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

Born in 1992 in Milton Keynes, Jack Parlett is a poet and scholar. He holds a PhD from Cambridge University on the poetics of cruising in queer American poetry, and is now a Junior Research Fellow in the English faculty at University College, Oxford. His debut poetry pamphlet was published in 2020 and his writing has appeared widely, including in Poetry London, Cambridge Humanities Review and Literary Hub.

More about the author →

Jack Parlett on

Essays & Memoir | The Online Edition

Boys, Barricades, Beaches

Jack Parlett

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