Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Front Runner

from the diary: “Tuesday 8/12/86

“I went downtown. … Got The Front Runner (a novel about a gay relationship) on Chris’ recommendation from the S[anta] R[osa] library.”

Chris was the leader of a gay youth group in Marin that I had recently connected with.

Two days later: “I’m reading The Front Runner, a 1974 novel by Patricia Nell Warren about a track coach and his star runner who fall very in love. And it’s a good book, too.”

And then: “I finished The Front Runner. But Billy had to die? And Delphine committed suicide? Oh, come on. The ending was semi-happy, but the endless tragedy of gay lives gets awful tiring. Actually, Delphine’s suicide irked me the most because he seemed more a stereotype than a real character. At least there was important, relieving resolution to Billy’s death. Oh, well. The book had me in a powerful grip, and a book has to be purty dern good to do that.”

A lot of people love this book. Rave some Amazon reviews: “truly remarkable,” “very much the right book at the right time by the right author,” “heartbreaking, insightful, beautiful, painful,” and so on. I had asked Chris if she knew about good gay novels. Everybody loves The Front Runner, she said.

Author Patricia Nell Warren maintains her own website. She has written two sequels, neither of which I’ve read. Many times Warren has been asked why she, a lesbian, wrote a gay male love story. “She started outlining The Front Runner as a story about a lesbian coach and one of her runners, who became lovers,” says an Outsports interview. But, “’When I finally looked around at real life I thought, nobody will believe this because there aren’t any women coaches in track. … [I]f you were going to have a cliff-hanger story about being outed on the way to the Olympics, if you were a woman athlete, you’re automatically suspect by many people anyway.’”

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