Recently, I started reading Wayne Hoffman’s novel, Hard. Since I haven’t finished it yet, I don’t want to review it or even write too much about it now. But it’s raised a couple of issues for me that I thought I’d record and reflect on here.

The novel is (partly) about Moe Pearlman, a New Yorker who is on a crusade to preserve his right/opportunity to engage in promiscuous sex in various venues as a conservative mayor (in league with another crusading gay man) works to shut down all of the bathhouses, sex clubs, and adult theaters where Moe indulges his desires. So, in sum, it’s a book about the ethics of gay sexual freedom in an age where AIDS still exists but in which its power to frighten gay men and restrict their sexual activities seems to have waned.

My first thought about the book is how it obviously responds to Larry Kramer’s Faggots, a 1978 novel that criticizes 1970s gay male promiscuity. Even a cursory search demonstrates that Kramer has a vexed reputation in the gay community. He is often dimissed as simply anti-sex. In reviewing Hard, Christopher Bram explicitly compares these two novels and repeats the usual criticism of Kramer and his novel. I have to admit that I love Faggots and now teach it annually in my GLBT Lit course. It’s definitely not a simple novel, nor is it simply anti-sex, in my opinion.

Thinking about the relationship between these two novels made me think about teaching Hoffman’s novel as a response to Kramer’s. I think these two books would work well together, with Angels in America spliced in between. Teaching these three works together would raise interesting issues about sexual freedom, responsibility, relationships, and AIDS, just to name a few. The biggest drawback might be that each of these works is a little long, so it might become difficult to schedule them without taking time away from the lesbian authors I’d also want to teach in the class. (But that’s not an issue I have to think about now.)

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