elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

John Gilgun (born October 1, 1935)

Irish American novelist, poet, memoirist, fabulist, and short fictionist. John Gilgun is openly gay and sees coming out and homosexuality as a struggle for self-identity fighting against the back-drop of the repressive and oppressive traditional Catholic Church of the Boston Irish, the United States Army, and family. His works include Everything That Has Been Shall Be Again: The Reincarnation Fables of John Gilgun (1981), the novel Music I Never Dreamed Of (1989), the poetry collections The Dooley Poems (1991) and From The Inside Out (1991), and Your Buddy Misses
You: Stories {1994). Additionally, his stories and poems have been published in many journals and anthologies.

Everything That Has Been Shall Be Again: The Reincarnation Fables of John Gilgun is a collection of first-person fables about humans reincarnated as animals, such as an ant, a bear, a cow, a worm, and a fox, among others. Overall, Gilgun's fables are intensely sarcastic and mocking. Although the tract of the worker ant can be read as an attack on the conformity of communism with its reference to "the Party," Gilgun seems more concerned with and against conformity of any kind. The ant has a vision of a revolution of individualization, but this is just that: a vision. The state is too powerful, ideas are poison, and nonconforming individualism leads to
imprisonment. Although the animals tell the truth of their existence, this truth is most often that they are suffering failures. ln the tract on the bear, Gilgun mocks organized religion, showing it as something to which the weak turn. The leaders of the religion seem determined to keep the weak powerless, take their money, and make it seem like this is the Lord's will. The religious leaders create a world in which one can never know the truth, so it should not be pursued, just accepted. Furthering his attack on religion, in the tract of the cow, Gilgun shows the members of religious congregations to be stupid, gluttonous hypocrites. Extremely sarcastic with anti-responsibility messages, these are not fables meant for children, but rather for adults like Gilgun who have felt oppressed and repressed by traditions that do not welcome alternative lifestyles.

John Gilgun, 1988, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123795)
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)
Music I Never Dreamed Of, published in 1989, went down a three-decade-long road of struggle before it ever saw print. The protagonist of the novel is nineteen-year-old Steve Riley, a young male accepting his homosexuality and coming out sexually in l950s Boston. Riley comes from a family of the struggling Irish working class kept down by politics and economics. His mother encourages him to not end up like his taxi-driving father, and he is determined to not end up with the traditional fate of his brother: Riley's struggle against marriage and the Catholic Church, against the United States Army, and agaimt a life of factory work goes beyond the changing youth lighting against the repression of them traditional lifestyles and into the realm of Riley’s own personal experimenting with sexuality and his ultimately coming out as a homosexual. Riley wants to build a new life for himself, he will not conform, but will take his own path. This is what makes him a man, not his taking of a traditional male rote.

The memoir "Arms and the Boy" from Boyhood, Growing Up Male: A Multicultural Anthology, 2nd Edition (1998), edited by Franklin Abbott, is about the six-year·old Gilgun questioning what is wrong with him during World War II. He was a boy who was not like the other boys: he played with dolls, not guns. Gilgun never wanted to join the military like his uncles. He was open about this in public with his aunt and two sailors, which caused his aunt to shake him and shout at him, in this short memoir. Gilgun presents the loneliness and suffering one goes through for being different. Gilgun was a "sissy," but could not see why it was wrong for him to not want to kill humans, and puppies, like in a particular Hollywood war film. Not fitting in can cause psychological depression, and for Gilgun, writing this after coming out, what saves one is admitting who one is and accepting it no matter what the familial or public costs. That Gilgun has had a successful career as a writer and has lived a long life is testament to the personal success of his philosophy of nonconformity.

Source: Rosco, Jerry "John Gilgun." Contemporary Gay American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993. l49—54.
When John returned to his teaching job in St. Joseph, his novel came out. So did he, in a public address. To their great credit his students were behind him, petitioning the college to add John‘s novel to the curriculum. As a result, John was able to teach Music I Never Dreamed Of to his literature classes. When I think of those students, most of them encountering an authentic gay voice for the first time in this heartfelt, exuberant novel, it gives me a great feeling. Suddenly I‘m right back there in South Boston in 1954, with Stevie Riley, and we‘re both feeling frightened and confused, yet alive — gloriously alive, in ways we never dreamed of. --Wayne Courtois, The Lost Library
Further Readings:

Music I Never Dreamed of by John Gilgun
Paperback: 145 pages
Publisher: Amethyst Pr; Amethyst P edition (January 1990)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0927200023
ISBN-13: 978-0927200028
Amazon: Music I Never Dreamed of

Your Buddy Misses You - Stories by John Gilgun by John Gilgun
Paperback: 54 pages
Publisher: Three Phase Publishing; Limited edition (1994)
Language: English
Amazon: Your Buddy Misses You - Stories

Stories by John Gilgun. Born in Malden, Mass. Novelist, poet nominated for Lambda Award for novel Music I Never Dreamed Of. Professor of English at Missouri Western State College, Saint Joseph.

There Is A Tomorrow by John Gilgun & Warren Norgaard
Publisher: FIERCE Concepts Publications (November 26, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615175643
ISBN-13: 978-0615175645
Amazon: There Is A Tomorrow

There Is A Tomorrow is the latest collaboration effort of John Gilgun and Warren Norgaard. Several years in the making, it tells a story of love, friendship, travel, art, creativity, teaching, San Francisco, growing up and older, and still so much.

More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices

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Tags: author: john gilgun, particular voices

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