widescreen dreams: growing up gay at the movies 

a memoir

James Fitzgerald likes his life the way it is. He has a stable academic career teaching American literature; a comfortable townhouse in Brooklyn; a satisfying, open marriage with his partner of fifteen years; a sweet and playful young boyfriend; and a recently published, well-received novel about the famed early-twentieth-century Harvard professor, F.O. Mathiessen. But his poise is shattered when a woman appears at a book signing bearing a surprise gift: an unsent letter from her brother Gregory, James’ first boyfriend and—ever since Gregory’s death twenty-five years ago—the dark gravitational center of James’ intellectual and emotional life. What follows is a near hallucinatory night of soul-questioning as James reexamines his stormy, life-altering relationship with Gregory, a charismatic, self-destructive activist and writer and the real impetus behind James’ new novel about Matthiessen.

"Patrick E. Horrigan's AMERICAN SCHOLAR is an exquisite and soulful leap into the landscape of love and memory, literature and history. Sexy and moving, the book is a masterful fugue on how we unravel the mystery of our lives and loves." --Tim Miller, performer and author of A BODY IN THE O

"AMERICAN SCHOLAR is a moving, inventive, provocative, and quite brilliant novel. Oscillating between the first AIDS era and the distinct but unsteady present, the novel focuses on the experience of the varieties of love, the protagonist's mutual infatuations with a brooding, galvanizing, off-putting lover and the real-life love affair between the literary critic F.O. Maththiessen and the artist russell Cheney. The temporal experiment pays off thrillingly, as different periods of gay experience and reflections on the implications of gay history, literary and personal, ricochet and resound. Throughout, Horrigan deftly incorporates a heady and inviting series of references to great queer authors (Woolf, Forster, Baldwin, Melville, and Matthiessen) while evoking, especially, the quickly shifting and history-making moment of the late 1980s, when queer theory was born and countless gays lost their lives to a relentless disease. The novel, both lyrical and tough-minded, tracks these epochs with grace, tenderness, erotic frisson, critical intelligence, and plangent skill. It's a novel of ideas, an inspired piece of autofiction, and a work to which I will often return." --David Greven, Professor of English at the University of South Carolina and the author of MEN BEYOND DESIRE and INTIMATE VIOLENCE: HITCHCOCK, SEX, AND QUEER THEORY

Indie Book Award finalist for best LGBTQ2 fiction


pennsylvania station

a novel


patrick e. Horrigan


a novel

Lethe Press - 2015

              Lethe Press - 2023

              Lethe Press - 2018

Portraits at an exhibition

a novel

University of Wisconsin Press - 1999

Manhattan,1962. Frederick Bailey is a quiet, cultured, closeted architect reluctantly drawn into the effort to save Pennsylvania Station from being demolished. But when he meets Curt, a vibrant, immature gay activist more than half his age, he is overtaken by passions he hasn’t felt in years, putting everything he cares about—his friends, his family, his career and reputation—at risk. As the elegant old train station is dismantled piece by piece to make way for the crass new Madison Square Garden sports arena, Frederick must undergo a reckoning he has dreaded all his life. Award-winning author Patrick E. Horrigan delves into the fractured psyches of mid-twentieth-century gay men, conjuring a picture of New York City and the nation on the brink of explosive cultural change.

"Horrigan's novel is convincingly at home in its time period, full of wonderful details and forthright opinions about architecture and art, family dynamics, and the fight over civil rights." --Kirkus Reviews

"Horrigan has the sublime ability to wed history to visceral emotional experience, architecture to relationships, and sorrow to sex and love. Whether it is flirting with a sexy stranger who sits next to you in a Broadway theater, public sex in a dressing room in Rome, or seeking emotional solace in Palladio's La Rotonda, PENNSYLVANIA STATION, with its echoes of Henry James and E.M. Forster, amazingly collapses the profound grief of losing the past with the fear of gazing into a new future." --Michael Bronski, author of A QUEER HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

"PENNSYLVANIA STATION is poignant and provocative. By exploring the conflicted relationship between a closeted middle-aged architect and an impetuous young activist at a pivotal point in New York City's geographic and cultural history, Horrigan thoughtfully employs the past to reflect complexities which face the LGBT community today." --David Swatling, author of CALVIN'S HEAD

"In PENNSYLVANIA STATION, Patrick E. Horrigan tells a very moving story about the love of an older and a younger man, a pioneering gay activist in the early 1960s. In doing so, he shows that the fusion of same-sex romance and narrative realism can still work the kind of literary and emotional alchemy first practiced by legendary novelists like James Baldwin and Patricia Highsmith." --Michael Moon, author of DARGER'S RESOURCES

From 1999 until 2002, the London-based artist Thion worked as a guard at the Tate Britain Museum.  In his spare time, he made sketches upon unused admission tickets--sketches of men and women at play, at work, in pain, and in love, a kind of "personal illustrated diary," as he calls it.  In September 2013, he collected the series of over 50 sketches and presented them at the cueB Gallery in Southeast London in an exhibition called "Limi-TATE: Drawings of Life and Dreams."  Now the sketches can be seen in this beautiful, fully illustrated catalogue.  The accompanying essay by Patrick E. Horrigan analyzes the drawings and situates them in the larger context of the ever-expanding "experience economy," pop art, and gay male self-expression at the dawn of the new millennium.

