Hot Sheet: Road to Paradise
BY Advocate.com Editors
August 01 2013 5:59 PM ET
8. BOOK: Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns
The title of David Margolick's new biography of oft-forgotten novelist John Holmes Burns is intended less as a summary judgment on the author's character, and more as an homage to a phrase Burns used to refer to quietly closeted gay men, like himself, in mid-20th-century America. The cultural amnesia around Burns is perhaps warranted, since he published just two books after his critically acclaimed 1947 novel The Gallery, and both were critically panned. But The Gallery did make its mark as the first critically acclaimed novel to provide an unflinching look into gay life in the military. Similarly, Burns' personal correspondence with a gay former student offers surprisingly detailed accounts of the author's same-sex exploits. The New York Times commended Margolick's biography as strongest when it draws from this correspondence, noting that Burns' letters were written with "a keen, extravagant pitch," full of "purplish eloquence." Dreadful is now available as an e-book and in hardback from Other Press.