Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan is a young adult novel released in April 2010. The novel surrounds two main characters, both with the same name, Will Grayson. The novel is different from many other novels we see today because it has two alternating points of view, both written by different authors.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson was the first ever LGBT novel to make The New York Times children’s best seller list.

Will Grayson , written by John Green, narrates the odd numbered chapters. All of his chapters are written in proper grammar and punctuation. However, will grayson, written by David Levithan, narrates the even numbered chapters. His words are all lowercase with no proper punctuation.

Will Grayson , who goes to a high school in Chicago, Illinois, tries to live his life without being noticed. His best friend is named Tiny Cooper, a very large homosexual boy. Will Grayson  is the only straight member of the Gay-Straight Alliance at his school. He lusts after a girl named Jane Turner who goes to his school.

will grayson, a homosexual high school boy from Naperville, Illinois, crushes on a boy named Isaac who he only knows from the internet. They communicate secretly through instant messaging online.

When will grayson  tries to set up a meeting with his online love, Isaac, the two boys accidentally meet at a porn shop and their lives intertwine.  Isaac turns out to be completely made up by one of will garyson’s female friends from school, Maura. Maura has always had a thing for will grayson, but he obviously never liked her in the same way. Acting as Isaac allowed her to get closer to him.

This was John Green and David Levithan’s first time writing a book with homosexual protagonists. A lot of readers questioned why the two authors decided to take this route.

On johngreenbooks.com, Green answers questions about the novel. Some of the more relevant and important ones to this course include:

“Q.  What was it like for you to write about gay characters and gay issues?
A. I didn’t think much about it, to be honest.”

This response really caught my attention, and it began to make me question whether John Green and David Levithan really knew what they were talking about at all when they wrote this book. Neither of them are homosexuals themselves, and probably do not have much experience with homosexual teenagers. Saying “I didn’t think much about it,” leaves me pretty disappointed in John Green as an author. He is one of my favorites, and I thought he would have gone beyond that.

It’s offensive and sad that he didn’t think much about it because there are so many teens out there today that do have very real issues that they deal with, and Green and Levithan didn’t even bother to do any kind of research.

“Q. Will Grayson seemed to have asexual qualities. Why wasn’t he?
A. He’s physically attracted to Jane from the very beginning of the book—or at least he drawn to describing her physicality more observantly than any of the other characters.
I certainly wouldn’t think it’s “too much” to have an asexual protagonist in one of my novels. I just wanted sexual love to be one of the kinds of love—but only one—that was celebrated in the book.
Thematically, I suppose this was important to me because I think both David and I wanted to normalize gay sexual encounters by equalizing them with straight sexual encounters.
But mostly I just saw Will’s reluctance to seek romantic entanglements as reflective not as asexuality but by his wrongheaded belief that pain is something avoidable/to be avoided.”

That, thankfully, is one thing they did accomplish in this novel. Although Will Grayson is completely straight, and to some, kind of asexual, he loves Tiny and doesn’t care that he is gay.

Merle Miller, author of “What It Means To Be a Homosexual,” states, “Nobody says, or at least I have never heard anyone say, ‘Some of my best friends are homosexual.’ People do say- I say- ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ without hesitation- and these words, no matter who is uttering them, are put- down words, in intent every bit as vicious as ‘kike’ or ‘nigger”” (1).

Will Grayson hangs around with Tiny and regards him as one of his best friends. He helps him through all of his troubles as he would any straight person. Words like ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ are not used throughout this novel. Tiny is also very proud to be gay, and he doesn’t hide it from anyone, as some homosexuals may.

Green even claims that having the two boys meet at a porn shop is an attempt to normalize heterosexual and homosexual engagement:

“Q. Why did the Will Graysons meet in a porn shop?
A. I guess I kind of wanted to force David’s hand here, because I really wanted to write a story that celebrated all different kinds of love, that talked about love between friends and between kids and parents, and that wasn’t just another love story in which the only kind of love was romantic.
And it seemed to me that part of our weird obsession with romantic love is a weird attraction/repulsion to our sexuality, which is inevitably going to be at play any time you write about young homosexual men and women, because there is still so much prejudice against them. (I knew I wanted to write about a friendship between a straight male and a gay male.)
So I thought it would be interesting and resonant to have these two guys have this aggressively unsexual and unromantic encounter in a place (a porn store) we associate so closely with sexuality.” 

