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by Harlan Greene

Download Why We Never Danced the Charleston eBook
Harlan Greene
United States
St Martins Pr; 1st edition (April 1, 1984)
151 pages
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1633 kb
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1366 kb
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Start by marking Why We Never Danced the Charleston as Want to Read .

Start by marking Why We Never Danced the Charleston as Want to Read: Want to Read savin. ant to Read. I appreciated reading a book featuring queer characters who weren't in New York or San Francisco. I also found Greene's use of fact to inform a fictional story very inspiring, and his afterword explaining his process was invaluable. Though it has been years since I read Why We Never Danced the Charleston, it has rambled about the alleyways of my brain ever since. Greene's novel of an elderly man's reminiscence takes the reader to the Charleston, SC of the 1920s to uncover the truth of some dark, unspoken of event.

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Why We Never Danced the Charleston. The scene is Charleston, South Carolina; the time, the 1920s, when old ladies dream of the past and a strange new dance, the Charleston, is seducing the youth of the city

Why We Never Danced the Charleston. The scene is Charleston, South Carolina; the time, the 1920s, when old ladies dream of the past and a strange new dance, the Charleston, is seducing the youth of the city. Years later, whispers emerge of something baffling and tragic that happened back then. As an old man confronts those demanding the truth, we catch brilliant flashes of the confrontation between the dark, doomed Hirsch Hess, son of immigrants, and the fantastically ethereal Ned Grimke, a scion of the city.

Harlan Greene is author of the novels Why We Never Danced the Charleston, What the Dead Remember and The German Officer’s Boy. His non-fiction works include Charleston: City of Memory (with photographs by N. Jane Iseley), Mr. Skylark: John Bennett and the Charleston. Skylark: John Bennett and the Charleston Renaissance and Slave Badges and the Slave-Hire System in Charleston, South Carolina, 1783–1865 (with Harry S. Hutchins Jr. and Brian E. Hutchins). Visit us at. ww. istorypress.

The scene is Charleston, South Carolina; the time, the 1920s, when old ladies dream of the past and a strange new dance, "the Charleston," is seducing the youth of the city.

The Preservation of Charleston. Greene places the story in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1920s - a time when high society was very high and memories of antebellum times were still very much alive (have they died out now?). William P. Baldwin, N. Jane Iseley, Harlan Greene. The German Officer's Boy. Harlan Greene. What the Dead Remember.

A homosexual love-triangle on the fringes of 1920s Charleston high-society-as recalled years later, rather too soulfully, by the narrator of this wispy, moist first novel. We felt more than guilty

Are you sure you want to remove Why we never danced the Charleston from your list? . Published 1985 by Penguin Books in New York.

Are you sure you want to remove Why we never danced the Charleston from your list? Why we never danced the Charleston.

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The homosexual love affair between Hirsch Hess, the son of Jewish immigrants, and Ned Grimske, the member of an aristocratic Christian family, sets off scandal and tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1923
  • Frey
This is a sensitive, intelligent novel about closeted gay life in Charleston in the 1920ies. Greene offers a moving and lyrical account that dramatizes the exuberance and danger of finding oneself out as a gay person under destructively repressive circumstances, and the portrayal of Charleston is wonderful.
  • Vikus
I know that I am almost 20 years late, but I have just read this novel set in "Old Charleston". Having just read Ed Balls Peninsula of Lies, I was directed to this Greene masterpiece in quest of my knowledge of a character mentioned by Ball that was reported to be the subject of this novel, Ned Grimke. Greene has brought to life the atmosphere, scenery, sense of place, and clandestine lifestyle of Old Charleston's underground society from the 1920's and 30's. His descriptive terms drive every paragraph. One, and I suppose you would have to live here to understand, describes the "throbbing heat" of downtown. I read this very slowly as not to miss any words or nuances. Walking my dog on the Battery yesterday, Greene's ghosts were envisioned and I could not help but wonder in which of these mansions his character Luden Renfrew's notorious orgies were held. Homoerotic,eloquent, and fascinating describe this drama.
  • Peras
Great Book
  • Abywis
I suppose there are various levels of writing and gay themed writing is no different. Most gay novels are disposable judging by what’s on offer in the Kindle store and there is nothing wrong with that. Even Agatha Christie never stated that she was writing literature just entertainment. I have heard it referred to as ‘chewing gum for the mind’.
Harlan Greene does not write ‘chewing gum for the mind’. His works do not border the entertainment category. I doubt they were written with that in mind. His motive seems to be to assess the human condition and in particular some distinct aspects of the gay man’s disposition using the medium of the novel. That sounds a bit pretentious but it could be used to distinguish the story tellers from the literature writers. This book is literature. Every line of it.
Capote wrote once that journalism goes from left to right – from the beginning to the end of a story. Literature on the other hand goes from North to South in that it goes deeper and deeper into the persons or the situation. That situation may be very limited but still it is mined. The plot of this book is fairly straight forward and, like a lot of timeless classics, can be explained but not explored in a few lines. It concerns a small group of ‘gay’ men in 1920’s Charleston. I use the word ‘gay’ carefully because the men themselves would be reluctant to describe themselves as such. That word didn’t exist then – or had very different connotations. They weren’t exactly sure what they were and couldn’t explain why they were attracted to some men and not others. Every step they took had to be careful. They had to keep a respectful façade at all costs.

