Feb 9, 2023
Ep. 133 - Fire Island: A Century in the Life of a Queer, Literary Paradise, with Jack Parlett
In this episode, Book Dreams producer and guest host Gianfranco Lentini takes us on a journey to a real-life literary paradise—a thin barrier island just 50 miles east of New York City—that has been a haven for authors, especially queer authors, for more than a century. Author and scholar Jack Parlett joins Gianfranco to discuss the subject of Jack’s latest book, Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise. They talk about the significance of creating and maintaining queer spaces as havens, and they examine the cultural context that led many writers—including Noël Coward, W. H. Auden, Walt Whitman, Tennessee Williams, and James Baldwin—to spend summers on Fire Island, experiencing personal freedom that was denied to them everywhere else. They also explore the effect that those earlier writers, as well as Fire Island itself, had on the authors who make the island their second home today. Says Jack, “The [Fire Island] landscape itself knows something, feels something, about the people who were there. It's a repository of their legacies."
Jack Parlett is a writer, poet, and scholar. He is the author of three books: Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise; The Poetics of Cruising: Queer Visual Culture from Whitman to Grindr; and Same Blue, Different You, a poetry pamphlet. Fire Island was named an Editor’s Pick by The New York Times and One of the Best Books of 2022 by The New Yorker and BBC Culture. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Boston Review, Granta, Literary Hub, BBC Culture, Poetry London, and elsewhere. Jack currently holds a junior research fellowship at University College Oxford, where he also teaches. His research focuses on 20th and 21st century American literature and culture with an emphasis on queer writing and questions of gender, sexuality, and race.
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