Legendary Author and AIDS Activist Larry Kramer, 84, has Died
Author: Edit Team
May 27, 2020
Larry Kramer, who changed the world through both his AIDS activism and his writing, has died. Kramer, 84, died on March 27, 2020, in Manhattan, due to complications from pneumonia. Kramer is survived by his husband, David Webster. He was the author of several landmark works that centered gay men lives, including the recently released The American People People Volume 1: Search for My Heart and The American History Volume 2: The Brutality of Fact.
Kramer was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut on June 25, 1935. Kramer, who often remarked on his unhappy childhood and fraught familial relationships, left home in 1953 to attend Yale where he studied English literature. After a brief stint in the army, he moved to New York City where he worked in the film industry. He wrote the screenplay and produced the successful film adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love (1969), which was an award-winning success. In the late 1970s, he published his first novel Faggots, an intense (some say self-loathing) critique of gay male superficiality and promiscuity.
In 1981, when Kaposi’s sarcoma began ravaging the gay community, Kramer co-organized a group of 80 gay men to address these unfathomable ailments. This group was the foundation of what would become the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a pivotal AIDS advocacy organization.
Throughout the early 80’s, Kramer dedicated himself to raging against communal and institutional negligence, and played a critical role shifting the governmental and societal response to the AIDS crisis.
In the introduction to a 2016 Lambda Literary interview with Larry Kramer, writer Mike Miksche wrote:
Outspoken would be an understatement from the tone of his work. He became an AIDS activist in New York, co-founding Gay Men’s Health Crisis as well as forming ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), which aimed to find HIV treatment back when so many were dying. Fueled by anger, Kramer refused to stay quiet regardless of how much the authorities wanted him to shut up. “Silence = Death” was the slogan of ACT UP—many people are alive today because of their noise.
Kramer wasn’t always as forthright with his opinion as he most famously is today. He was shy and introverted in his youth (he claims that he still is, believe it or not). ‘I wrote a few pieces in measured tones and they either got ignored or made fun of,” explains Kramer, thinking back to a piece that he’d written for the New York Native. “I guess I just upped the ante and discovered that to be heard you really had to speak loudly. It became a practical thing.’
In 1985, Kramer’s semi-autobiographical play The Normal Heart debuted at the Public Theater. Another example of the author’s forthrightness, the play, a searing exploration of the AIDS crisis through the perspective of one gay activist, was a huge hit. The play contained what would become a set of featured sign posts in in the author’s work: powerful polemic anger, ribald humor, and a righteous call for the recognition of gay humanity.
Kramer was awarded for Lambda Literary Pioneer Award in 2010. In an interview celebrating the honor, Kramer stated:
I’ve never been taken seriously by the gay literary set. I was never invited to join the Violet Quill, and I think that is partially because I wrote political stuff and was so involved in activism. This is not a country where major writers are political. It’s a sad commentary that we don’t have a Günter Grass or a Roberto Bolaño.
[…] I don’t think we reach for the moon and stars enough, we don’t challenge ourselves enough. We have an incredible history, and no one is writing about that. Our lives are about more than what we do with our cocks. Writing is about astonishing people.
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