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Bertram Cope's Year

Henry Blake Fuller

Book Overview: 

This novel was perhaps the most daring and affirmative LGBT literature of the first two decades of the 20th century in America. In this story, Bertram Cope is a young college instructor, about twenty-four years old ("certainly not a day over twenty-five"), who is pursued by men and women, both younger and older than himself. In writing this novel, Fuller had to carefuly craft his plot schemes so as not to offend the sensibilities of publishers. As a result, today's reader is left somewhat, but not entirely, confused about the precise feelings that characters develop for one another by the end of the book. Nevertheless, no publishing house would touch it, which ultimately required that Fuller go the self-publishing route.

Bertram Cope's Year was the first novel by an established American writer that dealt exclusively with the subject of homosexuality. Although it did not achieve the notariety it deserved at the time, it set the tone for the increasingly open discussion of gay themes in literary form.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .If they insist, leave your voice behind; but do bring your hands and your reading eye. Don't let me go along making my new circle think I'm an utter dub. Tell your father plainly that he can never in the world make a wholesale- hardware-man out of you. Force him to listen to reason. What is one year spent in finding out just what you are fit for? Come along; I miss you like the devil; nobody does my things as sympathetically as you do. Give up your old anthems and your old tinware and tenpennies and come along. I can bolt from this hole at a week's notice, and we can go into quarters together: a real bed instead of an upholstered shelf, and a closet big enough for two wardrobes (if mine really deserves the name). We could get our own breakfast, and you could take a course in something or other till you found out just what the Big Town could do for you. In any event you would be bearing me company, and your company is what I need. So pack up and appear."

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Community Reviews

There are two kinds of forgotten writer. One is vaguely remembered when perusing a book shelf or in passing conversation. Hamlin Garland – didn’t he write about farmers? Or maybe William Dean Howells – didn’t he used to be considered one of America’s greatest writers? This is a precarious and per...more

I find it hard to believe that this book was written in 1919. More unbelievable still is that the author, Henry Fuller Blake, praised by many of his more illustrious contemporaries such as Thornton Wilder and Booth Tarkington, sank into almost total obscurity.

This novel is an utter delight. It te...more

Hopefully, within our lifetimes, the scenarios that play out due to closeting within this book will become to be seen as improbable and unrealistic. I love the line between humor and seriousness that has to be used to show the constrictions of the society these characters inhabit.

Bertram Cope is squeezed from all sides. An English instructor, age 24, at NoWestern U - smart, polite with a fine sense of punctilio and too much charm - he arouses the passions of three coeds, a society hostess and a bachelor in his 50s who mentors likely chaps. Can Bertram get through the year...more

The subtlety with which the novel is written is what really makes the book so exceptional. Nothing is ever directly said or written about Bertram's status and the male friend he lives with. Their entire relationship is written and described as a string of innuendos and very subtle ambiguous physi...more

Bertram, a graduate student, is pursued by two of three young ladies and an older man in the university town as he completes his studies all the time missing his companion from home. The ladies live with the matron Medora Phillips who engineers many of the encounters between Bertram, the young la...more

My favorite novels from late nineteenth-century America include Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage which I first read while I was attending high school, and Harold Frederic's less well-known The Damnation of Theron Ware which deals with personal religious issues of the titular character. It...more

Medora shrugged. “The young, at best, only tolerate us. We are but the platform they dance on,- the ladder they climb by.”

Medora Phillips, the Mrs. of a big house with a perilous lake, has Bertram Cope sing for his supper. She’s described early on through the Bertram Cope lens as being about thir...more

4.5 stars—it’s not perfect, but it’s fun. I’m ever-so-gently inching back from my string of 5 star reviews in a feeble attempt to attain some sort of legitimacy knowing, full well, that’s it’s often your fault that I’m reading as many good books as I am. I can only feel so bad about that, and you...more

This book is one of my favorites. It immediately involves the reader into a world long since past. It is as much a cutural primer as it is a narrative. What capitivates a modern reader is the ageless psychological struggles that we face today - and will, no doubt - tomorrow. Young, old; talented,...more

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