Gaywyck, the first book of the Gaywyck Trilogy, was first published in 1980. Touted as the first Gay Gothic novel, it has gone through several manifestations and is now available on Kindle. (I still get fan letters regularly.) It shamelessly plays with the classic Gothic genre because my goal was to prove that genres have no gender. (I did this by incorporating into my hero’s first-person narrative not only the requisite Gothic horrors and secrets, but also lines from great books and movies, lines spoken by heroines.) The second book in the trilogy is Vadriel Vail. It shamelessly steals the plot from The Princess of Cleves with one major change: the princess is transformed into a merchant prince; however, the spiritual argument of this monumental psychological novel–touted as the first of its kind–remains the same for the central character: the relationships of honor, duty, responsibility to matters of the heart. (I also allow everyone to live at the end.) The third book is the romance Children of Paradise, to be published this Autumn under my own imprint with Amazon. Set 100 years ago, Gaywyck West is built as a home for many diverse friends in Hollywood where Gaywyck’s hero, Robert Whyte Gaylord, is a bi-coastal silent movie director–his beloved Donough Gaylord is learning how to fly–and the plots of movies, operas, classic plays lend themselves to interweaving stories with many characters–one murdered–including a genius actor (Paradiso) and a radical fairy (Dicky Dugan) and Vadriel & Armand de Guise–set in a time when all that was solid was melting into air or being challenged, including notions of gender made solid by the invention of the word “homosexual in the 19th century. It’s about a world changing on all fronts, but at the heart of the trilogy is love–an unmeltable solid matter to me–conquering me. The character in this scene, Norman Rose, formerly Naum Rozenberg of St. Petersberg, Russian, and best pal to Sergei Diaghilev, is now running a major silent film bi-coastal studio, Rose Pictures.
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Rising he went to the open window to survey his new empire. Manhattan was spread out below and beyond him like lox on a bagel, looking as if it went to California! It moved him profoundly to think the Austrian Jew Mahler, one of his heroes – though a convert to Christianity for his work – often stood at this window taking in the same view when he lived in this very apartment, still would be living here probably had he not died two-and-a-half years ago.
The cacophony rising up from Broadway brought to mind Mahler’s revolutionary orchestral idiom. The polyphonic grammar, a blend of familiar fanfares and marches, rustic dances and waltzes, song tunes, and endless melodies in a new melodic syntax made Rose giddy. Mahler said he discovered it in a country fair’s colliding noises: barrel organs, swings, shooting booths, a Punch and Judy show mixed with military bands, a male choir. Rose was determined to conceive movies from a similar blend of images instead of sounds. He knew Mahler was right when he said it was absurd to become submerged in the brutal whirlpool of life. “Everything must be overflowing, gushing forth continually,” he told Robert while devastated by the vicious betrayal by his wife Alma with Walter Gropius who “mis-addressed” to Mahler a love letter to her – “A great architect but one of history’s great schmucks!”
Rose was amused to discover he and the Gaylords and Vail and de Guise were at performances by Mahler of his symphonies and of his opera productions with Roller in Europe. They had all been present for Mahler’s farewell in Vienna, had remained through the thirty curtain calls, cheering to the end. Armand de Guise had diplomatic connections in Vienna and had brokered introductions. “Another of life’s convergences! Happy coincidences just like in the movies!”
Rose was fascinated to learn 5’3″ Mahler moved like an imperious racehorse, allegro furioso, and was, in fact, an athletic, muscular man who, when he was chief conductor for the New York Metropolitan Opera and in love with New York, spent long migraine-free weekends at Gaywyck: biking, and walking and swimming great distances and sunbathing nude with them all on the beach often laughing uncontrollably. He once told Robert of earth’s immeasurable surprise for him: “Wherever I am, the longing for this blue sky, this sun, this pulsating activity goes with me.” Rose felt the very same looking down and out over Manhattan. Mahler sounded like Sergei when he told Robert it was absurd to be untrue to oneself and to those higher things above oneself for even a single hour!
Donough joined the Metropolitan Opera and Real Estate Company’s board to unsuccessfully save Mahler’s job from the onrush of Toscanini. He felt a deep affinity for the blend of austerity and sweet childlike wonder in the self-consumed composer who suffered greatly from the lack of enthusiasm for his work. “Gustav said we dream of a life lived according to love, of the difference we could make by loving or the difference being loved could make in us. Like his music, it summed us all up!” He treasured the great man’s words to him a few weeks before he died: “I am thirstier for life than ever before! How we live measures our own nature.”
The quote defined the current state of Norman Rose. Discovering Mahler’s vacant apartment, he signed a five-year lease believing it Fate. Standing nude in a flood of golden light, he felt as free as the unhindered sun, and, for a few minutes, he stopped running Rose Studio in his head.