...it would be Andrew Holleran's beautiful, wickedly funny, decadent freshman novel, "Dancer from the Dance". The appelation has been given to many books, but "Dancer" is for me the all-time greatest gay novel. While a plot-and-character summary would make it sound like a narrowly focused, thinly disguised documentary of gay hedonism in pre-AIDS New York City, "Dancer"'s images and dialogue are uniquely evocative and memorable. Holleran's prose has a rare expressive quality, and his descriptions truly haunt the reader.
Guiding the reader through the wreckage and beauty of 1970s New York are two brilliant characters, Malone and Sutherland. Malone is a fallen Adonis, a well-bred WASP young man who, after a moment of unexpected passion in his Manhattan office late one night, begins gorging himself on the overripe fruit of the city's sexual life. After his first romantic disaster, Malone is rescued, taken in, and mentored by the bitchy, high-camp, mad-genius Sutherland. As they careen between raunch and glamour, Sutherland dispenses Wildean aphorisms on life, love, and sex. While every step of the way serving as Sutherland's accomplice in drugs, dishing, discos, and designer demimondes, Malone the whore retains an all-Middle-American vision of finding true love.
Truly, Malone and Sutherland are two of 20th-century literature's most memorable protagonists. But it is Holleran's unparalleled ability to evoke lasting images of New York City during a halcyon period for gay men that makes "Dancer" an unforgettable and absolutely necessary read. If you're gay and have a pulse, read this book.
I've read "Dancer" at least a dozen times and it never fails to provoke both laughter and tears.