October 28, 2016 by kitmoss
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (December 18, 2001)
In the first few years of the seventies, several gay novels were published in the mainstream press. In the world before the spread of HIV/AIDS, you see portrayed a community of homosexual men just breaking free of silence, only to be silenced by disease, paranoia, and the chilling effect on self-expression. While it may be argued that some imposed self-discipline did the gay world good, we will never really know what that liberation could have brought about. In “Dancer from the Dance” we see a profligate society of gay men who are heart-brokenly searching for that special person to love, coming to the conclusion that it will always elude them. That just forty years later a dozen U.S. states and at least as many countries permit gay and lesbian people to marry, it may be that that monogamy is the reward for the pain. I don’t claim to know.
Malone is a tremendously good-looking, charismatic man, who after trying to live the heterosexual life his family expects finally breaks down, quits his career, and moves to New York to look for love. Early on he discovers that though he has a lover, he cannot manage to be faithful, and the lover promises to kill him if he strays again. Malone is rescued by Sutherland, a man who claims to be that most useless of things, “a queen with a tiny dick” Sutherland, a flamboyant queen, spends his days and nights blowing men in the Grand Central Station men’s restroom and “renting out” Malone. Their life together is aimless, one party after another, one drug after another, and one hookup after another at least for Malone.
The novel appears to be a story of hopeless romantics being disappointed and written as it was before the advent of HIV/AIDS, it nevertheless hints in the narrator’s recognition that there are many more types of homosexuals than his party scene would suggest, offers a hint of a possibly rosier future. Nevertheless, for the men who had to live through the promise that was broken even before plague came along and for the reader, this is a dark and sorrowful novel. If you like typical light M/M romance, you are unlikely to find this novel anything but depressing. One who seeks the ripeness of human experience and able to see a larger tale will find hope in spite of the despair.
But then… that’s serious fiction.