Saturday, 11 April 2015

History: Kramer Vs Evidence

Gay-rights activist and award-winning author Larry Kramer is 79 and in failing health, but that won’t defuse the impact of his latest bombshell project: the first 800-page instalment of a two-part history of America that tells of the secret gay life of figures from Alexander Hamilton, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to Mark Twain, Herman Melville and Richard Nixon.

The American People: Volume 1, subtitled Search for My Heart, has taken nearly 40 years to complete and may prove to be one of the most provocative historical, or pseudo-historical, accounts of American history.

Kramer, who is co-founder of Aids services group Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power (Act Up), as well as a chronicler of queer life with plays including The Normal Heart and The Destiny of Me, said the book is a labour of love designed to counter what he feels to be the exclusion of gays – or gay life – from history books...

From tomorrow's time-travelling Observer.

Can't wait to read this, sounds an absolute hoot.

In fine...

The American People, Volume I: Search for My Heart is causing consternation among historians, who say there is little evidence to back Kramer’s claims.

Ron Chernow, author of an epic 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton – the statesman Kramer claims was at least bisexual if not entirely gay – cautions against “ransacking history in service of a political agenda”.

Kramer also claims that John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln not because he was unhappy that the South was losing the civil war, but because Lincoln had spurned him.

“You only have to look at photographs of Wilkes and [co-conspirator] Lewis Powell to see that they’re full of their own beauty. We call it gaydar – the thing straight historians don’t have. Or take Mark Twain. He had a huge gay life.”

Kramer has a history of initiating high-profile disputes. He had a war of words with Tony Kushner over acknowledging Lincoln’s orientation in his screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s 2012 biopic of the civil war president.


The American People is likely to rankle with historians as there is no evidence many of historical figures were gay. He claims Lincoln biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin became “hysterical” at the suggestion of homosexual tendencies in the president but this was, he added, “only because she didn’t write it first”.

The book, which has been labelled as a novel to avoid legal complications, has divided US reviewers. LGBT magazine The Advocate said that at points in Kramer’s book “the reader will feel like the audience at Springtime for Hitler”.

Time for your nap, Aunty Kramer?

Update: Guardian interview with Larry The K.


  1. So it's finally here. I have been waiting for yonks for this to be published. I have huge admiration for Kramer. Anyone that could write 'Reports from the Holocaust' has my attention. I hope he gets well soon.

  2. Love it that he has to say it's a work of fiction...