Andrew Holleran on 'Dancer From the Dance' reissue

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday January 2, 2024
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Author Andrew Holleran (photo: James Cassell) and the new edition of 'Dancer From the Dance'
Author Andrew Holleran (photo: James Cassell) and the new edition of 'Dancer From the Dance'

For countless gay men of a certain age, and many others in generations that followed, Andrew Holleran's 1978 debut novel "Dancer From The Dance" is held in the highest regard. Groundbreaking, humorous, sexy, and tragic, with "Dancer From The Dance" Holleran paved the way for the gay literary boom of the early-to-mid 1980s that continues to this day. In other words, 45 years after its original publication, Holleran's essential novel is as relevant as ever.

In late 2023, following the 2022 publication of "The Kingdom of Sand," Holleran's fifth work of fiction, "Dancer From The Dance" was reissued in a new paperback edition featuring an introduction by gay author Garth Greenwell (author of "What Belongs to You"). Holleran discussed his works, new and old.

The 1979 Bantam Books mass market edition of 'Dancer From the Dance'  

Gregg Shapiro: Andrew, since "Dancer From The Dance" was first published in hardcover in 1978, it has been reissued in a few different paperback editions. Do you have a favorite among the paperback editions' cover art?
Andrew Holleran: For sentimental reasons, I suppose it would have to be the first, a Bantam paperback, white, with a shirtless young man in blue jeans looking out at us with a sweater tied around his neck; a model who, I heard, was alarmed that being on the cover might make people think he was gay.

The new Harper Perennial reissue of "Dancer From The Dance" includes an introduction by Garth Greenwell. How does it feel to be a writer who now has a reissued book with an introduction written by another writer?
It's an honor, though I never read things like that for fear of learning things about my writing I don't want to know.

Music and dancing play a significant role in "Dancer From The Dance." You mention a variety of songs and artists in the novel. Were the songs that you chose personal favorites of yours that you wanted to include by name, or were they songs that were simply popular in the clubs at the time?
Those were all songs I heard played in the clubs at the time. They still give me goosebumps.

Various other editions of 'Dancer From the Dance'  

"Dancer From The Dance" opens with a series of letters between two friends, one of whom is writing a novel. The letters are very funny, as well as still timely. For example, the line "the young queens nowadays are utterly indistinguishable from straight boys." Also, the mention of sex work in the novel, and how that has in a way morphed into the age of Only Fans.
It's funny. I just had dinner with a 24-year-old man who told me circuit parties are back (or perhaps never went away), when I asked what young gay men were doing for sex now. In other words, everything changes so that it remains the same.

Speaking of timeliness, the subject of Malone's death at the beginning of chapter one, and the narrator going through the dead man's clothes, feels prescient in terms of what was to follow for many gay men beginning a few years later in the early 1980s. Does it feel that way to you, too?
I don't know where that opening came from, since at the time nobody had ever heard of or could have imagined AIDS. But in retrospect, it seems a bit eerie.

I've been streaming the gay-themed "Fellow Travelers" miniseries on Hulu. I know that you are a movie buff, so if "Dancer From The Dance" was adapted as a miniseries or movie, who would you like to see as Malone and Sutherland?
I do love movies, but since the pandemic, I'm out of it as to current actors.

"Dancer From The Dance" is being reissued at a time when book banning is popular among (mostly illiterate) conservatives. Have any of your books been banned?
Alas, no.

What would it mean to you to be banned?
Publicity [laughs].

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