By Henry Blake Fuller
“Entertaining . . . eminently readable, amazing via fantastically evoked interval surroundings and sly humor.”—The manhattan Times
America’s first homosexual novel, released in 1919.
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Additional info for Bertram Cope’s Year
14 In the agonizing months to come, Fuller would send the finished manuscript of the book to half a dozen New York publishing houses, all of whom declined it in turn. Fuller repeatedly blamed his advanced age for these unsatisfying results: “I guess fiction is best provided by men in their early 30s; they’re young enough to express their own generation and old enough to have sort o’ learned how to do it,” he wrote to Garland. But Fuller also persisted in claiming the book’s personal value. ”15 In accounting for the initial failure of the book to sell—and for the negative or unknowing reviews that greeted the book on publication—Fuller did not cite its controversial content as a primary reason, nor did he emphasize his own age so much as he pointed to the form of expression used in the book.
These facts make it difficult to imagine what it would mean for Fuller to have deepened the realistic treatment of homosexuality. Approaches to Reading the Novel The text of Bertram Cope’s Year itself thematizes the issues raised by the discursive restraints Fuller faced in the writing of it. Contemplating Bertram Cope’s unusually wan countenance, and alluding to the unfinished portrait of him that Hortense Dunton has been secretly laboring to complete, Basil Randolph, in a manner that barely skirts being flirtatious, reminds the guests of his small dinner party (which consists only of Cope and Lemoyne) that it is “perplexing to an artist when one’s subject changes under one’s very eye” (186).
Fuller, an amateur musician who was fond of singing old songs for his friends, wrote an unpublished poem that captures his sense of the intimate relationship between the singing voice and the hidden self. ”31 The poem, read in the context of the singing scenes of the novel, attests to the closeness Fuller discerned between the quality of the homosexual voice and its variability in the company of different sexual constituencies, as if singing (or speaking) in a certain way were a mask to deflect or draw attention to one’s sexual identity.