When I personally think of a porn shop, I do very closely associate it with sexuality and even kinkiness. Having these two boys, both who do not have a lot of experience with sex in general, meet here, is kind of comedic.

Although the title is based off of the Will Graysons, Tiny Cooper becomes a very large part of the story, literally. Throughout the book, he is writing an autobiographical musical that surrounds his many past boyfriends. After both Graysons meet, will grayson gets in a relationship with Tiny. However, he ends it too soon due to his depression and lack of trust in others.

will grayson and Tiny Cooper reflect different types of stereotypes that society holds about homosexual men.

will grayson  is the goth, depressed, and angry gay teen who wants nothing to do with anyone. In the first line of his first chapter, he quotes, “i am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me” (Green and Levithan 22).  (Yes, it’s all lowercase. It makes me cringe, trust me.) Great first impression, right?

He’s rude to his mother, and he’s rude to pretty much everyone else around him, even people who he calls friends. The only person he truly adores is his online love, Isaac, who turns out to be completely fake.

He represents the whole ‘teen angst’ thing pretty well, rocking the whole goth look and acting like no one could possibly ever understand him. He hides the fact he is gay to everyone.

His chapters are written completely in lower case and with no proper punctuation besides periods between sentences. While it drove me crazy reading it, I don’t think it was done solely to help readers distinguish between the two boys.

Constantly throughout the novel, will talks about how he is not good enough and has nothing special about him. Writing in all lower case with no punctuation may very well be a reflection of these feelings. will feels like he is a lower case person who is not worthy of upper case letters, which usually start a sentence and indicate important words like nouns. Readers pay attention to upper case letters when reading. will feels that he isn’t worthy of anyone’s attention, hence why everything he says is written in lowercase.

Tiny, though also homosexual, is the complete opposite.

Tiny is loud and proud about who he is. He is flamboyant and very into musical theater, which is stereotypical of many gay men.

Green even addresses this on his website:

“Q. Tiny seemed to be almost a caricature of a stereotypical gay person. Did you do this on purpose?
A. I wanted Tiny to be entirely agnostic toward the stereotypes. I liked the idea that he really, deep down didn’t care if it happened to be “gay” to like musical theater. He just likes musical theater.
After all, he also doesn’t care that it’s “straight” to play football, and he’s the best player on his school’s football team. He just likes football…”

Though Green claims Tiny is “agnostic” towards the stereotypes, he still completely portrays and perpetuates them.

However, he does play football, which is not very typical of a gay man.

Lastly, when I originally read this novel, I was very hesitant to do so. I read all of John Green’s novels before this one, and I wasn’t too sure if I liked the idea of an unknown author taking up half of the book.

However, afterwards, I was so glad that I decided to give this book a chance. It’s now one of my favorites. In fiction today, especially YA, we rarely see books written with more than one author. Readers, including myself, worry that the novel won’t flow, and the characters won’t be able to fully develop or create a connection with the reader.

However, none of this was a problem in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. Both authors have extremely powerful and distinct voices, but they mixed well together. I was able to easily tell which boy I was reading about, and I also cared about them both equally even though they each had to share narration time.

Overall, this novel is unique for its time. It aims to normalize interaction between heterosexual and homosexual people, but at the same time, it perpetuates stereotypes of homosexual men.

Kill Your Darlings

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From director John Krokidas, Kill Your Darlings is a 2013 American biographical film telling of the college days of Beat Generation members such as Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), and Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). This film debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and after garnering much acclaim, has won many awards across the board.

