elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Particular Voices: Bo Huston (June 10, 1959 - May 1993)

Bo Huston adopted cinema as his model for aesthetic structures and the act of writing as the force of expression within those structures.

Huston took the first gay course taught in college in the United States, a course on gay film taught by Tom Joslin. Vito Russo, who at that time was writing The Celluloid Closet, did several guest lectures in that class based on his notes for the book. In this class Huston realized that being gay was a politically and culturally valid identity and something more than the desire for other male bodies.

In 1980, Huston moved to New Haven, Connecticut, which geographically expressed his psychic ambivalence in that it was halfway between Boston and New York, halfway between an academic community and the drug community, the latter of which was gaining increasing importance in his life. His cocaine habit eventually gave way to a heroin habit: he moved to New York and entered New York University in a master's program in film studies, but his drug addiction and his sexual adventures eventually led him to withdraw from the program. He then took courses briefly at the New School, but this also became impossible to continue.

Huston worked as a typesetter and became very involved in the New York club scenes. He would wake at 2 p.m., go to work, and afterward party at the clubs until 8.30 the next morning. He would frequent first the straight or mixed dance clubs - particularly the Mud Club, Cee Bee Jee Bee's, the Rock Lounge, and Studio 54 - and then move on to the more notorious gay bars: the Anvil, Mineshaft, and the Hellfire Club. In 1981 Huston met the poet Tim Dlugos in the backroom of the International Stud. They became lovers at first, but remained close friends until Dlugos's death in 1990. Dlugos introduced Huston to Dennis Cooper and the other Little Caesar poets. When Cooper returned to New York from Amsterdam, he read Huston's stories and gave him his first real encouragement for his writing.

In 1983, tormented by his drug addiction, Huston moved to Rheinbeck, a small town on the Hudson, to dry out and to concentrate on writing. He wrote a novel, which he later abandoned, and the story "The Heart Itself," based on his experience there, which is one of the key stories in Horse. In the town he was completely alone and very sick from withdrawal. The town with its white picket fences and apparently happy families both repulsed and attracted him: It is the town that symbolizes home and comes up in many of his stories and is the model for the town in his novel Remember Me. During his stay in Rheinbeck, he received the news about the first of his friends to die to AIDS ("Robby," whom he puts in his story "After the War") and also became intensely determined to kick drugs. When he returned to New York, however, his resolution failed; and it was not until 1985, when he checked himself into a hospital, that he successfully ended his use of narcotics and alcohol.

Huston returned to typesetting and was able to typeset many of his own stories (for example, "Flies" and "Seven Kinds of Pity") while working on brochures for an upscale travel agency that specialized in yacht cruises. He fell in love with a French man, but when that relationship failed, Huston decided to visit San Francisco. Huston was so impressed by San Francisco that he decided to move there, in early 1987, and got a job as a typesetter for the art department of a San Francisco ad agency. At a Christmas party the same year, Huston met Dan Carmell, a young man of extraordinary grace and charisma, who could even tame cats on the street by talking to them. They became lovers almost immediatelly.

Dennis Cooper showed Huston's stories to Ira Silverberg, and the two men in turn brought them to Stan Leventhal, who published them as Horse and Other Stories. In the spring of 1988, Huston was diagnosed with ARC; he decided to quit his job to concentrate on writing. The reviews of Horse were extremely positive, and he became a regular columnist for the San Francisco Bay Times. As a cofounder of the first Out/Write Conference in 1989, he met Kevin Killian, Dodie Bellamy, and Dorothy Allison and began to be a part of a writer's community, while working on his novel Remember Me.

The process of writing Remember Me was a painful one, as were the reviews it received. Partially as a reaction against the heavily meditative tone of that novel, Huston began a new novel almost immediately, entitled The Dream Life, which was deliberately "unreflective" and in which the phenomena are presented with no attempt at explication or analysis.

At the time of his death, Bo Huston and Dan Carmell shared a beautiful home in San Francisco with their four cats, and Huston was continuing his work as a journalist for the San Francisco Bay Times and other publications, occasionally teaching writing, and had begun a collection of thematically related short stories.

Bo Huston died of AIDS complications more or less simultaneously with the publication of his second novel, The Dream Life, in 1993.

Dan Carmell, who worked for the Oakland transit district, is the biological father of Wolf, the son of Dorothy Allison and Alix Layman, and all four of them shared an house. They make up what Allison calls a "weird extended queer family" or, as she once wrote, "Mama and Mom and Dad and son."

Source: Contemporary Gay American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook by Emmanuel S. Nelson
The Listener, nostalgic novel, proves that characters don’t have to be interacting much with other characters to seem alive and real. This book is about being alone and combing through memories, and it’s not very well known. --Blair Mastbaum
'Bo Huston's The Dream Life is an exhilarating and frightening tale of love and emotional discontent that manages to seduce us with its beautiful prose and elegant construction. The Dream Life is Huston's best work...one of the most startling and powerful novels to appear in years.'--Michael Bronski

Bo Huston, 1992, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1121485)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)

Further Readings:

The Listener by Bo Huston
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (December 1994)
ISBN-10: 0312113137
ISBN-13: 978-0312113131
Amazon: The Listener: A Novella and Four Stories

A new collection by the author of The Dream Life features the story of Jane, whose obsessions threaten her little boy's safety, and Paul, a gay man seeking solitude and solace after a close friend's death.

The Dream Life (Stonewall Inn Editions) by Bo Huston
Paperback: 172 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (September 15, 1993)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312097883
ISBN-13: 978-0312097882
Amazon: The Dream Life (Stonewall Inn Editions)
Tags: author: bo huston, gay classics, particular voices

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