Are there anything like queer literature as a genre and “gay” writers?
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Alors qu’une longue et intéressante discussion avec Oliver mercredi dernier a exhumé mon éventuel projet de collection “gay friendly”, l’entretien d’Adam Vitcavage avec Garth Greenwell m’apporte matière supplémentaire à réflexion.
Adam Vitcavage: Do you consider queer literature a genre? Or do you consider it literature that happens to be about LGBT people?
Garth Greenwell: I do think there is a tradition of queer writing, by which I mean a line of writers in conversation with other writers, which is all tradition is. I think there are aesthetic modes that have been coded as queer and claimed by queers. That conversation and those modes are necessary and rich. All artists have allegiances. These are mine.
AV: Similarly, do you consider yourself a “gay” writer?
GG: Yes. But without quotation marks.
AV: When I was doing a lot of musician interviews, I became fairly aware that critics always feel the need to say “female-fronted” band. Like it’s an anomaly. Do you ever feel that people put too much focus on gay writers’ (or any profession for that matter) sexual orientation?
GG: I think this is always a fraught issue, and there’s no way to ask the question that will please everyone. Some writers don’t want to be thought of as gay writers, for a variety of reasons, and I don’t think anyone should place demands on others’ identifications. I will say, though, that formulations like “This is a book about two men in a relationship, but it says universal things about love, etc,” seem wrong to me, even if they’re necessary. We live in a culture where reviewers who want to encourage readers to approach work by minority writers (and bless them, each and every one) need to extend invitations that can seem to conjure away difference. The word “universal” is that invitation.
The real problem comes when “universal” is preceded by “but.” This is a novel about black lives, but it’s universal; or this is a novel about trans lives, but it’s universal. The problem with this is that it allows the term “universal” to be used in that deeply false way that means straight and white, and very often male. I do believe in the universal impact or resonance of art, of the literary or aesthetic imagination. I believe absolutely in the power of imaginative art to cross difference and the wounds caused by structures of inequity. But it doesn’t do that by erasing difference. I think literature achieves the universal by rooting as deeply as possible into the particular.
I write as a queer man about queer lives for queer readers in a queer aesthetic tradition that I’ve chosen. I’m not writing to explain those lives or make them palatable as part of some political project to sway people whose response to them remains disgust. I don’t mean to dismiss efforts to do that, which have purchased so many freedoms for queer people, though maybe at too great a cost. But it’s not my project.
It’s not despite of, but because I’m writing from that specific position that my book can have whatever resonance it has. I don’t think this is anything special about my book. I think it’s how literature works.
AV: Do you still think there is a stigma about books about gay or lesbian characters?
GG: I think queer books struggle for attention, support, and prestige. I think this is especially true when those books are sexually explicit, when they explore models of life that are not heteronormative, when they tell stories that take place far from the zones of (still very relative) lesbian and gay privilege.
Extrait de : Garth Greenwell on Sex, Passion, and the Queer Body - In Conversation with the Author of What Belongs to You (Literary Hub, January 28, 2016)