Larry Kramer Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Larry Kramer’s career began as a screenwriter for Hollywood studios, with Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1966), Women in Love (1969, an adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s novel), Lost Horizon (1973, an adaptation of James Hilton’s novel), and several unproduced screenplays. His novel, Faggots (1978) first gained him national recognition, although Kramer will probably be best remembered for his gay activism as reflected in his nonfiction work, Reports from the Holocaust: The Making of an AIDS Activist (1989, revised in 1994 as Reports from the Holocaust: The Story of an AIDS Activist). He has also published a short story, “Mrs. Tefillin,” an excerpt from his unfinished novel The American People, which he began in 1978. This story appears in The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories (1994), edited by David Leavitt and Mark Mitchell.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

In 1970, Larry Kramer’s screenplay Women in Love received an Academy Award nomination and a British Film Academy nomination for the best screenplay of the year. His drama The Normal Heart was awarded the Dramatists Guild Marton Award, the City Lights Award, and the Sarah Siddons Award for the best play of 1986 and was also nominated for the Olivier Award. In the same year, Kramer was named Man of the Year by Aid for AIDS of Los Angeles. The following year, the Human Rights Campaign Fund honored him with its Arts and Communication Award.

No voice in the gay community has been more strident and effective than Kramer’s in drawing attention to the plight of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) victims and to governmental indifference regarding their problems in the early years of the epidemic, the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Drug companies were not forthcoming with medications to treat the disease, and the Ronald Reagan administration cast a blind eye on what was fast becoming a national health crisis.

In 1981, Kramer cofounded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and six years later, in 1987, established the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). The following year, he tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the precursor of AIDS and has been battling that condition ever since.

As an activist in gay organizations, Kramer was among those who “outed” New York City mayor Ed Koch and others activists deemed hypocritical. Some of these activities offended mainstream Americans, but Kramer’s writing, particularly his two most effective plays, The Normal Heart and its sequel, The Destiny of Me, reached broad heterosexual audiences. The former holds the record for the longest run at the Public Theatre of New York City’s Shakespeare Festival and has been produced more than six hundred times in the United States and abroad.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Baker, Rob. The Art of AIDS. New York: Continuum, 1994. The themes and impact of Kramer’s plays are examined.

Clum, John M. Acting Gay: Male Homosexuality in Modern Drama. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. This comprehensive study of gay drama gives considerable attention to Larry Kramer and his activism as reflected in his major plays. Strong, insightful analysis.

Clum, John M. Still Acting Gay: Male Homosexuality in Modern Drama. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. This updated version of Acting Gay includes useful analysis of The Destiny of Me, which had not been produced when the earlier volume was published.

Harris, William. “Staying Angry.” Dance Ink 6 (Spring, 1995). Discusses Kramer’s continuing activism.

Kramer, Larry. “An Interview with Larry Kramer.” Interview by L. A. Winokur. The Progressive 58, no. 6 (June, 1994): 32. Kramer questions the value of a solitary crusade.

Kramer, Larry. “Playboy Interview.” Playboy, September, 1993. Examines the impact of Kramer’s writings.

Mass, Lawrence D., ed. We Must Love One Another or Die: The Life and Legacies of Larry Kramer. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. This collection of twenty essays written by experts in the field treats most aspects of Kramer’s life and writing. The collection ends with a revealing interview between the editor and Kramer.

Nelson, Emmanuel S. AIDS: The Literary Response, edited by New York: Twayne, 1992. The themes and impact of Kramer’s plays are examined. See the essays Kevin J. Harty’s “AIDS Enters the American Theater” and James Morrison’s “Larry Kramer and the Rhetoric of AIDS.”

Shnayerson, Michael. “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Vanity Fair, October, 1992, 228-297.