Bio of playwright, activist in the works
Author says Larry Kramer saved ‘so many lives with his writing’
NEW YORK — The first biography of playwright and gay activist Larry Kramer will be written with the full support of the subject himself.
Bill Goldstein has been tapped to write the authorized biography by Henry Holt and Co. The book, not yet titled, will draw on interviews with Kramer; his husband David Webster; friends and foes; as well as papers in Kramer’s archives at Yale University. Goldstein will have complete editorial freedom.
Kramer, now 83, wrote The Normal Heart for the stage and the screenplay for the film Women in Love. He is best known for his public fight to secure medical treatment, acceptance and civil rights for people with AIDS. He co-founded the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and founded Act Up, which has provided a model for liberation movements, including Black Lives Matter and #MeToo.
“Larry, in private, as with many people, is often very different from what his public persona is, and I think people don’t often understand his humour or how beloved he is by his friends,” Goldstein said in an interview Wednesday. “And then there are people who were his enemies — sometimes they’re the same person. So I hope to capture all of that. No one is neutral about Larry Kramer.”
The biography will trace Kramer’s life and activism but also will dive deeply into his writing. “My goal is to take him seriously as a writer because that’s what he began as and that is what he continues to be, whether it’s a screenwriter, a novelist or a playwright, and he’s had so much impact in each of those areas,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein is the author of The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster and the Year That Changed Literature. Goldstein reviews books on NBC4’s Weekend Today in New York, is curator of public programs at Roosevelt House at Hunter College, and was the founding editor of the books site of NYTimes.com.
Goldstein first met Kramer in 1985 when The Normal Heart made its debut and the two have occasionally met over the years. “I feel that he shaped our time and, in many ways, shaped my own life,” said Goldstein. In his proposal, he wrote: “There is probably no other writer in America, or the world, who is responsible for saving so many lives with his writing.”