The object of the narrator’s lust and desire is Hirsch Hess, a Jewish man who just melts hearts no matter where he goes. He is attractive and can have anyone he wants despite his moods. His parents however suffered persecution in Europe in a pogrom and had to flee to the US – much against their will. Their melancholy approach to life and the weight of their personal history is passed on to their son who they hope will one day give them the grandchildren they desperately want to pass on the family name. Hess knows all about persecution. He’s been living with it by proxy all his life. There is a pivotal part of the story when Hess finally makes the connection between his parent’s persecution and his own and that is when the story changes, and everyone else in it. Ned Grimke becomes the object of Hess’s love, but it is a love that he does not understand or even want. He becomes a different person when he is with Ned but he does not know who that person is. Ned is an artist and sees nothing wrong with the way he is and can’t understand Hess’s behaviour at all. Grimke is also hated by the narrator who had a sexual relationship with Hess before he fell for Ned. Their souls never met however just their bodies. That was fine with Hess.

The internalised homophobia of the main characters is well developed in the plot. It is one of the reasons that they try to keep away from Ned Grimke. If people look at him and guess he is ‘one of those men who cruise for men at night (a moon lover)’ down at the Battery, then maybe they will assume everyone who is even seen with Ned is guilty by association. Appearance and face are everything in 1920’s South Carolina and they just cannot take that chance. Indoors – well that’s a different matter.

The book is beautifully written (and I use that word deliberately) with nearly every line having something that can be remembered.
‘A white curtain waved out the window of the derelict building like a flag of surrender’.
Actually that line reminds me of the murdered family they all discover while searching for articles for the museum. A black man and a white woman with their child. The neighbours are unconcerned. It is passed off as a suicide but no one is convinced.
‘They’re not like us. It shouldn’t be. Not natural.’
The parallel is not lost on the men.
If you read a lot of light gay themed books it would do you no harm indeed to turn to this one to experience by proxy the lives and the times of men who lived in shadows, were hated by themselves and society and half lived their lives. This was nearly all gay men before the second world war by the way. You might also try ‘The Evening Crowd at Kimsers’ and ‘Hold Tight’ both very well written and researched.
  • Mr.Champions
In this novel, the unnamed narrator recounts the love triangle between himself and two other men in 1920's Charleston - a very repressive time when even a new dance was considered shocking enough to have people arrested. The young narrator meets Ned Grimke, a shy, club-footed boy, when just a child and begins an unusual friendship. As they grow older, the narrator begins to distance himself from him, not liking the unusual attraction that Ned has for him; he soon learns that he himself has such strange urgings. He begins to haunt the secret places where such men meet: a waterfront area known as The Battery and the Peacock Alley Bar.

One night, the narrator meets the handsome Hirsch Hess, a brooding Jew who seem sbent on self-destruction over his homosexualtiy. They share a short-lived affair until Hirsch accidentally meets Ned. The two form a strange, very close bond that both the narrator and societal pressures attempt to break with disatrous results.

"Why We Never Danced the Charleston" offers a unique glimpse at homosexuality in the South during the 1920's - a time when sexual expression was just beginning with new dances and other forms of culture. Greene depicts a very repressed society, in which everyone knows that the love between two men is wrong, where such men are taught to loathe themselves and others like them, and yet they survive, live and love despite what society says. His characters and their reaction to the time and societal norms with which they live come across very realistically. And, even though the ending is typically tragic for a gay novel, I still enjoyed reading it.
  • fetish
Why We Never Danced the Charleston was written in the early 1980s, so it has a few years under its belt now. However, it is still a very relevant and timely novel. Greene places the story in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1920s - a time when high society was very high and memories of antebellum times were still very much alive (have they died out now?). It was also, most notably, a time before Stonewall, when being gay made one a parriah and an outsider. Greene uses this setting to tell his story of love and hate. His prose is captivating - encased in Spanish moss and mildew - and the story is very believable.

For those interested in a historic fictional gay novel, this is a must read.