Bram, Christopher 1952-
Bram, Christopher 1952-
(Chris Bram, Thersites)
PERSONAL: Born February 22, 1952, in Buffalo, NY. Education: College of William and Mary, B.A. (with honors), 1974.
CAREER: Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, VA, reporter, 1971; Social Security Administration, Flushing, NY, benefit authorizer, 1978-79; Scribner Bookstore, New York City, clerk, 1979-86; New York Native, New York City, typesetter, 1986-87; writer, 1987—.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Omicron Delta Kappa, Publishing Triangle.
Surprising Myself, Donald I. Fine (New York, NY), 1987.
Hold Tight, Donald I. Fine (New York, NY), 1988.
In Memory of Angel Clare, Donald I. Fine (New York, NY), 1989.
Almost History: A Novel, Donald I. Fine (New York, NY), 1992.
Father of Frankenstein, Dutton (New York, NY), 1995.
Gossip, Dutton (New York NY) 1997.
The Notorious Dr. August: His Real Life and Crimes, Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
Lives of the Circus Animals, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
Gods and Monsters, Perennial (New York, NY), 2005.
Exiles in America, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.
(Contributor) Aphrodisiac: Fiction from Christopher Street, Coward (New York, NY), 1980.
(Contributor of “Meeting Imelda Marcos”) George Stambolian, editor, Men on Men 3, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.
(Contributor of “Greenwich Village”) John Preston, editor, Hometowns, Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.
(Author of introduction) Stan Leventhal, Barbie in Bondage, Hard Candy Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Also author, with Draper Shreeve, of screenplays for “Dangerous Music” and short films “George and Al” and “Business-like.” Also author of unproduced screenplay based on novel by David Leavitt, The Lost Language of Cranes, 1989. Contributor to periodicals, including Lambda Book Report, Premiere, New York Times Book Review, New York Native (under name Chris Bram), and Night and Day (under pseudonym Ther-sites). Editor of William and Mary Review, 1973-74; contributing editor of Christopher Street, 1979-82.
ADAPTATIONS: Father of Frankenstein was adapted by Bill Condon as the screenplay “Gods and Monsters,” which was also directed by Condon.
SIDELIGHTS: Christopher Bram told CA: “I am a gay novelist, but, like John Fox, Stephen McCauley, and other writers in my generation, I try to treat gayness as just one strand in a life that has more similarities with ‘mainstream’ life than dissimilarities, without denying the dissimilarities. We offer a different perspective on the world, as interesting, accessible, and valid to anyone as the perspectives offered by black, Jewish, or feminist writers. I am a reader, a cinephile, a comic realist, and a smoker.”
Summarizing Bram’s writing history and development, Gay & Lesbian Literature essayist Michael Bronski reported that “Bram first came to the attention of lesbian and gay readers when his story ‘Aphrodisiac’ was published in Christopher Street.” Since then, praised Bronski, “[Bram] has consistently pushed the boundaries of content and the narrative possibilities in gay male fiction.” In Contemporary Gay American Novelists, Mark E. Bates identified “three major components” to Bram’s writing: a New York City setting, a “focus on gay life during a particular time period, complete with historical and cultural referents,” and “the use of suspense as narrative device.”
Bram’s debut novel, Surprising Myself, “explores gay sexuality and political activism in New York during the 1970s,” described Bates, relating that the story’s suspense involves “the tension created when Joel’s sister … leaves her career army officer husband Bob Kearney in Germany and flees to New York with her infant daughter.” Joel’s life becomes complicated when Kearney uses information about Joel’s infidelity to his partner, Corey, to extract the location of his wife and daughter. Surrounding this predicament, recounted Bates, Joel “must rely on his irresponsible father for help,” doubts Corey’s love for him,” and deals with “the imminent death of his grandmother.” Surprising Myself is a “candid [novel] … with compelling characters who are engagingly human first, and only then straight or gay.” “Its ‘coming out’ story—a perennial theme in gay male novels… made the book both accessible and comfortable for the common gay reader. But,” remarked Bronski, “while other writers remained secure and happy in this genre, Bram seemed to chafe at its stylistic and narrative restrictions.”
