in a strange and often painful love triangle, travel the world – until a horrible tragedy forces them to examine the choices they have made, and shakes up their relationship in ways none of them could have predicted. Rich with historical detail, this is a brilliantly written, emotionally riveting exploration of race, class, spirituality, and sexuality – and of what it truly means to love another.


GossipGossip (1997)

From the Publisher: Ralph Eckhart meets "Thersites" on the Internet. The manager of a Greenwich Village bookstore and politically to the left, Ralph agrees to an F2F (face-to-face) meeting with Thersites in Washington, DC, where his friend Nancy writes speeches for a popular woman senator. With his penchant for Shakespearean drama, Ralph should have seen the elements gathering for tragedy...or farce. Thersites proves to be a young, attractive, and enthusiastic lover. He is also Republican, in the closet, right-wing, and the author of a tell-all book that spreads gossip about several Washington women, including a footnote about a lesbian affair between a speechwriter and a "happily married" senator. In a town where rumors can kill a career, such words may be fatal. And despite his passion, Ralph is disturbed by his new lover's politics...and then stunned at being charged with his murder. Christopher Bram joins dark satire with chilling suspense as Ralph is arrested for first-degree homicide and becomes a "cause" in the gay community.


Father of FrankensteinFather of Frankenstein (1995)

From This novel – the basis for the critically acclaimed 1998 film Gods and Monsters – re-creates the last days of film director James Whale, who was found dead in his swimming pool, an apparent suicide, in 1957. Bram offers sharp insights into the darkly comic sensibility that infuses Whale's two most famous films, Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, as memories of an impoverished English childhood, the trenches of World War I, and Hollywood studios compete for space in a mind whose defenses have been weakened by a stroke. Written in the fluid present tense of a cinematic treatment, Father of Frankenstein is a powerful evocation of an era before Hollywood celebrities could proclaim anything but domestic heterosexuality to the outside world.


Almost HistoryAlmost History (1992)

From Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 1992 – abridged): Bram's fourth novel dramatizes 35 years in the life of a career diplomat who comes out of the closet; the backdrop consists of political intrigue in the Philippines during the Marcos era. The result is an authoritative, very readable (and mostly mainstream) novel. Jim Goodall joins the Foreign Service in the early 1950's, at the height of the McCarthy era, when suspected homosexuals are hounded from the service as security risks.... The personal narrative is rounded out by Goodall's sister's family, particularly by niece Meg, who loses a boyfriend to "Uncle Jim"...but stays close to him. Bram rotates between personal instances and political ones – Goodall is serving as a diplomat in difficult times, and Bram evocatively records Philippine and Vietnamese crises in convincing fashion.... Some of this is programmatic, but Bram convincingly re-creates a historical moment from a gay perspective. – copyright © 1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


In Memory of Angel ClareIn Memory of Angel Clare (1989)

From Publisher's Weekly: Though he might have minced about it, Henry James would have been delighted by the situation presented here. Bram depicts a circle of friends of a dead filmmaker chafing at the responsibility of consoling his very young lover. With the exception of a middle-aged married couple, the characters are gay and out of the closet, and perhapsthis accounts for the concern they feel, one year after the death of their friend, in trying to save the boy from his excessive, unresolved mourning. Bram's characters are candidly, truthfully observed; their alternative lifestyles clearly portrayed. In the end, however, it is the common humanity of these Manhattan sophisticates that triumphs quietly in a surprising, dramatic climax. James would have admired the wit and the sustained tone of this new comedy of manners, a very "New York" novel in sensibility and subject.


Hold TightHold Tight (1988)

From the Publisher: Hold Tight confirms Christopher Bram's status as one of the outstanding gay novelists of our time. Erotic, romantic, and suspenseful, this wholly original story is a thriller set in a homosexual brothel in 1942 New York City. Hank Fayette, Seaman Second Class, had enlisted in his home town of Beaumont, Texas, used his shore leave to visit a movie house on 42nd Street, and ended up in a gay brothel near Manhattan's West Street piers. When this big, lanky blond with a country boy's drawl – and hard muscular body – couldn't fight his way clear of the Shore Patrol who raided the place, chronologicalsurvey.html he figured he was on his way to the brig. But in 1942, a few months after Pearl Harbor, the Navy was more interested in capturing spies than in punishing "sex offenders." Their offer to Hank was simple: go back to the brothel, work undercover as a prostitute, and risk your life to entrap Nazi spies. This erotic, suspenseful novel captures the big-band feel of New York City in the forties, the intensity of a nation at war, and the passion of men for their country – and for each other.


Surprising MyselfSurprising Myself (1987)

From the Publisher: Surprising Myself is the brilliantly realized debut novel of one of America's most promising young writers. It is a story about relationships. Between a young man and his father. Between the father and his ex-wife. Between a mother and her children. Between the children. And most important, between two young men. Beginning with their initial discovery of each other and proceeding by a series of deft twists and turns to a dramatic and very moving conclusion, Bram evokes with great elegance of style the love that grows between two special people and the adversity they must jointly overcome. Sometimes innocent and dreamlike, sometimes raunchy and wicked, this always entertaining tale is an affecting portrait not soon to be forgotten.


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