Tag Archives: Dancer from the Dance

Dancer From the Dance by Andrew Holleran

Just finished re-reading DANCER FROM THE DANCE and it does seem to capture a brief moment in a particular time and place, gay Manhattan circuit culture in the 70s: the drugs, and the dancing (the Philadelphia sound and beginnings of disco) , the clothes (burn the Lacostes!), Perrier and Angel Dust, the Pines and the Everhard baths. Everyone from elsewhere, escaping the material and psychic oppression of their hometowns and finding community in the sex and the music and the dance….all conveyed by a camp that rarely strays from the cusp of hurt.

When I first read it, I ignored the sadness, the loneliness, the aspect of the story that dramatised how these men don’t find love, f**k away the years, and then age creeps up on them and they move to San Francisco or return to look after ageing parents or jump of a rooftop. I thought it all glamorous and aspirational.

Now, it seems such an exemplar of a kind of unconscious wasp dominance. Malone is a BLONDE God; the Puerto Ricans — so desired — are barely legible as people. I also now re-read it with the knowledge that many of them would have died a few years later, that a fate much worse than working insurance in their hometowns awaited so many of them.

The spiritual emptiness depicted in the novel seems more clearly a result of structures of oppression, and the appreciation of the dancing and the music and the surfaces of things seem to glow in the mind: I made a playlist of every song mentioned in the novel. There’s an expression in Spanish, ‘que te quiten lo bailao’ i.e. they can’t take away that which you’ve danced (I know there’s a similar expression in English; I just can’t think of it now).

The novel left me feeling that at least they danced and enjoyed their bodies, joked and were in on the joke. Edmund White compares it to THE GREAT GATSBY in the way it glamorises a decade and a culture, but there’s also the romanticism, the sadness, the green light, that is here that relationship that is always within reach but  forever tragically unobtainable. A beautiful read.


José Arroyo

The Kingdom of Sand by Andrew Holleran

The first writer to make a gay life seem glamorous, sophisticated and sexy to me ( in DANCER FROM THE DANCE); one potentially full of humour, dancing, sex and the search for romance; now turns his eye to old age. Andrew Holleran’s triumph in THE KINGDOM OF SAND is to make a page turner about all the little sadnesses that accompany it: the increasing loss of mobility, the loss of friends and increase in loneliness; the social invisibility; the feeling of being out of step with the world.

The unnamed narrator moved back to Florida from New York to look after his ageing parents, which he did until –many, many, years later — they died; it’s a world of highways, malls, suburban houses with for rent signs. He still goes to the gym, still cruises in piers, rest stops, video stores and the few remaining physical spaces only those one step from the grave continue to visit for sex. There’s another world in Grinder but one he feels too old to connect to. So he visits his friend Earl to listen to opera and watch old movies, gets little thrills out seeing the young men who bag his groceries; times his visits to Walgreens so he can get a look at the pharmacist with the Edgar Allan Poe face or the clerk with the Bette Davis eyes.

Movies become a point of reference. Is Earl’s handyman becoming too much like Charles Boyer in GASLIGHT? Or maybe Mrs. Danvers in REBECCA? Why are they embarrassed to be seeing DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS in their own living room just because a heterosexual’s around? Why don’t people talk like they do in THE THIN MAN? Why can’t everyone be like Irene Dunne?

The narrator’s friends are spread all over the country but few live near him. So aside from brief visits or phone calls, his time is spent establishing a routine and trying to be as unobtrusive as possible. He ponders the significance of the mementos his parents and his friends have left him, when to clear his house in preparation of death, who to leave things to, is there ever a good time to enter the care facility? The search for human connection persists and the attempt at kindness to others in not letting them know the loneliness he suffers from: ‘There’s not many things more forlorn than going to a mall to look at people’. It’s a book that succeed in immersing the reader in this particular world, one becoming all too familiar, with many passages one underlines to remember and savour.


José Arroyo