Hold Tight “expanded the usual ‘coming out’ theme and placed it in a broader historical and philosophical context,” noted Bronski, claiming the novel “proved that [Bram] was a master at using and subverting genre while expanding the parameters of what was possible in the contemporary gay male narrative.” “Most importantly,” emphasized Bronski, “Hold Tight presented a viable way for readers to deal with larger themes in a positive context of gay male sexuality, among them the interplay of global and personal politics and the role that alternative sexuality plays in governmental policy decisions.” Hold Tight presents a “New York City of the 1940s… a world shrouded in secrecy, where even the most minor sexual indiscretion could lead to imprisonment,” detailed Bates. To avoid charges of “unnatural sexual acts,” wrote Bates, a gay sailor named Hank Fayette agrees to participate “in a sting operation to catch Nazi spies”; he is outfitted with a “hidden microphone” while working as “a male prostitute at the same brothel where he was arrested. by accident,” continued Bates, “Hank encounters a wealthy Nazi sympathizer who has hoped to receive valuable information from the same brothel to assist Nazi Germany’s war effort. When the would-be spy bungles his mission, he decides to kill Hank to guard the secrets of the spy ring. A frantic chase scene ensues.”
“In Memory of Angel Clare… reads like a travel guide to gay New York,” announced Bates. “[It] portrays the AIDS-contaminated world of gay life in the mid to late 1980s,” he wrote, adding that the novel “presents and develops tensions around a… conflict—Michael Sousza’s decision to commit suicide.” Describing Angel Clare as “half comedy-of-mismanners and half philosophical exploration of what the idea of ‘community’ really means,” Bronski noted: “[Published] at a time when most novels dealing with AIDS veered towards the sentimental, Angel Clare was a daring and notable exception.”
In Lives of the Circus Animals, declared a Kirkus Reviews contributor, “straight and gay lives share the stage in a good-natured Broadway valentine refreshingly free of theatrical excess.” The book recounts the excitement in the Broadway theater of the coming of the great, popular (and gay) British Shakespearean actor Henry Lewse, who has come to star in a musical comedy. The center of Bram’s novel, however, is Lewse’s personal assistant, Jessie, and her gay playwright brother Caleb, who is trying to rekindle a relationship with Toby, a former lover who wants a role in the musical. “The well-drawn characters run the gamut of the human condition,” Joanna M. Burkhardt stated in Library Journal, “and the story encompasses all the joys and sorrows of everyday life.” The result, said Paula Luedtke, writing in Booklist, is a “sweetly funny and engaging novel that makes the contemporary New York theater scene spring to life.”
Exiles in America evokes the America of the early twenty-first century against the backdrop of the beginning of the Iraq war. Daniel Wexler and Zach Knowles live and work in a small Virginia college town when their relationship is tested by the arrival of an expatriate Iranian artist and his Russian wife. The novel, explained Seth J. Bookey in the Lambda Book Report, “is essentially an examination of long-term gay marriage, a subject rarely seen in novels, even gay ones.… The fight for gay marriage rights has been a staple of mainstream news for several years, but most Americans don’t have the vaguest idea of how real gay relationships play out. Bram wisely puts the events in this novel from the point of view of either Daniel or Zack, while exploring both their present and their past as a couple.” couples endure difficult times and contemplate splits, but they try to survive,” concluded Wayne Hoffman in his Lambda Book Report interview with the author. “Simply because a relationship is rocky, Bram suggests, it is not necessarily doomed.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bates, Mark E., editor, Contemporary Gay American Novelists, Greenwood (Westport, CT), 1993.
Gay & Lesbian Literature, St. James Press (Detroit), 1994.
Book, November 1, 2003, Stephanie Foote, review of Lives of the Circus Animals, p. 83.
Booklist, October 15, 2003, Paula Luedtke, review of Lives of the Circus Animals, p. 387.
Entertainment Weekly, October 3, 2003, Nicholas Fonseca, review of Lives of the Circus Animals, p. 77.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2003, review of Lives of the Circus Animals, p. 974; June 15, 2006, review of Exiles in America, p. 589.
Lambda Book Report, fall, 2006, Seth J. Bookey, review of Exiles in America, p. 21, and Wayne Hoffman, “Exiles in America,” p. 20.
Library Journal, September 15, 2003, Joanna M.Burkhardt, review of Lives of the Circus Animals, p. 89; September 15, 2006, Stephen Morrow, review of Exiles in America, p. 46.
Publishers Weekly, September 1, 2003, review of Lives of the Circus Animals, p. 63; June 12, 2006, review of Exiles in America, p. 29.*