Feb 3, 2019

Gay Characters in America's Favorite Novels, Part 4

Ok, home stretch.  #76-100 of America's favorite novels, as determined by a PBS survey.  We're getting into mostly unknown territory here, but let's see how many I've read, heard of, or ran away from, and which have gay characters or gay subtexts.

76.Ready Player One.  Never heard of it.  Another future dystopia for young adults, this one involving a Matrix-like computer game.  And lo-ooo-ve between a boy and a girl.

The 2018 movie starred Tye Sheridan as the Boy and Olivia Cook as the Girl.

77. Left Behind.  Ran away from it.  The fundamentalist Christian series about the Rapture and Tribulation.  I heard more than enough about that growing up, thank you.  I'll bet there are lots of homophobic portrayals of gay stereotypes among the evilites.

Believe it or not, there have been five movies in the series, and not all of them star teen idol-turned fundie spokesman Kirk Cameron.

78. Gone Girl.  Never heard of it. Nick and his wife relocate from New York City to Hicksville.  Then she vanishes, and he's the prime suspect.  Actually, she's in hiding at her ex-boyfriend's house, hoping to frame Nick for her "murder."

In the 2014 movie, Ben Affleck plays Nick, and Neal Patrick Harris the ex-boyfriend.  Both are heterosexual.

79. Watchers. Never heard of it, but I've heard of author Dean Koontz, a sort of second-rate Stephen King.  But to be fair, his novels are reputedly short to put more than one on your Bucket List.  Genetically enhanced dog and his human, Travis, and the Girl fight Russian assassins.  Dated much?

Teen idol Corey Haim played Travis in 1988.

80. The Pilgrim's Progress.  Read.  Not really a novel, a 17th century allegory about a pilgrim's search for salvation, but I guess it could be the favorite of some people of a fundamentalist Christian persuasion (if they don't like Left Behind).  There are lots of abridged versions, kids' versions, and even a graphic novel.

81. Alex Cross.  Never heard of it. A mystery involving a missing girl and a murdered beautiful woman (couldn't they just say women?  Is the beautiful of a non-beautiful woman not important?).

Tyler Perry stars as Alex in the movie version.  This isn't him, but he popped up when I did a search, so he gets to stay.  A chest is a chest.

This time I know the respondents are going by the movie, not the book.  The book is just entitled Cross.

82. Things Fall Apart.  Read it. African traditions fall to European colonialism, seen through the eyes of Nigerian villager Okonkwo. He's a noted wrestler but also rather a jerk, regularly beating his wives and kids, and he sits by while his adopted son is murdered, because to intervene would appear feminine.  Eventually he commits suicide.  No gay people.

83.Heart of Darkness.  Never read it, but I know the basic plot: Marlowe journeys into the Heart of Darkness, Africa, where Kurz has created his own private kingdom. No gay subtexts.

The 1993 movie stars Tim Roth and John Malkovich.

84. Gilead.  Never heard of it. Some guy in Gilead, Iowa is dying, and writes his son a long letter about it.  Who'd want to read something like that.  No wonder it's #84.  I'm surprised it's not #4084.

It won a Pulitzer and a National Book Critics Circle Award, and there's a study guide available, in case teachers want to assign it to their classes.

Americans are sick.

85. Flowers in the Attic.  Read it.  Siblings imprisoned in an attic by their grandmother, who eventually tries to kill them, plus incest.  Cheery.

The 2014 movie stars Mason Dye as Chris, one of the incestuous siblings.

86.Fifty Shades of Grey. Never read it,but I saw the horrible movie.  The writer doesn't know the first thing about BDSM.  And it's all exclusively heterosexual.

87. The Sirens of Titan.  Never read it, because there's a naked women on the cover, and it's by Kurt Vonnegut, whose works make no sense. A rich guy named Malachi and his little dog build a private spaceship and head for Mars, but the end up on Betelgeuse, then Titan, then Trafalmador.

88. This Present Darkness.  Never heard of it. A thriller about Christians vs. evil New Agers who are trying to take over the world.  But it's two Christian guys, so maybe there's a gay subtext.

89.Americanah. Never heard of it. An African boyfriend and girlfriend are separated.  One goes to America and has problems, and the other goes to London and has problems.  But their love is re-ignited 15 years later. Ugh.

90. Another Country.  Read it.  Finally, a novel with gay characters, albeit an old-fashioned pre-Stonewall "gays all die" one.  Rufus is physically abusive to his wife, who is admitted to a mental hospital.  Then he commits suicide.  But...earlier in his life, he had a boyfriend!

The movie Another Country (1984) has nothing to do with the novel, but coincidentally it is also about a gay guy, Guy Burgess, one of the "Cambridge Spies." 

