Fire Island: A Century in the Life of an American Paradise (First Time Trade)

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"[A] concise, meticulously researched, century-spanning chronicle of queer life on Fire Island captures, with a plain-spoken yet lyric touch, the locale's power to stun and shame, to give pleasure and symbolize evanescence." --Wayne Koestenbaum, New York Times Book Review

Fire Island, a thin strip of beach off the Long Island coast, has long been a vital space in the queer history of America. Both utopian and exclusionary, healing and destructive, the island is a locus of contradictions, all of which coalesce against a stunning ocean backdrop.

Now poet and scholar Jack Parlett tells the story of this iconic destination--its history, its meaning and its cultural significance--through the lens of the artists and creators who sought refuge on its shores. Together, figures as divergent as Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, James Baldwin, Carson McCullers, Frank O'Hara, Patricia Highsmith and Jeremy O. Harris tell the story of a queer space in constant evolution. Transporting, impeccably researched and gorgeously written, Fire Island is a fond and fierce portrait of an iconic American destination and an essential contribution to queer history.

 "Supremely engaging and highly informative." --BuzzFeed

 "A fascinating, throbbing history." --Olivia Laing

About the Author

Jack Parlett is a writer, poet, and scholar. He is the author of The Poetics of Cruising: Queer Visual Culture from Whitman to Grindr, published by the University of Minnesota Press and Same Blue, Different You, a chapbook. He holds a Junior Research Fellowship at University College, Oxford, where he teaches American literature and literary theory. His essays have appeared in Poetry London, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. He lives in Oxford.

"A beautiful, beguiling journey to the ultimate queer utopia, a site of riotous hedonism, wild creativity and immense loss. Fire Island is a fascinating, throbbing history that asks the most urgent of contemporary questions: what does paradise look like, and who does it exclude?"-- Olivia Laing

"Jack Parlett's Fire Island is that rare book: a compelling social history of a time and place that, through carefully assembled detail and astute analysis brilliantly illuminates American culture as well as its topic. Its expansive cast of characters--Frank O'Hara, W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Truman Capote, Carson McCullers Tennessee Williams, Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patricia Highsmith--demonstrate that Fire Island was a crucible of brilliance and creativity as well sexual and personal freedom. Interlacing insightful observations with flashes of personal memoir Parlett beautifully conjures Fire Island as myth, metaphor, and microcosm of queer culture that profoundly changed American culture."--Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States

"The zingy tale of one magnetic place -- as well as a sprawling rumination on the intertwined urges to get away and get together. Clued-up but insatiably thirsty, poignant, packed with literary intrigue, Fire Island is a beaming beach read."--Jeremy Atherton Lin, author of Gay Bar

Vibrant... uniquely insightful and colorful cultural history... An illuminating, well-written history of a unique place." --Kirkus Reviews

"Poetic and moving...beautifully written ... Readers of all stripes will appreciate this fast-paced general interest title."--Library Journal

"A fine account of an important place in gay cultural history."--Booklist

"Delightfully chronicled... the history of a queer landmark, its beginnings, its influence, and its seemingly constant evolution."--The Advocate

"A must-read. [Parlett's] prose illuminates and educates as well as lovingly shimmers across chapters... a memorable tribute to an unforgettable queer vacation destination."--Bay Area Reporter

"A riveting social history of Fire Island... Supremely engaging and highly informative."--Buzzfeed

"[An] engrossing history... This is essential reading for the ferry from Sayville or wherever you happen to be."-Town and Country

"[A] concise, meticulously researched, century-spanning chronicle of queer life on Fire Island captures, with a plain-spoken yet lyric touch, the locale's power to stun and shame, to give pleasure and symbolize evanescence... Parlett is sharp-minded about gentrification, class, racism and the "structural privilege" built into Fire Island's style, a hegemonic strand... this book enacts a glancing yet trenchant meditation on community, "ecological precarity" and the fugitive links between place and sexuality... the well-timed pulsations [of Parlett's prose] bring beach light onto the page." -The New York Times Book Review

"Parlett's task of compacting about 100 years of cultural history into a slim volume would seem nearly impossible. That is, if he weren't such a deft storyteller. His book breezes by with beach-read ease but is packed with enough facts, theories, and anecdotes to inspire weeks' worth of dinner conversations.... Wonderful...detailed, inclusive, and compassionate."--Jezebel

"[Fire Island] takes a 30,000-foot view, helmed by one of the island's greatest gifts: literature. Through an investigation of the queer writers who took up residence in Cherry Grove and the Pines (the island's queer communities), Jack Parlett assembles a literary history that embraces complexity."--Esquire

"With its stunning beaches, legendary parties and rich cultural history, Fire Island is celebrated in Parlett's deeply researched book."--New York Daily News

"[A] richly textured history ... Parlett captures the giffy excesses, but his real aim is to show how a community sought to define, protect, liberate, and celebrate themselves."--The New Yorker

Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Pub date: May 09, 2023
Length:
272 pages
Format: Paperback