(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Throughout his writing career, even as a screenwriter, Larry Kramer focused on matters relating to homosexuality. His screenplay of Lawrence’s Women in Love emphasized Lawrence’s thinly veiled dealings with homosexuality in that novel. Kramer emphasized this in his film version. His gay novel, Faggots, although it cannot legitimately be called a critical or artistic success, has stayed in print almost continuously since its publication in 1978 and is said to have sold close to half a million copies. In it, as in his unhappy experience with the bureaucracy of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, are found intimations of themes explored in his two most strident plays, The Normal Heart, which has evoked comparisons to Henrik Ibsen’s En folkefiende (pb. 1882; An Enemy of the People, 1890), and The Destiny of Me. Kramer’s nonfiction also emphasizes the inroads that AIDS has made on the lives of all Americans.

The Normal Heart

The Normal Heart is transparently autobiographical. Ned Weeks, the protagonist, devotes himself to arousing the public about the dangers of AIDS. As the play progresses, Kramer, as playwright, becomes increasingly angry, finally erupting into an unequivocal rage against the government, the medical profession, the press, and the gay community for their reluctance to deal with the crisis and to work toward eliminating it.

The play takes place in the early years of AIDS, the years in which Kramer was deeply involved in the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. He wrote the play shortly after his unhappy departure from that organization. He attacks gay leaders who lack the courage to deal effectively with the situation, focusing on the feeling of many of them that they...

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