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story behind the book | kate tuttle

A first novel about an old love

david wilson for the boston globe

Amy Hoffman has published three memoirs, but hadn’t written fiction for decades before a friend suggested she write a novel — specifically one about Provincetown, where Hoffman has been vacationing since the mid-1970s. The result is Hoffman’s fiction debut, “The Off Season,” a book that includes lesbian romance, art, illness, and real estate disputes.

“It was totally fun to write,” Hoffman said. “It was about a place I love. All my books have this thread through them of community and the intersections of people and how we all interact together.”

When she first encountered Provincetown, it was a freewheeling artists’ colony that embraced gay and lesbian visitors. “One of the things that made Provincetown such a special place is that it’s always been a haven for artists and for people living on the margins,” Hoffman said. “It’s a town that’s very special in the way it embraces all different kinds of people.”

But as Provincetown real estate has become more expensive, driven in part by its increasing popularity among vacationers of means, she added, “a lot of artists can’t afford to live there now.”


It’s an example of what Hoffman called “the mainstreaming of queer people,” which has brought many positive developments (including, for Hoffman and her wife, the legal protection of marriage), but, she added, “it also has its downside. I feel like a lot of more radical politics and ideas — more inclusive ideas — have gotten lost.”

For Hoffman, the novel was a new way to write about LGBT characters in a changing community. “Writing memoir involves a kind of deep, radical honesty that requires a lot of soul-searching and discovering things you might not like so much about yourself,” she said. “The novel was just a very different process. Fiction enabled me to cover those issues in a completely different way that just felt fun.”


Hoffman will read 7 p.m. Friday, October 27, at Harvard Book Store.

Kate Tuttle, president of the National Book Critics Circle, can be reached at kate.tuttle@gmail.com.