House on the Ocean, A House on the Bay

Author(s): Felice Picano

Biography / Memoir

The Harrington Park Press and Southern Tier Editions are proud to bring three classics of gay literature-the collected memoirs of Felice Picano: Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children; Men Who Loved Me; and A House on the Ocean A House on the Bay to a new generation of readers! Felice Picano, a member of the Violet Quill group of writers who introduced gay fiction to mainstream literary readers in the late 1970s-forever changing our perception of Gay American lives-is a modern maestro. Literate, witty, and wise, Picano is steeped in the great novelist's traditions of Proust, yet retains a uniquely American voice in his memoirs. A consummate Baby Boomer, Picano is perfectly poised to illustrate the growth of a nation's emerging consciousness through his own burgeoning awareness of self. The life he peers into in these three books is no less than a fresh perspective on American Gay Life-from a seemingly prosaic 1950s childhood, to the expansive 1960s and the liberated 1970s, ending on the eve of the AIDS pandemic in 1980. Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children, Picano's bold, funny, and outrageously honest memoir of suburban 1950s childhood, forever altered how we remember childhood and how we think of it today. So scandalous at the time that the book's first shipment to Great Britain was seized and burned on the London docks, Ambidextrous has become a much-prized classic. Men Who Loved Me, the second installment of Picano's memoirs, picks up the thread of his life in the mid 1960s. Sexually unresolved and unsuccessful in his relationships with women, unhappy in work and unfulfilled in life, Picano flees to Europe and settles in Italy in the golden era of Cinecitta, Rome's version of Hollywood. Even after he falls in with the questionable glamour of the time, his adventure is not over. He returns to Manhattan and a suddenly very gay world. This funny and sad remembrance of a Europe and New York that has entirely changed


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Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly

It might strike some readers as hubristic that this author, now in his 50s, has written his third book of memoirs (after Men Who Loved Me and Ambidextrous). Indeed, the amount of minutiae contained here seems more self-serving than illuminating, although the writing exhibits the flair that Picano has demonstrated in such novels as 1995's Like People in History (a sort of social history of the American gay movement that, ironically, seems more evocative of its time and culture than does this autobiography). The book's title refers to New York's Fire Island, two communities on which have for many years been favorite haunts of gays. Always hotly discussed are the relative merits of being located either on the bay side, or in a house fronting the Atlantic. This memoir, spanning the mid-1960s and the '70s, concerns Picano's attempts to find employment (two different stints at unnamed bookstore chains yield little more than interstore politicking) and his various amatory encounters (some one-nighters, others of greater significance and duration). More substantial are the sections dealing with Picano's first published novel, his changing of publishers, his ire when part of one book is omitted from the final text. Readers may wonder how he recollects such details as a summer's night weather ("the rain had puddled ink and jet, looking like tiny poisoned pools") or frivolous banter about an evening's social activities, all dating back some 20 years. Occasional sidebars (e.g., a discourse on Alfred Witte's theory of Uranian astrology) and pompous remarks ("I learned the lesson of the creator, how with every creation you become more alienated from those around you, more alone") often prove off-putting. Still, gay readers, especially those of a certain age, will no doubt relish Picano's glimpses of a bygone era, even if they seem overwrought. (Apr.)

Library Journal

A leading light in the gay literary world, Picano won last year's Ferro-Grumley Award for the best gay novel for Like People in History (LJ 6/15/95). Here the versatile author turns his novelist's eye on his own life in what is officially dubbed the third volume of his memoirsthough in some citations the previous two "memoirs" turn up as fiction. He divides this work into two "books," like neatly matched, summery novellas. The first takes place in late 1969 and 1970, as his writing career evolves; the second moves ahead four years as his first novels are published. There is the standard name-dropping (Bette Midler, Rose Kennedy, and Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the usual settings. The post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS New York gay scene of Greenwich Village bars and Fire Island summer sublets is not completely realized here. But Picano brings honesty and intimacy to the story with such details as a shadowy triad love affair, a cancer scare, and the conflict between writing and publishing. His glints of flashing wit and subtle hints of dark decadence transcend clichs. Recommended for academic and gay studies collections and for large public libraries.Richard Violette, Social Law Lib., Boston, Mass.

Malcolm Boyd

This book compellingly depicts Picano's development as a gay man and as a pioneering figure in gay publishing. Here we observe the burgeoning author discovering that the joy of writing is equal in intensity to sexual intercourse and his first LSD trips...

This book is exquisitely etched in finely honed detail. Young gay readers will enjoy it for its lively evocation of a memorable time in gay history, while more mature gay readers will identify with the odyssey of one man's involvement.— The Advocate

General Fields

  • : 9781560234401
  • : Harrington Park
  • : Harrington Park
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Felice Picano