Mann, William J. 1963-
Mann, William J. 1963-
Born August 7, 1963, in CT; son of William H. and Carol Mann; companion of Timothy D. Huber. Education: Connecticut State University, B.A., 1985; Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT), M.A., 1987. Hobbies and other interests: Hollywood cultural history, spirituality, gay culture.
Home—Provincetown, MA. E-mail—[email protected]
Worked for U.S. Representative Sam Gejdenson, Washington, DC, 1982-85, and U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Washington, DC, 1985-87; Hartford Monthly, Hartford, CT, assistant editor, 1988-90; Metroline, editor and publisher, 1991-95; writer and freelance journalist, 1992—.
Journalism award, Gay and Lesbian Press Association, 1992 and 1994; fiction fellow, Massachusetts Cultural Council, 1996; Lambda Literary Award, c. 1998, for Wisecracker; Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn was named one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year, 2006, by the New York Times and Publishers Weekly.
The Men from the Boys, Dutton (Bergenfield, NJ), 1997.
The Biograph Girl, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Where the Boys Are (sequel to The Men from the Boys), Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2002.
All American Boy, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Men Who Love Men (sequel to Where the Boys Are), Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star, Viking (New York, NY), 1998.
Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger, Watson-Guptill Publications (New York, NY), 2005.
Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2006.
(Editor and contributor) Grave Passions: Tales from the Gay Supernatural, Bad Boy Books, 1997.
Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969, Viking (New York, NY), 2001.
(With others) Masters of Midnight, Kensington Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Gay Pride: A Celebration of All Things Gay and Lesbian, Citadel Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Work represented in anthologies, including Shadows of Love: American Gay Fiction, edited by Charles Jurrist, Alyson, 1988; Sister & Brother: Lesbians & Gay Men Write about Their Lives Together, edited by John Preson and Joan Nestle, HarperSanFrancisco, 1994; Looking for Mr. Preston, edited by Laura Antoniou, Richard Kasak Books, 1995; Queer View Mirror, edited by Michael Thomas Ford, Richard Kasak Books, 1996; Queerly Classed, edited by Susan Raffo, South End Press, 1996; Son of Darkness, edited by Michael Rowe and Thomas Roche, Cleis Press, 1996; Men on Men 6, edited by David Bergman, Dutton/Signet, 1996; His: Brilliant New Fiction by Gay Men, edited by Robert Drake, Faber, 1997; Contra/Diction: New Queer Male Fiction, edited by Brent Josef Grubisic, Arsenal Pulp Press, 1998; Queer Fear: Horror Fiction, edited by Michael Rowe, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2000; Circa 2000: Gay Fiction at the Millennium, edited by Robert Drake and Terry Wolverton, Alyson, 2000; Summer Share, edited by John Scognamglio, Kensington Books, 2002; Queer Fear II: Gay Horror Fiction, edited by Michael Rowe, Arsenal Pulp Press, 2002; Masters of Midnight, edited by John Scognamglio, Kensington Books, 2003; All I Want for Christmas, edited by John Scognamglio, Kensington Books, 2003; and Sister and Brother, HarperCollins. Contributor to periodicals, including Boston Phoenix, Men's Fitness, Architectural Digest, Advocate, and Out.
Wisecracker was adapted as a documentary film, directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato.
William J. Mann is a journalist who has often written about gay and lesbian issues, a theme he also focuses on in his books. His first novel, The Men from the Boys, traces the growth process as boys become men, focusing especially on men who are gay. The story is set in Massachusetts and spans a year in the lives of Jeff, Lloyd, and Javitz. Javitz is a former lover of Jeff's and is suffering from AIDS. A Kirkus Reviews reviewer called the work "an impressive debut."
Where the Boys Are is a kind of sequel in that it features both Jeff and Lloyd as characters. In what Christopher Rice described as "a vivid and riveting portrait of a group of convincingly self-obsessed gay men" in a Lambda Book Report review, the novel is about how Jeff and Lloyd spend money they inherited from the deceased Javitz to buy and run a guest house. Another character is their friend Eva, a woman who discovers her possessiveness of men actually stems from hidden lesbian feelings. Martha E. Stone, writing in Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, commented: "There's no denying that this is an entertaining, if overwritten and overwrought, novel. Mann is at his best when considering the ways in which the gay community constructs, deconstructs, and rebuilds its complex system of families and friendships." A Publishers Weekly critic, while noting the humorous "cattiness" of the book, added that the author also "addresses serious subjects—safe sex, gay families, moral responsibility." Men Who Love Men centers on Henry, the best friend of Jeff, who Jeff and Lloyd hire to run their guest house. The story follows Henry's search for a man and his numerous sexual encounters. "Mann gets off some funny lines and smiles wryly on the longings of his characters …," stated a Publishers Weekly contributor. "Henry's odyssey, however, isn't sustaining, and the resolution falls flat."
