In Conversation with the Violet Quill: Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, and Edmund White
by Frank Pizzoli for Lambda Literary
April 10, 2013
In November 1980, New York’s SoHo Weekly News tagged a cover story Fag Lit’s New Royalty, referring to Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, and Edmund White, alive today, and Christopher Cox, Michael Grumley, Robert Ferro, and George Whitmore, who have died. Since the publication of that story, which was subtitled A Moveable Brunch – A Fag Lit Mafia,they have brought out the best in admirers and the worst in detractors.
Collectively the seven authors became known as The Violet Quill, meeting only eight times between March 31, 1980 and March 3, 1981. They had a sample “reader” published, emerging later as titans of gay male literature. Their sexual affairs with each other were labyrinth but not unusual in New York City at the time.
Although their status as individuals in gay literature has never been creditably challenged, the Quill’s crowning as an influential group has been called a myth by some, their influence criticized by others.
Lambda Book Report, 2007
An Interview With Felice Picano
September 22, 2007
By Perry Brass
In 1977, Felice Picano launched a small press devoted to gay books. SeaHorse, and author Larry Mitchell set up his own gay press, Calamus Books. Dramaturge Terry Helbing followed with a line of plays at his JH Press. By 1981 the three men joined forces to create Gay Presses of New York (GPNy), the most visible and influential publisher of gay books of its time. His new memoir, Art and Sex in Greenwich Village, is Picano's firsthand account of that historic moment.
About a decade ago, I went to a wonderful Publishing Triangle panel here in New York where you complained about “gay books without dicks.” How do you feel about that issue now, when “gay romantic fiction,” modeled on women’s romance fiction, and Dave Sedaris, with his “Gap khaki” approach to queer writing, have produced a stream of “gay books without dicks”?
Who knew that I was so accurately predicting the gray and dreary future? I hoped I was forestalling it. Evidently I failed.
Is there any hope out there for the outrageous gay novel, in all of its splendor and excess, in a time of galloping homogeneity, bland commercialism, and p.c.ism?
There’s hope for some original, unforeseen, gay-themed novels. But since there appears to be not one single truly individual or outrageous gay male left on our planet below the age of say, sixty, it seems utterly footless to expect that any outrageous or fabulous gay novels will ever again be written. And yes, this is a challenge to all of you reading this interview. In the words of that outrageous French faggot Jean Cocteau, I dare you to astonish me!
An encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
The Best is Yet to Come: A Talk with Felice Picano
By Owen Keehnen
When the Lambda Literary Award nominations were recently announced [in 1996], Felice Picano was cited in two different categories. Over the past 20 years Mr. Picano has not only been a prolific writer in a number of different styles and genres, he has also run two gay presses, lectured extensively, and managed to lead a busy and active life outside of gay literature. At the news of his dual nominations, I phoned Felice, and he agreed to take a break from working on his latest epic to chat for a few moments.
Keehnen: Congratulations on your recent double Lambda Literary Award nominations for Like People in History (Best Gay Men's Fiction) and Dryland's End (Best Gay Men's Fantasy/Science Fiction).
Picano: Thank you. I'm very proud of both books.
Keehnen: As the author of 17 books including Smart as the Devil, Ambidextrous, and The Lure, do you find a common theme running throughout your fiction?
Picano: 17! I'd say it's the outsider or rather "ordinary person" or "man on the street" who's put into an extraordinary situation including a whole life history as in Like People in History. I hate this word, but it seems fairly universal, but also inexhaustible.
Keehnen: After 20 years as a published author, what do you consider the pinnacle of your writing career?
Picano: There are several. First I'd say breaking a totally gay book like The Lure into the mainstream in 1979 that included best-sellerdom, book clubs, airport paperback racks, etc. Another peak was literally changing style and direction for the intimacy and honesty of Ambidextrous in 1985. The success of Like People in History has also been a pinnacle, but I think the best is yet to come.
Keehnen: How has gay literature changed over that period of time?
Picano: 20 years ago there was no gay literature! Its existence, growth, and phenomenal diversity and richness have changed. In 1979 for example, The Lure was the first and only gay mystery thriller, now there's one released every month. I've also seen a serious decline in the quantity not quality of gay poetry. We're now pretty much poetry illiterate.
Lamda Literary: 20th Century Limited
The maturation of LGBT literature provides a vast array of authors, genres, and styles from which a reader chooses what books to enjoy. What a pleasure to see such diversity for our community, which once struggled to publish even the best of writers. New authors abound, coming from a solid amount of publishers. Yet within the new and unique, I often long for the familiar, the safe and sure hands of a polished writer known for creating literary classics that will always remain important works of gay literature. Picking up Felice Picano’s latest volume, 20th Century Un-Limited, provided this kind of comfort and assurance. I can’t imagine being in the hands of a better storyteller.
Picano journeys down a daring and dangerous path in these two novellas, which take up time travel as their principle subject. In the first, Christopher Hall begins in the current era, enjoying life just past middle age, when a strange encounter leads him on an expedition back to the 1930s. The second story introduces the mystery of disappearing people, all somehow connected through different ages by a plot of land in Wisconsin. Thank the writing gods for Picano’s skill because in a less adept hand, these time-bending scenarios could confuse the reader or prove so maddeningly unrealistic that even the most fervent science fiction enthusiast’s head might spin. Instead, Picano weaves in and out of different decades, centuries even, with ease, explaining the plot and setting so effortlessly that it reads as clearly as a chronological history.
- See more at: Lamda Literary
Power and Polish
Twelve O’Clock Tales, by Felice Picano
Bold Strokes Books/Liberty Editions.
236 pages, $16.95 paperback
Book Review by Richard Labonte
Gay Calgary Magazine
From July 2012 (Online)
Think of Picano as a queer literary renaissance man. He writes plays and screenplays, poetry and memoirs, sex manuals and sexy thrillers, historical novels and – this is his fourth collection – short stories. These 13, he notes in a preface, pay homage to writers he savored as a young man (and still reads), the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Saki, Algernon Blackwood, Walter de la Mare and others of their dark, ghostly, eerie and sometimes downright weird ilk. In that sense, Picano is also something of a literary chameleon – there are echoes of each of these writers, and all of those sentiments, in this solid collection. The first, "Synapse," is a creepily science-fictional account of how an elderly man has come to inhabit a boy’s body; the last, "The Perfect Setting," is a masterpiece of detection, wherein an obsessive narrator solves the mystery of a landscape painter’s murder. Not a one of the stories is like another, such is Picano’s wide-ranging imagination; what they have in common is their power and their polish.