91. Bless Me, Ultima.  Never heard of it. A young boy questions the Catholic faith, but an elderly woman restores it.   And people die.

The 2013 movie stars Luke Ganalon as Antonio.

92. Looking for Alaska.  Never heard of it, but Alaska is kind of big, hard to miss. Seriously, Alaska is the girl that the protagonist falls in love with, and...um...searches for.   Ugh.

93. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  Never heard of it.  A Dominican ghetto nerd (named after Oscar Wilde) dreams of becoming the next J.R.R. Tolkien and finding love. When a girl disses him, he tries to commit suicide. But he recovers, graduates from Rutgers, moves to the Dominican Republic, and falls in love with a prostitute.  Her boyfriend doesn't like it, so he hires some goons to kill him.

Naming a character after Oscar Wilde, and having no gay references whatsoever?  What a tease!

94. Swan Song.  Never heard of it. A young girl with magical powers in a postapocalyptic wasteland.   A lot of people die, but Swan (the Girl) and Robin (the Boy) survive and settle down in a postapocalyptic Eden.

95. Mind Invaders.  Never heard of it.   Christian computer genius (male) and skeptical journalist (female( fight aliens.  And fall in love, I bet.

96. White Teeth.  Never heard of it. Indian and Jamaican friends in 1970s London. Maybe there are some gay subtexts, but all the characters listed in the wikipedia summary fall into heterosexual lo-oo-ve, get married, and have kids.

There's a 2002 mini-series with that name, with some male characters. The hunkiest is Deepak Verma, if this is the same one.

97.Ghost.  Never heard of it. Young adult sports novel -- no wonder. Ghost is actually a runner who is mentored by a coach named Coach. 

No actual paranormal activity.  False advertising!

98. The Coldest Winter Ever.  Never heard of it. Winter is the name of the heiress to a drug-dealing family.  The writer is named Sister Souljah. That would be a good title for a novel.

99. The Intuitionist.  Never heard of it. The synopsis made no sense: something about elevator operators competing with each other for an elevator operator award? 

100. Dona Barbara, the famous 1929 novel by Romulo Gallegos.  Heard of it, never read it.  Dona Barbara is a witch who falls in love with Santos, who is in love with her daughter.

In the 1998 Argentine movie, Santos is played by Sebastian Cascardo.

Ok, of the last 25, I have read only 3, and 18 I never heard of, but to be fair, this far down the list, we must be getting to the territory of one or two survey respondents. Only 1 of the 25 novels contains gay characters.

Terrible record!  Conclusions:  Americans like novels where:

1. Children: cool animals or kids die.
2. Young adults: Teens in a dystopian future die.
3. Adults: People fall in love, get married, go to war, and die.

And gay people do not exist, except occasionally as walk-ons.  The world of marriage and death is exclusively heterosexual.


  1. Ready Player One, his best friend is a lesbian who pretends to be a boy because gamers are dicks to anyone without a dick. So, that's something? Not sure if it's worthy of a top 100 spot, since the plot relies more on nostalgia, and really it's just Willy Wonka for the younger set. Also, trailers on scaffolding? I agree with Matt Pat: Old-school slums would be more ideal than trailers on scaffolding. No need to not only reinvent the wheel, but say it should be square. And lined with C4.

    Left Behind is even bad theology. For starters, there is no Biblical basis for the Rapture. Old Man Scofield was just chickening out on, oh, the end of everything. If I'm wrong, I'll be the one singing "Komm, Süsser Tod" as it all comes tumbling down, tumbling down, tumbling down.

    Are you sure Russian assassins are dated?

    Alex Cross is actually a series, but, yeah, mystery novels. James Patterson started changing the titles to have "cross" in them after he ran out of nursery rhymes (like Along Came a Spider).

    Flowers in the Attic falls into what I call edgelord art. Topics like incest, pedophilia, drugs, organized crime, and white supremacy fit here. Critically, the audience must forget everything about it other than the taboo topic.

    Yeah, not only did Twilight get a spot, so did Twilight fuck fiction. I'll have to schedule with a neurosurgeon to get my Broca area removed it the English language is going to be used for this shit.

    On Betelgeuse? Like, on the star? Howzzat?

    As if evil New Agers have any more plans than taking dumb New Agers' money.

    I'd use Sister Souljah to throw shade at the Clintons, but that's like beating a dead guy who thought he could save his dessert for after his execution at this point.

    1. Scofield didn't mention the Rapture. I think it began with the 19th century Millerites, but didn't become a significant part of evangelical Christian theology until the late 19th century fundamentalist movement, with preachers like Billy Sunday and Dwight Moody.


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