The true events that inspired the creation of this film had been previously documented in And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a collaborative novel written by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. The novel, and in turn the film, trails the lives of Beat Generation authors long before they had published their famous works such as Ginsberg’s Howl, Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, or Kerouac’s On the Road. Written in 1945, this controversial novel remained unpublished and hidden under the floorboards for many years until it finally came to light in 2008. At the time of its publication, although written many decades prior, the authors were already well known worldwide. While Burroughs himself did not think this novel worthy of much praise, dismissing it as “not a distinguished work,” his audience disagreed. The tale of friendship and murder captivated the readers of the novel, and glued the viewer of the film to their screens.

Kill Your Darlings begins with a young Allen Ginsberg, circa 1940s, starting off his short-lived career at Columbia University. It is there that he meets Lucien Carr, an alluring young man whose main goal at university is to challenge the strict guidelines set up by the school. Carr is introduced to the movie, and Ginsberg, when he jumps up on a library table and reenacts a sexually illustrious passage from Henry Miller. The book this passage comes from is held in the restricted section of the library, and Carr, after its recitation from memory, is promptly chased out by security. After this incident, Ginsberg is completely enthralled with Carr. Not long after the movie begins, the viewer sees that Ginsberg, although a well kept, sober young man, may not conform to the standard literary guidelines Columbia has set up for him. In an exchange with a professor, young Ginsberg challenges the rigid guidelines set forward for a “successful poem.” He brings to the table Walt Whitman, a main influence of the Beat Generation authors, claiming that as a point Whitman never followed these rules and that is what made him the success he was.

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From the transcript of “Kill Your Darlings,” an exchange

between Allen Ginsberg and his Professor

Ginsberg and Carr, continue their journey together into madness by creating the “New Vision.” They want to turn the literary world on its head. Drugs, alcohol, and sexual tension fuel these young Beats as they team up with Kerouac and Burroughs to fulfill their vision. Along the way the tumultuous relationship between Carr and David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) is revealed. Carr is the object of Kammerer’s obsessions. While Carr’s sexuality is fairly ambiguous, it is clear that he has no romantic interests in Kammerer. As the storyline progresses, Carr becomes completely fed up with Kammerer. In an attempt to leave Kammerer behind, along with Kerouac, Carr attempts to run off and join a merchant marine ship headed to Paris. Kammerer is informed of this plan and a deadly confrontation between the two ensues. Carr ends up stabbing Kammerer and then drowning his body in the river.

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Top: Real life newspaper article written about the murder

Bottom: Movie replication of article

It is important to note that the time frame of this movie is a significant period in Queer Culture. While homosexuality obviously exists in literature and the culture, when it becomes personal it is denied. Walt Whitman, a great inspiration to many of the Beats, had a very similar experience. In Whitman’s work, Leaves of Grass, the “Calamus” cluster celebrates the “manly love of comrades.” Many critics argue that these poems are an expression of Whitman’s homosexual love. While the homoerotic content is fairly clear, in a correspondence between Whitman and John Addington Symonds, in 1890, Whitman vehemently denies that he himself is a homosexual. When confronted about his own sexuality he fervently declared “no, no, no!” I am straight “I have six children,” none of which is true. The depiction of homosexual love is accepted when it is just words on paper, however as soon as the finger pointed at the poet, Whitman himself, he denied that accusation. He created a little family for himself because being gay meant not being “The Poet” Ralph Waldo Emerson had in mind. Similarly, many of the Beats were notorious for being homosexuals, but some went to great lengths to conceal their sexuality, like Burroughs who had a wife.

At the time of Kill Your Darlings, gay liberation had yet to occur. Even Ginsberg, who later goes on to produce Howl, an epic poem riddled with homosexual content, keeps his identity hidden. Homosexuality is a crime, sodomy laws are still in effect, and being gay can get you jailed. In this vein, Carr uses gay panic to his advantage. Carr testified that Kammerer was a sexual predator, and Carr killed him in self-defense. They bring up the concept of an “Honor Slaying” which is “relating to a lethal attack committed when the accused is defending himself against a known homosexual.”

