NOW seventy years old, Larry Mitchell has invited me into the labyrinthine apartment he and his lover Richard have shared for 25 years in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In the faded gold living room, we sit down to talk over tea and the sounds of the neighborhood streets. Mitchell is the author of four beloved novels of the gay underground, a collaborative book on queer communal living, and a radical manifesto titled The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions.
Mitchell’s radical East Village æsthetic captures the experiences of people forging an anti-establishment politics informed by living in the gay community before and during the AIDS epidemic. His characters live in cars or freezing apartments; work part-time or short-term minimum-wage jobs rather than pursue careers; respond to a culture of greed by buying little and sharing everything, from clothes to drugs to sex; and elaborate remarkably diverse gender identities and erotic lives. Dating from 1972 to 1993, Mitchell’s work coincides with and implicitly critiques the shift from radical queer liberation movements to the new gay politics of tolerance, assimilation, and consumerism. Perhaps not surprisingly, given that cultural trajectory and the conservatism of literary criticism, Mitchell’s staunchly nonconformist books are out of print.