Fire Island, a thin strip of beach off the Long Island coast, has long been a vital space in the queer history of America. Both utopian and exclusionary, healing and destructive, the island is a locus of contradictions, all of which coalesce against a stunning ocean backdrop. Parlett tells the story of this iconic destination—its history, its meaning and its cultural significance—told through the lens of the artists and creators who sought refuge on its shores.
Jack Parlett...who has mixed feelings, too, about paradise, hugs his ambivalence and makes good literature out of it. His concise, meticulously researched, century-spanning chronicle of queer life on Fire Island captures, with a plain-spoken yet lyric touch, the locale’s power to stun and shame, to give pleasure and symbolize evanescence ... Parlett [is a] skeptical yet definitive narrator of Fire Island’s carnival, a diorama he embellishes with autobiographical asides ... Quick personal vistas turn his book into a hybrid act, a place-based memoir sketching the evolution of a community animated by sexual arrangement ... He pays filial attention to archives and to the table talk of queer elders; intergenerational wisdom lends his tale its crepuscular bite ... At its best, this book enacts a glancing yet trenchant meditation on community, 'ecological precarity' and the fugitive links between place and sexuality ... Parlett’s prose is never messy; its well-timed pulsations bring beach light onto the page.
An island history that’s deeply felt and keenly judged ... Parlett pays lively attention to...conflicts in all their local particularity, never letting the island become an ill-suited synecdoche for queer America more widely. Instead it emerges as a singular place, and an almost improbably influential one ... Fire Island is an intimate history, alive to the importance of dress, sex, bodily alteration, insobriety and dance. It’s aptly punctuated with scenes from the author’s own island visits during a period living in Manhattan.