elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Lost Library: Richard Hall (November 26, 1926 - October 29, 1992)

In his novels and short stories, plays, and critical writings, Richard Hall focused almost exclusively on issues of gay identity and community.

Hall was born Richard Hirshfeld in New York City on November 26, 1926, into an extended family of transplanted Southern Jews. In 1934, his immediate family moved to the New York suburb of White Plains, where his mother became active in the Episcopal Church and he and his sister were baptized. In 1938, after an antisemitic incident involving his sister's admission to a church-affiliated camp, Hall's mother changed their name and moved the family to another suburb.

Hall matriculated at Harvard in 1943 and graduated cum laude in January 1948. In the 1950s, he underwent deep-Freudian analysis in an attempt to change his sexual orientation but abandoned psychiatric treatment in 1960 when he fell in love with a young Texan named Dan Allen, whom he described as the greatest influence on his life.

After a career in advertising and publishing, Hall entered New York University to earn an M.A. in English Education. On graduation in 1970, he accepted a job at Inter American University in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he served as acting director of the University Press until 1974.

During the 1970s, he established a long-lasting relationship with Arthur Marceau (who died of AIDS in 1989) and began publishing fiction and nonfiction in the newly vital gay and lesbian media. From 1976 to 1982, Hall was contributing editor for books of the gay newsmagazine The Advocate. He died of complications from AIDS on October 29, 1992.

Although he is the author of a popular mystery (The Butterscotch Prince [1975]), a fine autobiographical novel (Family Fictions [1991]), and several plays, Hall's claim to lasting literary fame rests on his short fiction.

Varied in their settings, their characters, and their modes, the stories collected in Couplings (1981), Letters from a Great Uncle (1985), and Fidelities (1992) demonstrate Hall's ability to encompass a wide range of character types and situations within a vision that can span the comic and the satiric as well as the tragic and the mythic.

Typified by epiphanic moments, an empathetic approach to character, and an awareness of the complexities of truth, these works constitute a significant contribution to the post-Stonewall renaissance of gay literature.

Even though Hall's themes are both varied and universal, his subject matter is unabashedly and almost exclusively gay. His stories focus on issues of gay identity and community, on the problems of intimacy and commitment between men, and on the intersection of the public and the private in the process of self-fashioning.

Hall's work features a wide variety of gay men who are captured at moments of crisis, grappling with the legacies of hurtful pasts as they struggle to achieve authenticity. "The Jilting of Tim Weatherall," an unsentimental yet extraordinarily moving account of a man dying of AIDS, may be his most powerful story.

Hall deserves recognition as an important chronicler of the post-Stonewall gay male experience and as an accomplished master of the short story. In carefully shaped fictions, distinguished by resonant prose, psychological penetration, and deeply imagined characters, Hall explores crucial issues of American gay life in the aftermath of liberation with empathy, clarity, and insight.

As Michael Lynch observed in 1985, "the straight literary world has resisted recognizing Hall's fictional and critical achievements because of his material--our lives." Nevertheless, he remains "one of our prime cultural resources."

Citation Information
Author: Summers, Claude J.
Entry Title: Hall, Richard
General Editor: Claude J. Summers
Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture
Publication Date: 2002
Date Last Updated February 28, 2004
Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/hall_richard.html
Publisher glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams, Chicago, IL 60607
Today's Date October 29, 2011
Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.
Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates
And then, there is the book. Couplings by Richard Hall. The edition I have was printed in 1982 (I was two years old), is in decent condition with a slightly tattered cover. It was purchased on a vacation in Palm Springs; this was the year after the Lambda Literary Foundation closed its DC offices and I was laid off. In fact, I wouldn‘t have recognized the name and title if it weren‘t for that job. In 2003, I had helped organize the last Richard Hall Memorial Short Story Contest. Richard Hall was the first openly gay critic elected to the National Book Critics Circle and the author of three collections of short stories and two novels, one published a year before he died of AIDs in 1991 at the age of 65. At work I was suddenly one of the facilitators of the Lammy Awards, my name was printed on the masthead of the Lambda Book Report. Each new fact learned, new acquaintance made, was flaunted among my college friends. This was also a much-needed wake-up call: I was not the only aspiring gay writer around. For the first time, I had to acknowledge decades of literature and history that came before me and had to learn as much of it as possible before I could ever hope to contribute on my own. --Jonathan Harper in The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered
Further Readings:

Fidelities by Richard Hall
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books (June 1, 1993)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0140147977
ISBN-13: 978-0140147971
Amazon: Fidelities

One of America's preeminent writers of gay fiction validates his reputation with his third, and sadly, last collection. Here are love stories, both passionate and compassionate; tales of suspense; narratives on the theme of AIDS; even a ghost story. "A standout read."--The Advocate. Hall died of AIDS-related complications in October, 1992.

The Butterscotch Prince by Richard Hall
Paperback: 164 pages
Publisher: Alyson Pubns; Rev Sub edition (October 1983)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0932870295
ISBN-13: 978-0932870292
Amazon: The Butterscotch Prince

Couplings: A Book of Stories by Richard Walter Hall
Paperback: 185 pages
Publisher: Grey Fox Pr (March 1981)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0912516585
ISBN-13: 978-0912516585
Amazon: Couplings: A Book of Stories
Tags: author: richard hall, gay classics, literary heritage, lost library

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