Wednesday, June 7th, 2023

Andrew Holleran promotes his short fourth novel, Grief


by Andrew Holleran

Published by Hyperion

Published May 31, 2006
150 pgs. • Find on

Reviewed by Stephen O. Murray

June 29, 2006

I thought that Andrew Holleran looked better than he did when he was on tour for The Beauty of Men, while his mother was still alive. He was wearing sneakers and no black.

He said that he knew no one when he moved to D.C. and kept a diary. (No pretense this time that the protagonist isn’t a version of himself.) He pruned out most of the characters, leaving his alter ego, his landlord, a friend named Frank, and his landlord’s dog—plus reflections on Henry Adams and Mary Todd Lincoln. The narrator finds a book of her letters in the house owned by someone who bills himself as “emeritus gay.”

Holleran told of her multiple losses (husband and sons) and fear of becoming impoverished. This led to her being judged insane and placed in what he called more a bed-and-breakfast than an asylum.

Some time after his wife’s suicide, when he was 47, Henry Adams said that he was too young to die but too old to start over. The novel’s protagonist feels similarly, and the novel does not have an upbeat ending (quel surprise!). Holleran said that there are things one does not get over, that life chips away at parts of the self. (I guess since his said “life” rather than “losses,” I can’t really complain at the bereftness of Dancer from the Dance before the first AIDS fatalities!)

He seemed relaxed and funny. Because I came across as the proponent of short stories (and urged him to include out-takes about a D.C. bathhouse in a second story collection, we got into a conversation about the high number of clinkers (his term) that Henry James wrote along with the great masterpieces.

Felice Picano told him that a novella is between 25,000 and 60,000 words in length. Holleran found it as difficult to carve a novella out of his diary (making it more fictional with each draft) as to write a novel (sounds Giacometti-like a process). He said that his favorite novel, The Great Gatsby, is really a novella and mentioned The Heart of Darkness as a masterpiece of concision. He also mentioned Death in Venice (another non-surprise), and something by Carson McCullers (Ballad of the Sad Cafe?).

Someone asked him if he had an aversion for San Francisco (having moved to Florida and now splitting time between D.C. and Florida). He said “Not at all,” but that circumstances had not put him here except as a visitor.

He said that during the 1970s, San Francisco represented Sex, that gay San Francisco men enjoyed sex, whereas New York ones waited for their partner to cum.

As for his nom de plume, he said he was completely out but concerned that his writings would be used against his parents, and that once started, the author is Andrew Holleran rather than Eric Garber (a name shared with the San Francisco writer on black and white men together). Several times, he stressed that writers spend their time alone in a room writing, and quoted Edmund White saying that wanting to meet an author of a book one likes is similar to wanting to meet the goose from which pâté one liked came (obviously, the geese are dead and unavailable in ways living authors are not, but their point is that writing not writers are what is interesting—though he also admitted to soaking up books about Priest’s life).

He recalled that he read historical novels of the ilk of The Robe, Desirée, and Quo Vadis is a child, but finds historical novels (not just those once-popular ones) unreadable now, and impossible to credit. Hence, he has characters in the present discussing historical figures rather than trying to write historical fiction.

Asked about his writing habits, he said that he felt incomplete if he did not write something during a day, though it could be an e-mail, nonfiction or fiction. And that he usually fritters away the day and doesn’t start writing until 18:00.

published by epinions 29 June 2006
©2006, 2016, Stephen O. Murray

About The Author

Stephen O. Murray grew up in rural southern Minnesota, earned a B.A. from James Madison College (within Michigan State University), an M.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (both in sociology), and was a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley (in anthropology). He is the author of American Gay, Homosexualities, etc. and lives in San Francisco.