When Gaywyck first appeared in 1980, it was hailed as the first gay gothic novel. It was my intention to write a novel in a genre I loved with gay characters in order to show that genres know no gender. Gaywyck is a literary game. I used all of the literary devices I could steal from all of the great gothics and larded the text and dialogue with dozens of quotes from the most famous novels (“I’ve never seen so many beautiful shirts!”) and movies (“Nobody’s ever called me darling before!”), works of art that deal with heterosexual love exclusively. Timeless lines that work for Bette Davis work just as well for the book’s narrator, Robert Whyte. (A British scholar wrote his Master’s thesis in the early 90s on this aspect of the book; he caught a lot of them but not all. I doubt if I could find every one now, 27 years later.)
People forget that Jane Eyre caused a huge scandal when it first appeared in 1850; it was denounced from English pulpits because Jane, a mere woman, boldly exclaims that she will take care of herself rather than subjugate herself to Mr. Rochester’s care--as his mistress—an offer that also set England’s moral hairs on fire! (He has to lose his sight in a fire before he can see Jane’s true value.) Still indomitable is her reply--"I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad--as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth--so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane--quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart is beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot" (pp. 322-23). Robert, of course, with his veins running fire rejects all preconceived opinions and forgone determinations. At the end of the book, with his veins still and forever running fire, heterosexual love for him is “a variation” of his love for Donough—“I was so full of love for him—so serene about the way we were, the way we thought—the way we felt—that I burst into laughter.”
Today on Google there are literally dozens and dozens of entries under Gaywyck. It is a heavily sought-after out-of-stock item with people offering copies of the reprints in Japan for 19,127 Yen and Australia for $201.98. Barnes & Noble is offering a new/used “dog-eared” copy for $35. The chat blogs go on and on musing over how much they “love” the book. (Amanda on her blog “Winter Light” asked in 2004: “Have I mentioned yet today that Gaywyck is the best book ever written? I just wanted to get that in.”) Which brings me to my point: Lulu.com. Having just finished reading Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail and having experienced the power of the bloggers with my new book, Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations, I now understand my obligation to Gaywyck = Vincent Virga Signed Final Editions. James McCourt will write the Afterword and Charles Rue Woods, wizard Art Director of Grove/Atlantic, will design the jackets for these print-on-demand hardcover editions. After Gaywyck will come its sequel Vadriel Vail. Then will come my second novel, A Comfortable Corner, in the revised edition I prepared for my British publishers but which was never published. (Corner is not available anywhere.) I’m also formulating/imagining the third volume in the Gaywyck trilogy: These Three, a project I have put on hold because the New York publishers show no interest in reprinting my novels; in fact, a young twinkie gay editor at Plume recently told my agent he couldn’t understand why anyone would care about old gay romances... He found Gaywyck unreadable! (I admit it bears no resemblance to the dreary stuff being churned out by graduates of the Iowa School of Writing, thank god, which is probably his and most NYC fiction editors’ idea of “real” writing!)
These Three has its wellspring in Camille and La Traviata. The hero is a golden Sicilian mountain boy named Camillo who becomes an acclaimed actor in boulevard melos in Paris after World War One, loves and is loved by an American heir to a vast unidentified fortune—ala Henry James’s The Ambassadors? Is it toilet paper?—whose MOTHER comes to ask him to give up her son, which he does, goes to Hollywood, and thanks to D.W.Griffith becomes a major silent movie star. The grieving American heir back in New York becomes friends with the two guys from Gaywyck and the two from Vadriel Vail and the drama begins when Camillo finds himself involved in a movie-studio murder and must be rescued by his friends Robert Whyte and Vadriel... It’s a long, involved story, which is my specialty act.
So Lulu.com and Gaywyck will continue my journey into the new world of electronic publishing. (I’ve a different kind of novel now going the NYC mainstream publishing rounds; if nothing happens to it on that traditional front there will be another title for my imprint.)
These are very exciting times! I can only compare it to the birth of print culture when Guttenberg invented his printing press and the world was changed forever. I want to be a part of this brave new world. And as Susan Sontag commanded: “Do something! Do something! Do something!”