Pages

6.07.2011

Edward Albee is Fucking Right


Edward Albee got in trouble at the Lammys for, well, not being gay enough. The short of it can be summarized in one line from his speech: "I am not a gay writer. I am a writer who happens to be gay."

By saying so, he seemingly rejects his gay identity for something else, saying that he rather not be a gay writer, but simply a writer. Not surprising actually seeing that none of his work can actually be categorized as "gay." Yet LGBT lit bloggers all over are having at it.

From PomoFreakShow, a blog by Sassafras Lowrey:
"The only part of the evening I truly found disappointing was the acceptance speech given by Edward Albee for his Pioneer award.  He spent the majority of it talking about why writing from a queer experience was a lesser art form, how his “sexual proclivities” have nothing to do with his art, and how in most instances self-identified  “gay” writers are less skilled than other authors.  At the Lambda Literary Awards of all places it seemed particularly offensive, disheartening, and inappropriate."
Ironic from a blog that is supposedly Pomo (postmodern) and by a queer writer. Sassafras Lowrey looks more interested in LGBT writing speaking for and of LGBT people and sees Albee as an authority figure trying to erase the chalkboard.

Albee, however, is just proposing post- (meaning good) identity (meaning bad) politics. He states that it is in fact to simply be a "gay writer" because identity is not one, but many. "I belong to many minorities," he says, almost jokingly (he's male, white, educated). As a writer myself, I can't simply say "I am a gay writer." I am Asian. I am male. I am queer. Can one pick just one? Obviously a privileged white LGBT person can (cause everything else seems so default).

Albee also promoses writers do what they need to do and inhabit their characters. "A writer's responsible to able to become whoever one write about." In is partially performanitiviy (of course, coming from a playwright!), but indeed, writing is about empathy, about letting others try on new shoes. To do so, writers must also step out of their own shoes, of their own comfortable identity.

Surprising no one talked about Terrence McNally's introduction, which basically stated the same thing Albee said, only shorter:"I believe gay literature has reached a maturity, a sense of pride and comfort with itself that has allowed us to left our heads up from navels other than our own....We don't have to write  as role models. We are free to write as individual and not as a minority with an agenda."

Yet what is at stake here, as Lowrey argues, is erasure. We need stories because what are we if we are not our stories? Perhaps later we can talk about assimilating, is the argument, but not now.

Autostraddle gives a great overview of both sides.

Yet I stick with my opinion: is gayness enough? Are gay writers to be stuck in ghetto of literary inferiority. This is problem for all minority groups in writing. For example, here and here.

Watch Albee's speech here:

Edward Albee @ 23rd Annual Lambda Literary Awards from Lambda Literary on Vimeo.


No comments:

Post a Comment