Critic, Book World

Andrew Sean Greer is the author of “Less,” one of the funniest novels in recent memory — and this year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction. It’s about a heartbroken writer who accepts invitations from around the world to avoid going to his former boyfriend’s wedding.

Author Andrew Sean Greer (Kaliel Roberts)

During a recent appearance at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, Greer talked about the problems with categorizing novels. He said that eventually, “the idea of having a gay fiction section is going to feel like nonsense.” There are readers right now, he said, “who already don’t identify as gay or straight, or male or female, and I’m excited by that future.” But he went on to acknowledge that we’re not there yet.

To celebrate Pride month, I asked Greer what books were important to him as a young man.

These were books that meant a lot to me when I was coming out, but remember, I came out in 1989! We thought the worst thing in the world was George H.W. Bush. So forgive the male-centric list, and take it with a grain of Vogue-era Madonna:


Blue Heaven
By Joe Keenan (1988)

This was the first book I ever read where being gay seemed fun. Nobody is in existential angst. Instead, it’s an absurd farce by a future writer of “Frasier.” The plot is about a con job on the Mafia and the Duchess, and that’s what I wanted my life to be! So far, I’ve gotten pretty close. Thank you, Joe Keenan!

Giovanni’s Room
by James Baldwin (1956)

Another classic of high literary style taking on the new subject of love between men. Wonderfully depressing when listening to the Smiths after being dumped.

Tales of the City
by Armistead Maupin (1978)

Speaking of which: I loaned this to my first boyfriend, who never said he loved me. He returned it long after we broke up, and I reread it maybe a year later. He had written in the margin: “I wanted to tell you here, because I am too shy, how much I love you.” I still have that book.

(Penguin Classics)

The Portable Dorothy Parker
by Dorothy Parker
(1944; revised several times)

There was never anybody wittier. Her stories have not aged well, but her book and theater reviews are so cruel and funny you will gasp! Ninety years later, the plays have faded from memory, but her reviews of them are classics of taste and wit. And I needed that back then.

Love in the Time of Cholera
by Gabriel García Márquez (1985)

Books don’t have to be “gay” to be inspiring — and this one is beautiful and passionate, about love lasting over decades of waiting. I learned about love from books by heterosexuals. So it doesn’t surprise me when heterosexuals learn about love from us.

Ron Charles writes about books for The Washington Post, where he hosts