Missile ParadiseLove Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ron Tanner, author of Missile Paradise, and Jim Magruder, author of The Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall, discuss their new novels.

 

Ron Tanner: Let’s dispatch the most obvious question first: in 1983, you were a grad student at Yale, where you dormed in Helen Hadley Hall. Your novel, Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall is about a diverse, rowdy, and randy group of grad students at Yale in 1983 and they live in Helen Hadley Hall.  How much does it matter that this story is autobiographical?

 

Jim Magruder: With two exceptions, the entire cast is based on people I knew. That said, there is a lot of me in every love slave (“Becky Engelking, c’est moi”) even if only one of them most corresponds to the facts of me in ‘83. It turns out readers don’t care who was real and what was invented. They create their own versions of the characters as they go along.

James MagruderAre you gay?

Everywhere except Uganda.

 

What does that mean?

In America, the only way I pass for straight is if I stand absolutely still and don’t speak. In Kampala, which my partner Steve and I just fled in mid-March in the wake of the anti-gay legislation getting passed, the Ugandans we knew kept asking when I was going to take a wife and have children. They advised me to shoot for four, with one serving as backup in case anything went wrong with the first three. Lots of things can go wrong in Uganda.

jpegTom and Elliott

1985

One place to look for a suitable husband was the monthly dance at Columbia University. Suitable meant, among other things, suited: we were looking for a junior associate at a law firm, a thirty-ish bond trader or ad writer or public relations exec with money to spend on above-ground transport, illegal stimulants, and surprise packages from the better department stores. We wanted a man at least two desks past entry level, preferably with a summer share. Or at least I did. My cousin Elliott was a different story.

Recently Jessica Anya Blau, longtime TNB contributor and author of two daring novels, The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and Drinking Closer to Home, piloted (I believe rather unintentionally) the concept of the Six Question Sex Interview series.  Her sex interview with author James Magruder was so stimulating (er, inspirational) to her fellow TNBers, that it seemed only fair that Jessica herself should be the next subject of this new series.  Always happy to engage in intellectual conversation with a talented writer (er, dish about sex with someone who writes about it as much as I do), I volunteered to do Jessica’s honors.  What follows is our exchange about her provocative writing, the Big Questions of age and beauty, what the next generation really thinks about its parents’ sexuality, and a few technique tips along the way.

I met James (Jim) Magruder in a café in my neighborhood where I write. His book SUGARLESS was days away from coming out. He was so charming in person that I bought his book immediately and devoured it in hours. It is hilarious, touching, elegantly written, and wonderfully shameless. Not surprisingly, SUGARLESS was shortlisted for the Lambda Literary Award, the VCU Cabell First Novelists Award and the 2010 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Jim wrote the book for the Broadway musical Triumph of Love, has been a resident at MacDowell, a fellow at Sewanee and has had numerous short stories published as well as anthologized. Currently he is teaching at Swarthmore College and the Yale School of Drama. But we’re not going to talk about any of that here because this is The James Magruder Sex Interview.