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The Man Who Would Marry Susan Sontag: And Other Intimate Literary Portraits of the Bohemian Era
by Edward Field
University of Wisconsin Press, 2007
Cloth: 978-0-299-21320-6 | Paper: 978-0-299-21324-4 | eISBN: 978-0-299-21323-7
Library of Congress Classification PS3556.I37Z47 2005
Dewey Decimal Classification 811/.54


    Long before Stonewall, young Air Force veteran Edward Field, fresh from combat in WWII, threw himself into New York’s literary bohemia, searching for fulfillment as a gay man and poet. In this vivid account of his avant-garde years in Greenwich Village and the bohemian outposts of Paris’s Left Bank and Tangier—where you could write poetry, be radical, and be openly gay—Field opens the closet door to reveal, as never been seen before, some of the most important writers of his time.

    Here are young, beautiful Susan Sontag sitting at the feet of her idol Alfred Chester, who shrewdly plotted to marry her; May Swenson and her two loves; Paul and Jane Bowles in their ambiguous marriage; Frank O’Hara in and out of bed; Fritz Peters, the anointed son of Gurdjieff; and James Baldwin, Isabel Miller (Patience and Sarah), Tobias Schneebaum, Robert Friend, and many others. With its intimate portraits, Field’s memoir brings back a forgotten era—postwar bohemia—bawdy, comical, romantic, sad, and heroic.

Edward Field’s poetry collections include the Lamont Award–winning Stand Up, Friend, With Me;Counting Myself Lucky: Selected Poems, 1963–1992, which won a Lambda Literary Award; and A Frieze for a Temple of Love. Field is the editor of the Alfred Chester Newsletter, and with his partner, Neil Derrick, is coauthor of the novel The Villagers. Field received a Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. He lives in New York City.

“The book is entertaining, offering gossipy anecdotes about a range of colorful gay writers, including Alfred Chester (who never really wanted to marry Susan Sontag), Robert Friend, May Swenson, and Arthur Gregor. These disparate recountings hang together because Field’s sensibility—candid, perceptive, self-deprecatory—unifies them. This is a fun book that recalls an important era of American literary history.”—G. Grieve-Carlson, Choice Magazine

“Often very charming, this volume will be of serious interest to anyone intrigued by New York literary life of the 1950s and '60s.”—Publishers Weekly

“Luckily for us, there appears no end in sight to stories…of Greenwich Village’s historic gay and lesbian literary world. Edward Field, a well-known, award-winning poet, novelist, and essayist, was in the thick of things, a friend to many; and he captures some fascinating details.”—Martha E. Stone, Gay and Lesbian Review


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