Colm Toibin looks at the life and work of some of the greatest and most influential artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, figures in the main whose homosexuality remained hidden or oblique for much of their lives. Either by choice or necessity, being gay seemed to come second for many of these writers. Yet in their privates lives, and also in the spirit of their work, the laws of desire changed everything for them and made all the difference. Ranging from figures such as Oscar Wilde, born in the 1850s, to Pedro Almodovar, born a hundred years later, this book studies how a changing world altered lives in ways both subtle and serious. Colm Toibin interweaves close reading of the work with detailed analysis of the personality behind the work to illuminating effect.