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Link to Video Clip from Kill Your Darlings explaining Honor Slaying

In an era of gay panic, this defense is enough to get Lucien Carr’s sentence reduced from murder to manslaughter. This is an important time period for Queer Culture because the simple act of making a pass at someone you are attracted to is an excusable reason to find yourself murdered. Kill Your Darlings portrays a hidden element of the Beat Generation’s lives, a time before they are out and living in a world riddled with hatred toward homosexuality. While many of them will face ridicule and lawsuits later in their lives because of these issues, at this era they are hiding behind the concept of “Honor Slayings” and letting gay-hatred propagate through their lives. This movie brings to light the dark past of the Beats who were all complacent in the murder of an individual some of them considered a friend.

Whitman and Carr both had their reputation on the line when confronted with ideals about homosexuality. Although far less extreme as Carr, Whitman created children for himself in order to escape the label of a homosexual. Likewise, Carr clung to a defense that heavily depended on him being completely heterosexual. If there was a single drop of evidence proving he had even the slightest of homosexual tendencies, the guilty charge of murder would have stood. Both men lived their lives in such a way that their sexuality came into question. When brought into the light both men went to great lengths to turn the spotlight away from them in order to return to what the heteronormativie world around them deemed as normal.

M4M

Cruising on Craigslist

When cruising was introduced to the public in William Friedkin’s “Cruising,” there was a focused leather bar approach to the idea of gay men interacting with one another in New York City. Since then, the bars and clubs that were home to gay men have been erased and replaced with restaurants and shopping strips. Gay men were forced out of a private environment where they could be comfortable with their sexuality and enjoy the company of others who shared their tastes.

“The Meatpacking, back in the 80s, was very big into leather bars and transgender prostitutes,” said Jeremiah Moss.

“It went from a place where you could find underground sex of all kinds, to basically a suburban style upscale shopping mall, which is what it is now. It’s where tourists go to shop.”

Since the decline of the leather bars and sex clubs, New York has completely changed its culture. It once was a liberal city where free expression was nurtured. But now, it’s lined with outlets and giant advertisements. The gay underground culture has since been pushed out or to the edges of the city. And because of cases such as Mark Carter’s, all gay people have the right to be afraid and feel unwelcome in NYC.

So where did they go?

Online. Today, the homophobic culture seems very harsh and outside of the gay meccas such as San Francisco, gay men no longer have an outlet where they can feel comfortable getting away to. There private sexual life has to be put on display for shaming in order to fully embrace their own sexuality as Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner suggest in their response to “Sex in Public,” so ultimately they have had to find alternative, more discrete methods.

Websites such as craigslist have become a resource for people to find relationships based on specific desires, whether it be a quick blowjob, BDSM, paddling, “gumming” or just an evening romance. Under the “Personals” tab one can navigate into their preferred sexual orientation such as M4M (Men for Men) and find partners based on sex.

Each post will have what the creator wants in the relationship and how to contact him. Users are able to be very specific about their desires in order to fully disclose what will be expected. This method is very similar to how handkerchiefs are used in the leather bar scene except without any confusion.

“ Pretty Boy Jock on the DL Looking to Play with Straight/Bi Dude Ass”

“ do you need a cocksucker – m4m”

Craigslist can offer the ability to form intimate relationships that would otherwise be difficult to establish in a normal public setting.

In our discussion of Oscar Wilde’s sexuality, it was concluded that his sexual affairs were all done under the public light. Wilde’s grave is a beacon for homosexuals but his life also proved many things. The primary thing is that he never publicly announced his homosexuality. While the specific reason is unknown, one can conclude that because it was illegal to homosexual at the time, he reserved from publicizing this information. This illegality of homosexuality gave precedent to the present in that many people still look down upon homosexuals.

In Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home,” she writes about how her father kept his homosexuality unknown from her and his wife for many years. And he would even take discrete trips to NYC to express his homosexuality. This kind of attitude that gay men have had in history only furthers proves that traditional cruising is at least much less effective because these men have to do it in complete secrecy.

Craigslist and similar sites have made accessing other men with similar interests more accessible through their semi-anonymous forum. And with the death of traditional cruising, it’s a resource that is valuable to the gay community.