Edward Albee is gay and a writer, but he doesn't want to be called a "gay writer." So he said on May 26 at the 23rd annual Lambda Literary Awards while accepting a special Pioneer Award. Now the 83-year-old Albee is on NPR defending himself against gaysayers who think he should own his queer identity more proudly.
Albee is one of the most highly lauded living playwrights. He snatches trophies faster than Meryl Streep, and has already won three Pulitzer Prizes for Drama (that's one for every letter in the word "gay" ... coincidence?) and several Tony Awards. He's perhaps best known for penning the classic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which -- to the frustration of many gay literati -- has almost nothing to do with Virginia Woolf! Such a tease.
The absence of gay themes is a popular trend in Albee's work; he has written almost exclusively straight characters. Albee's approach to the role he believes sexuality should play in a writer's work -- or more precisely, the lack of a role -- and his musings on the subject proved quite controversial among some of the attendees and observers at the Lambda Literary Awards. He countered the backlash by speaking out against the "preposterous nonsense" of labeling writers according to their sexual orientation and imposing limits on their subject matter.
"The whole function of being a creative artist is to transcend the self and the self-interest and have something to do with the anguish of the soul," Albee told NPR's Renee Montagne.
Do you agree with Albee? Should writers make clear distinction between the proclivities of pen and (ahem) sword, or are you picturing Liz Taylor rolling over in her grave during Albee's un-fabulous speech?
-- JUSTIN JANNISE
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