Other novels by Mann include The Biograph Girl and All American Boy. The former title blends fiction and fact in a novel about Florence Lawrence, a movie star of the early 1900s. In this work, Mann posits that Lawrence did not actually die in 1938, but instead is now 106 years old and living in a nursing home in Buffalo, New York. Discovered there by freelance journalist Richard Sheehan, who is interviewing the elderly for an article he is writing, Lawrence regains her fame when Richard's brother, Ben, decides to make a documentary about her. All American Boy, Mann's "most complex novel to date," according to one Publishers Weekly reviewer, is the tale of a homosexual actor who comes home after struggling with his career. He then has to deal with a past that includes an estranged mother, a transexual mentor, and a man who was imprisoned for molesting him when he was a teen. While some might find the plot "relentlessly bleak," others "will be refreshed by [Mann's] audacious change of pace," asserted the Publishers Weekly critic.
Mann is also the author of several Hollywood biographies, including Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star. In this biography of the 1920s actor who was shunned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios because of his refusal to hide his homosexuality, Mann takes a detailed look at Haines's life and social milieu. A critic in Kirkus Reviews called the work "insightful, packed with entertaining gossip, and an illuminating reminder that knee-jerk homophobia has not always been the American way." Rick Whitaker, writing in the New York Times Book Review noted that Wisecracker was "a biography more valuable for the times it covers than for the life it chronicles."
Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger is about the homosexual director whose credits include such films as Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man. Schlesinger had an up-and-down career in Hollywood; his Midnight Cowboy was X-rated but also won an Oscar, while his Day of the Locust was a criticism of Hollywood that effectively got the director blackballed. Schlesinger's "work, Mann argues, is a portrait of people pushed to the edge, learning to survive in their marginalized worlds," reported Stephen Rees in the Library Journal.
With Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn Mann tackles a biography of the famous movie star who has been the subject of numerous other books. Trying not to rehash old material, the author focuses on the disparities between Katherine Hepburn's private and public personas. Mann speculates on the suspicions of Hepburn's lesbian relationships and her platonic relationships with actors such as Spencer Tracy and others, who the author believes to have been bisexual or gay. Natalie Danford, writing in People Weekly, felt that Mann "convincingly argues" his theories in this "ambitious work." Times critic Janet Maslin, who found the last section of the biography about Hepburn's later life the most intriguing, considered the work "a long, uneven book. And parts of it merely recapitulate or squabble over what other biographers have said. But Mr. Mann's strengths are analytical thinking and resourceful digging. And he writes without venom…. So he does accomplish what he meant to."
In other Hollywood-related work, Mann has also written Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969. In this work, Mann presents a history of gay Hollywood during its golden era, using famous and not-so-famous Hollywood personalities to examine the subculture of gay life in the film industry. A reviewer in Publishers Weekly called the work "an intelligent and accessible study" that "marks a major step for gay, gender and film studies."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn, p. 4.
Entertainment Weekly, March 27, 1998, review of Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star, p. 64; May 7, 1999, review of Wisecracker, p. 57.
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, July 1, 2003, Martha E. Stone, "Someone Waits for Me," review of Where the Boys Are, p. 45; July 1, 2005, Matthew Kennedy, "Life and Times of a Cinematic Original," review of Edge of Midnight, p. 39.
Internet Bookwatch, September 1, 2006, review of Edge of Midnight.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1997, review of The Men from the Boys, p. 669; December 1, 1997, review of Wisecracker, p. 1755; August 15, 2006, review of Kate, p. 826.
Lambda Book Report, February 1, 2003, Christopher Rice, "Dancing to Forget," review of Where the Boys Are, p. 21.
Library Journal, January 1998, review of Wisecracker, p. 102; May 1, 2005, Stephen Rees, review of Edge of Midnight, p. 87; September 15, 2006, Stephen Rees, review of Kate, p. 62.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 8, 1998, review of Wisecracker, p. 8.
New York Times, October 2, 2006, Janet Maslin, "Bringing Up Hepburn: Going Beyond the Screen," review of Kate.
New York Times Book Review, February 8, 1998, Rick Whitaker, review of Wisecracker, p. 19.
People Weekly, October 16, 2006, Natalie Danford, "Books," review of Kate, p. 55.
Publishers Weekly, January 26, 1998, review of Wisecracker, p. 80; July 16, 2001, review of Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969, p. 169; April 21, 2003, review of Where the Boys Are, p. 39; September 1, 2003, review of All I Want for Christmas, p. 64; April 4, 2005, review of All American Boy, p. 41; August 14, 2006, review of Kate, p. 190; February 19, 2007, review of Men Who Love Men, p. 150.
Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2006, review of Edge of Midnight.
Spectator, August 7, 2004, Frederic Raphael, "Adding to the Gaiety of Nations," review of Edge of Midnight, p. 30; November 11, 2006, Jonathan Keates, "One of Those Who Simply Are," review of Kate.
Variety, October 23, 2006, Diane Garrett, review of Kate, p. 39.
Washington Post Book World, January 18, 1998, review of Wisecracker, p. 3.
Book Loons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (June 5, 2007), Rheta Van Winkle, review of Kate.
William J. Mann Home Page,http://www.williamjmann.com (June 5, 2007).