Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Very Sad, Jane Rule Dies
from the New York Times:
Jane Rule, Canadian Novelist, Dies at 76
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: December 9, 2007
Jane Rule, a prominent Canadian writer whose first novel, “Desert of the Heart,” is considered a landmark work of lesbian fiction, died on Nov. 27 at her home on Galiano Island in British Columbia. She was 76.
The cause was complications of liver cancer, said Deborah Windsor, executive director of the Writers’ Union of Canada.
A major literary figure in Canada, Ms. Rule wrote seven novels as well as short stories and nonfiction. But it was for “Desert of the Heart” that she remained best known. Published by Macmillan in 1964, the book appeared five years before the Stonewall uprising, at a time when lesbians were all but invisible in mainstream letters. It told the story of a woman who goes to Reno, Nev., for a divorce and there finds love with a dynamic younger woman.
The novel was the basis for a film, “Desert Hearts,” released in 1985. Directed by Donna Deitch, it starred Helen Shaver, Patricia Charbonneau and Audra Lindley.
Ms. Rule’s other books, some of which also centered on lesbian themes, include the novels “This Is Not for You” (McCall, 1970); “Against the Season” (McCall, 1971); and “After the Fire” (Naiad Press, 1989); the story collection “Theme for Diverse Instruments” (Talonbooks, 1975); and a volume of criticism, “Lesbian Images” (Doubleday, 1975).
Jane Vance Rule was born on March 28, 1931, in Plainfield, N.J., and raised in the Midwest and California. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Mills College in 1952. In 1954 she joined the faculty of the Concord Academy, a private school in Massachusetts. There Ms. Rule met Helen Sonthoff, a fellow faculty member who became her life partner. They settled in Vancouver in 1956.
Ms. Sonthoff died in 2000, at 83. Information on other survivors could not be confirmed.
Ms. Rule, who became a Canadian citizen in the 1960s, was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 1998 and the Order of Canada last year.
Over the years Ms. Rule’s opposition to government censorship of gay and lesbian books made her a highly visible public presence in Canada. She did not, however, support same-sex marriage, which was legalized there in 2005.
“To be forced back into the heterosexual cage of coupledom is not a step forward but a step back into state-imposed definitions of relationship,” Ms. Rule wrote in BC Bookworld, a Canadian trade periodical, in 2001. “With all that we have learned, we should be helping our heterosexual brothers and sisters out of their state-defined prisons, not volunteering to join them there.
ed. note Jane Rule was the first author I read where the couples didn't end up killings themselves or going off with a man. She was a wonderful writer and I will miss her. I had the honor of meeting her once on a rare visit to NY.