On the Rise and Fall of John Horne Burns

June 15, 2013 | 2

How do you describe the life and times of John Horne Burns? He was in turn a military intelligence officer, a schoolteacher, a critical darling after he published The Gallery, a pariah after he published anything else, and a gay man in post-WWII America. In characteristic concision, Ernest Hemingway summed the whole thing up thusly: “There was a fellow who wrote a fine book and then a stinking book about a prep school, and then he just blew himself up.”

works on special projects for The Millions. He lives in Baltimore and he frequents dive bars. His interests can be followed on his Tumblr, Nick Recommends and Twitter, @nemoran3.


  1. You got the order wrong: he was a school teacher before the war, and he always felt himself to be a pariah; and he was never a “gay man.

    Moreover, the aging Hemingway seems a dubious voice to sum up the complicated Burns.

    But what’s really sad is that you’re too flip to acknowledge how amazing some passages in The Gallery were and still are.

Add Your Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.