elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Christopher Coe (1954 - September 6, 1994)

Christopher Coe (1954 - 6 September 1994, Manhattan, NYC) was an American novelist.

Christopher Coe was born in Fountain Hill, Pennsylvania, in 1954 but moved as an infant with his family to Portland, Oregon. Intentionally vague regarding his personal history, he had claimed that, until his parents died in his teen years, "his father was the owner and administrator of a sanitorium for disturbed Eskimoes; his mother ran a charm school". Although he declined to verify the accuracy of this personal statement, such charming evasion seems suitable to a writer whose characters are drawn with detailed attention to appearance rather than subjective depth. "Inner beauty is what counts, but outer beauty is what shows," Coe had written; and the high valuation of appearance and surface given his characters is reflected in the author's style as well. Perhaps, the reader might learn as much about Coe by examining his writing; he effortlessly managed the first-person voice, the narrative mode for nearly all his work, with a credibility that suggests origins of deep personal experience.

Christopher Coe was a Columbia student of Gordon Lish’s and in the same class was Amy Hempel, David Leavitt, and Anderson Ferrell, who happen to blurb I Look Divine. While Lish was able to publish books by Hempel, Leavitt and Ferrell, he could not get approval from Gottlieb to acquire I Look Divine. Ever resourceful, Lish was instrument in getting Widenfield and Nicholson, an imprint of Houghton Miflin at the time (and a British publisher that opened a New York office in the 1980s).

Although Coe spent his early years on the West Coast, he later divided his residence between New York City and Paris. (Source: Contemporary Gay American Novelists by William Lane Clark)

Mr. Coe's first novel, "I Look Divine," was published in 1987. It is the story of Nicholas, a pathologically narcissistic homosexual, told by his older brother after Nicholas's death. In a review in The New York Times, Richard Burgin wrote that Mr. Coe was "an icy and acute observer" who had "chosen a difficult theme -- self-love -- and understands both its comedy and its tragedy."
"I wrote a long piece on Christopher Coe’s memorable AIDS-themed novel “Such Times” for Tom Cardamone’s new book “The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered”, but equally as good and as favorite is Coe’s short novel “I Look Divine”, published in 1987, a witty and luminous portrait of a rich, gifted, über narcissistic gay man who believed he was exceptional from the moment of his birth. Jet-setting across the affluent and au courant landscapes of Rome, Madrid, Mexico, and Manhattan, “I Look Divine” recounts the tragedy of Nicholas, the divinely sophisticated “affected creature” of the title, and his swift downfall when he realizes that aging has erased both his youth and beauty. As narrated by his older brother in a cleverly succinct manner, Nicholas’s life was marvelous and stylish right up to its end." --Jameson Currier
His second novel, "Such Times," published in 1993, is about the long-term affair of two men, the older of whom has died of AIDS, leaving his lover to piece together their shared story. Andrea Barnet wrote in The New York Times that Mr. Coe was "a daring writer, as unflinchingly honest about his characters' affectations and fatuous desires, their treacheries and small self-deceptions, as he is about the truth of their hearts."
"[In which a dying young man, while watching a game show with his best friend, remembers the great love of his life.] I will always have a copy of Christopher Coe’s Such Times. Preferably more than one, for as much as I like to lend out my books, and don’t mind if people return them or not, I will always want a copy of Such Times within easy reach. I need it for its language, for each glorious sentence, for the brutal allure of its honesty, for the prayer-like quality of its prose, the deceptive simplicity of this story of love and death and endurance and friendship. If it wasn’t for the plague, this book would never have been written. And if it wasn’t for the plague, Christopher Coe would still be with us, writing works as stunning as this and his only other novel, I Look Divine." --Shaun Levin
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/1994/09/08/obituaries/christopher-coe-41-wrote-gay-novels.html

Further Readings:

A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods
Paperback: 468 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press (November 10, 1999)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0300080883
ISBN-13: 978-0300080889
Amazon: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition

This important book is the first full-scale account of male gay literature across cultures, languages, and centuries. A work of reference as well as the definitive history of a tradition, it traces writing by and about homosexual men from ancient Greece and Rome to the twentieth-century gay literary explosion. "Woods' own artistry is evident throughout this elegant and startling book. . . . These finely honed gay readings of selected Western (and some Eastern) literary texts richly reward the careful attention they demand. . . . Though grounded in the particulars of gay male identity, this masterpiece of literary (and social) criticism calls across the divides of sex and sexual orientation."-Kirkus Reviews (a starred review) "An encyclopedic mapping of the intersection between male homosexuality and belles lettres . . . [that is] good reading, in part because Woods has foregone strict chronology to link writers across eras and cultures."-Louis Bayard, Washington Post Book World "Encyclopedic and critical, evenhanded and interpretive, Woods has produced a study that stands as a monument to the progress of gay literary criticism. No one to date has attempted such a grand world-wide history. . . . It cannot be recommended highly enough."-Library Journal (a starred review) "A bold, intelligent and gorgeously encyclopedic study."-Philip Gambone, Lambda Book Report "An exemplary piece of work."-Jonathan Bate, The Sunday Telegraph

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Tags: author: christopher coe, gay classics, lost library

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