​​Blurb - 2013​


with an essay by Patrick E. Horrigan

In 1973, a sweet-tempered, ferociously imaginative ten-year-old boy named Patrick Horrigan saw the TV premiere of the film version of Hello, Dolly! starring Barbra Streisand. His life would never be the same. WIDESCREEN DREAMS: GROWING UP GAY AT THE MOVIES traces Patrick’s development from childhood to gay male adulthood as a series of encounters, sometimes mournful, sometimes hysterically funny, with an unexpected handful of Hollywood movies from the 1960s and 1970s.

Describing his favorite movies as if they told the story of his own life, Patrick Horrigan turns popular culture upside down and inside out. He tunnels back into the long, lazy afternoons of his conservative Catholic upbringing in suburban Pennsylvania where the movies offered salvation from boredom and self-loathing; he recreates in loving, unembarrassed detail his turbulent relationship with his mother, the first and most important in a series of strong women, both real and cinematic, who goaded him towards self-awareness; and he dramatizes his adolescent escape, both in fact and in celluloid fantasy, to the greatest, gayest city on earth, the Emerald City of daydreams, New York.

WIDESCREEN DREAMS is a breakthrough in the annals of life writing and cultural criticism, a soulful, many-sided exploration of what it has meant to be young, gay, and alive within the mind-altering movie palace of American culture since Stonewall—and now, within the deeper shadows of the AIDS epidemic.​

"[Horrigan's] personal anecdotes illuminate the complex relationship between film and the imagination." --Publishers Weekly

"Horrigan transforms a series of his critical writings on film into a touching and insightful look at a gay youth coming of age. ... This fascinating autobiographical tribute to American filmmaking is highly recommended." --Library Journal

"WIDESCREEN DREAMS is a terrific book and an impressive debut." --William J. Mann

"A youthful rollercoaster of ecstatic highs and tormented lows." --Felice Picano

Winner of the Dana Award and the Mary Lynn Kotz "Art in Literature" Award

The hero of this absorbing, intensely lyrical novel is a 21st-century Dorian Gray, an alienated young man searching for his life’s purpose through a gallery of portraits at an exhibition. Afraid he may have contracted HIV the night before during an anonymous sexual encounter and only beginning to fathom the possible consequences, Robin winds his way through the rooms of an art exhibition, studying the portraits of people from faraway places and times, looking for clues in the lives of others to the mystery of his own discontent.

Several masterpieces of portrait painting, reproduced in the novel, become the focal-points of Robin’s physical and spiritual journey through the exhibition, including works by such famous artists as Sandro Botticelli, Diego Velazquez, and John Singer Sargent. Each portrait opens itself like a time capsule to Robin’s gaze, releasing stories about the sitters, artists, and critics who, over the centuries, have turned their everyday struggles, disappointments, and dreams into transcendent works of art.

In the gallery, Robin bumps into a flesh-and-blood stranger with whom he feels an uncanny rapport. Their meeting could change his life, but first he will have to confront a disturbing truth about himself. Rich in art history and psychological intrigue, Portraits at an Exhibition plunges the reader directly into the mind of the protagonist, seeing as he sees, reading what he reads, and learning, along with him, the often unsettling life lessons that only the closest observation of great art can teach us.​

"Horrigan tackles issues often associated with the gay community, but he also addresses the broader notion of how we interpret faces, bodies, and behaviors through keen observation. A challenging, worthwhile account of the workings of the mind amid the contemplation of art and beauty." --Kirkus Reviews

"Patrick E. Horrigan's PORTRAITS AT AN EXHIBITION explores the power of portraiture to transport us into distant worlds of imagination and desire. The celebrated paintings featured in the book are far from static images to be dissected and tamed by art historical analysis. Instead, they function as shimmering mirrors and portals, leading Horrigan's characters and readers into deeply felt journeys of the mind, senses, and spirit. Like the Renaissance painters whose works the novel so acutely reproduces, Horrigan's subjects are men and women who struggle to shape their own destinies even as they confront the vagaries of chance, the haunting shadows of loss and doubt, and the relentless pull of their own desires. PORTRAITS AT THE EXHIBITION speaks to the strange magic--the wonderfully unpredictable and far-reaching adventure--of the aesthetic encounter." --Mario DiGangi, Professor of English and Lesbian/Gay Studies at Lehman college and The Graduate Center, CUNY

"A masterful debut novel that calls into question the barriers between artist, subject and admirer. PORTRAITS AT AN EXHIBITION is one of those rare novels that makes the reader both think and feel simultaneously, a vibrant and intellectually challenging exploration of love, family, illness, loss, and art, told through five of the world's most celebrated paintings." --Jacob M. Appel, author of THE BIOLOGY OF LUCK

"PORTRAITS AT AN EXHIBITION is a poignant rumination on the potential of antiquated paintings to speak to the conundrums of modern existence. Evocatively weaving fiction into history, Horrigan sketches the infinitely ambiguous boundaries between self and other, art and life, hope and despair, love and loathing, as reflected in and refracted through his rich cast of characters and the old master portraits upon which they gaze. A refreshing balm to our vainglorious era of selfies, PORTRAITS AT AN EXHIBITION demonstrates, as Proust proffered, that 'museums are dwellings that house only thoughts.'" --Paul B. Franklin, art historian and specialist on Marcel Duchamp

"This beautiful book is unlike anything I've ever read, and I cherish it." --Gil Cole, author of FORTUNE'S BASTARD

"Horrigan's protagonist reminds readers that the menace of AIDS has never truly left gay life. Yet this is not a story of sorrow but of finding hope through appreciating art, a sovereign remedy our community has always relied on, be it John singer sergeant or Keith haring. A recommended read for us all." --Jameson Currier, author of WHERE THE RAINBOW ENDS and A GATHERING STORM