Fire Island | Granta

  • Published: 04/05/2023
  • ISBN: 9781783787029
  • Granta Books
  • 272 pages

Fire Island

Jack Parlett

Fire Island: a slim strip of land off the coast of New York, and a place of hedonism, reinvention, liberation.

Arriving on the island after a break-up back home in England, scholar and poet Jack Parlett was beguiled by what he found. Here were the halcyon scenes of Frank O’Hara’s poetry; the bars where Patricia Highsmith got drunk; the infamous cruising sites; and the dazzling beaches where couples had fallen in and out of love, free for a sun-kissed moment to be themselves in the time before gay liberation.

Tracing Fire Island’s rich history, Parlett leads the reader through the early days of the island’s life as a discreet home for same-sex love, to the wild parties of the post-Stonewall disco era, to the residents’ confrontation with the AIDS epidemic, and into a present where a host of new challenges threaten the island’s future.

Lyrical and vivid, Fire Island is a hymn to an iconic destination, and to the men and women whose ardour and determination spread freedom across its shores.

A beautiful, beguiling journey to the ultimate queer utopia, a site of riotous hedonism, wild creativity and immense loss. Fire Island is a fascinating, throbbing history that asks the most urgent of contemporary questions: what does paradise look like, and who does it exclude?

Olivia Laing

The zingy tale of one magnetic place - as well as a sprawling rumination on the intertwined urges to get away and get together. Clued-up but insatiably thirsty, poignant, packed with literary intrigue, Fire Island is a beaming beach read

Jeremy Atherton Lin

A compelling social history. Parlett beautifully conjures Fire Island as myth, metaphor and microcosm of queer culture

Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States

The Author

Jack Parlett is the author of three books: The Poetics of Cruising: Queer Visual Culture from Whitman to Grindr (a monograph with University of Minnesota Press), Same Blue, Different You (a poetry pamphlet with Broken Sleep Books), and Fire Island: A Queer History (Granta), which was named one of the Best Books of 2022 by the New Yorker and shortlisted for the Polari Book Prize 2023. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Document Journal, BBC Culture, Boston Review, Literary Hub and Poetry London. He is currently working on a new non-fiction book about flamboyance.

More about the author →

Jack Parlett on

In Conversation | The Online Edition

In Conversation

Amelia Abraham & Jack Parlett

‘It’s true that public sex and cruising can be complicated, but I still believe in the solidarity that a look can forge between people.’

Amelia Abraham and Jack Parlett discuss cruising, nostalgia and the privatisation of public sex.

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

Boys, Barricades, Beaches

Jack Parlett

On the queer history of New York’s Fire Island.