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Virtually Normal

Virtually Normal

4.0 4
by Andrew Sullivan

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An unprecedented work from the brilliant young editor of The New Republic--who is celebrated also as an incisive defender of the equality of homosexuals--Virtually Normal is an impassioned, reasoned, subtle, and uncompromising political and moral treatise that will set the terms of the homosexuality debate for the foreseeable future.

From the Hardcover


An unprecedented work from the brilliant young editor of The New Republic--who is celebrated also as an incisive defender of the equality of homosexuals--Virtually Normal is an impassioned, reasoned, subtle, and uncompromising political and moral treatise that will set the terms of the homosexuality debate for the foreseeable future.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Former New Republic editor Sullivan calls for an end to all forms of discrimination against homosexuals. (Nov.)
Library Journal
From the first page, one gets the impression that something important is happening here: this is a level-headed, clearly argued discussion of gay rights, the homosexual, and society. The author, editor of The New Republic, describes the major arguments in the continuing debate between the gay rights and special rights camps. He delineates the philosophical, religious, and social foundations and implications of each position, from the misplaced moral outrage of the far right to the victim politics of the left, and forecasts their respective political futures in the light of their logical conclusions and new political realities. Sullivan finds all these arguments lacking any hope of clear victory, and he glumly foresees a continuing political muddle unless an alternative is found. His own solution, a new politics of civility, is at once old-fashioned and highly original. He argues that the government should outlaw all public discrimination of gays and lesbians while at the same time allowing private individuals to discriminate as they wish. Sullivan's approach satisfies the concerns of conservatives and liberals alike, although his old-fashioned definition of laissez-faire liberalism will rile most liberals, and his most radical suggestion, legal recognition of gay marriages, will certainly flutter conservatives' tail feathers. Highly recommended.Jeffery Ingram, Newport P.L., Ore.
Ray Olson
o the volcano of controversy homosexuality has become in American politics, the editor of the "New Republic" brings light rather than more heat. Acknowledging his own partisanship as a homosexual, he nevertheless coolly dissects the four political armies he sees arrayed on the homosexuality battlefield of the culture war. Sullivan finds the first two--prohibitionists, who object to homosexuality on the basis primarily of biblical authority, and liberationists (such as ACT-UP and Queer Nation), radical egalitarians who conceive of homosexuality as a social construct rather than a personal quality--ironically alike because neither engages in the give-and-take of politics, instead issuing demands based in attitudes of, respectively, indisputable rectitude and permanent rebellion. The other two, conservatives and liberals, are politically engaged, but on the issues of homosexuality, they are deeply conflicted internally. Conservatives have long practiced public disapproval and private toleration of homosexuals, but events have conspired to make this practice seem obtuse. Liberals, meanwhile, by attempting to treat individual prejudice against homosexuality as an object of civil rights legislation, have upended their own historic dedication to evenhanded governmental treatment of all citizens. Sullivan finally posits a new politics of homosexuality that blends liberal equality in the eyes of the state with conservative social stability in a program whose twin tenets are open, unimpeded gay military service and legal gay marriage. Skillfully argued and carefully written, this is the best book ever on gay politics.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Random House
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Andrew Sullivan was editor of The New Republic from 1991 to 1996.  He holds a B. A. in modern history and modern languages from Oxford University and a Ph. D. in political science from Harvard University.  He lives in Washington, D. C.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Virtually Normal 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
As much as I try to sympathize with a fellow gay conservative, this book is poor. It is certainly worse than usual for Sullivan (a smart and fairly good writer): it is flat and ideological. Sullivan's tendency to vilify results in gross and uninteresting caricatures of his opponents: he sets up straw men in what he calls 'prohibitionists' and 'conservatives,' instead of presenting their arguments in the best light, as they themselves would. This might be a good Oxford debate trick, but it will not appeal to his best and most thoughtful readers. Sullivan does not come to grips with the core of the case against gay marriage, and I think that is because he is strikingly deaf to what is at stake in marriage. For instance, Sullivan argues that ¿the openness of the contract¿ and the ¿greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a woman¿ result in a honesty, flexibility, and equality that would ¿undoubtedly help strengthen and inform many heterosexual bonds¿ (pp. 202-3). To view this as a gain for the marital bond, let alone *only* as a gain, is to be blind to how much would be lost, blind to what is demanded by romantic love itself, and blind to the greater richness and happiness of a fully flourishing family life over the ¿network of gay friendship¿ with all its ¿flexibility¿ and ¿sexual candor¿ (p. 192). It is to see ¿a gamut of possibilities from anonymous sex to bourgeois coupling¿¿and only that; it is a cutting off of the true range, of assuming that the range experienced in homosexual life is the range in life simply, and therefore not seeing the unfortunate but overwhelming limitations of gay life (p. 194). In my experience (and I wish it were not so!), gays tend to share some unpleasant character traits, such as effeminacy or lack of masculinity, cliquishness, and lewdness. Sullivan acknowledges many of these things, but attempts to try to give them a positive spin. For example, concerning the frivolity of gay life, he praises it for its ¿irony or exhibitionism or irresponsibility¿ and its insight ¿that some things lead nowhere and mean nothing¿ (pp. 204-5). There is something to this, but it is a limited perspective. From the point of view of someone trying to assess the romantic possibilities (--from my point of view), I disagree that something very good can be built on such things.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book shows how to have a discussion. It shows how to argue (something the general Fundamentalist Christian knows nothing about). And the argument is homosexuality. It shows 4 arguments and the authors argument. He compares and contrasts very well. Whether you are heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, or beyond, you should aquire this literature. I don't know what else to say. It's very very well written. It may show you a way of thinking that you never thought of. It may ask you to step outside of what you believe for a moment and see the world from the other side. GET THE BOOK.