Written in 1933, this classic, touching story focuses on a young man's gay awakening in the years between the World Wars and became an instant underground classic. Kurt Gray is a shy, bookish boy growing up in small-town Michigan. Even at the age of 13, he knows that somehow he is different. Gradually he recognizes his desire for a man's companionship and love. As a talented composer, breaking into New York's musical world, he finds the love he's sought. Considered to be one of the most important gay books ever written.It is undoubtedly "one of the most important gay books ever written" but it's much more than that. It is a positive affirmation: a young gay man discovers that he is not evil but good and his self-respect brings him genuine love and ensures his happiness.
It is better written and more authentic than anything by Isherwood. I think the reason that it is not regarded as "scripture" by the gay crowd is because it condemns the whole "gay lifestyle" and shows that it is impossible to be happy or find true love in it.
The title is a quote from Shakepeare's 144th Sonnet:
Two loves I have of comfort and despair,Like Shakespeare's, Brown's writing is timeless because truth and beauty are eternal. If only Brown had continued writing...but he became a successful puppeteer with two men: his first lover and his life-long companion who had also been lovers at one time. They were not a "formal" threesome but it was definitely a "love triangle".
Which like two spirits do suggest me still:
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turn'd fiend
Suspect I may, but not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another's hell:
Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.
When the book was re-issued in 1986, Brown acknowledged that he was "Richard Meeker" and, in 1995 at the age of 94, he wrote an epilogue saying that he could finally give the real names of his two lovers because they were dead.
In the novel his first lover is called Derry. In the epilogue Brown admitted that Derry was actually his cousin, Harry Burnett, and that the man who later became his life-long companion, David, was Richard Brandon.
In 1929, with Harry Burnett and Richard Brandon, Brown formed the traveling Yale Puppeteers, which found its permanent home at the Turnabout Theater in Los Angeles in 1941.
Top pic from L to R: Burnett, Brown and Brandon. Second pic from L to R: Brown, Burnett and Brandon. Third pic from L to R: Burnett and Brown after Brandon's death in 1987.