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James McCourt: Queer Street: Rise and Fall of an American Culture, 1947-1985

By Joel Kasow

NEW YORK, 28 May 2004—James McCourt's Queer Street disappoints—incoherence and structural flaws overpower what could otherwise have been a worthy successor to Chauncey's Gay New York.

James McCourt's first non-fiction work is one of his longest, reminding me of those movies where you look at your watch after what seems like ten hours and discover that in fact ten minutes have passed. The book is filled with the purple prose that makes reading McCourt's novels such fun, but in this instance needlessly tire the hapless reader who may be expecting a more linear account of events. Too often one is tempted to compare the author with a stand-up comedian who is great when dishing out one-liners but not so great with what comes in between.

Some of the judgements strike this reader as perverse (Tippi Hedren as a great actress, Mae West far above the Algonquin crowd or like Racine); an editor would have been a great help in untangling some of the needlessly complicated sentences, perhaps also at correcting misspelled names or foreign phrases. There are endless lists, such as the six and a half page "Sample Free-Association '50s Queer Syllabus" that do little more than fill a few pages of this pretentious, overblown tome that certainly does not live up to the expectations promised by its subtitle.

James McCourt, Queer Street - Rise and Fall of an American Culture, 1947-1985,

Queer Street:
Rise and Fall of an American Culture, 1947-1985
by James McCourt
Hardcover: 608 pages
W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2004
ISBN: 0393050513

Joel Kasow is a senior editor and member of the editorial board of


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