Freedom from Facebook
To the Editor:
I read Michael Musto’s essay about blocking those who disagree with him on Facebook and I would recommend that he take a further and more drastic step: remove his profile from Facebook and stop using it altogether. Facebook may have begun innocently as an online spot for people to connect and share their lives, but it has become something that, in my opinion, more often undermines relationships than bolsters them. Are these people that we’re barely connected to really “friends”? Mr. Musto doesn’t think so, as he makes clear in his essay. So why are we still posting, liking, monitoring, trolling, or whatever we do on social media?
At its inception, Facebook may have been a neutral force in its effect on users, but it has become increasingly clear that it manipulates their behavior. It actively directs advertising and selects news feeds using algorithms based on user history. We’ve seen where politically-motivated manipulation has taken us as a country.
Rather than connecting with random acquaintances in this way, why not call a friend to keep in touch? Send an e-mail to just one person to say Hi—or make plans to see them in person when this pandemic winds down. And be sure to ditch Facebook!
Tim Cameron, Danby, VT
Gore Vidal: Theory and Reality
To the Editor:
Philip Smith’s “How Vidal Slipped City Through” [Jan.-Feb. 2021 issue] is fascinating, well analyzed, and well written. Smith catches the various nuances of Vidal’s very complex relationship to the book, to homosexuality—which he believed did not exist—and to his readers. But in writing about Vidal’s much later book, Palimpsest, Smith goes somewhat awry.
The problem seems to be that Smith is not aware of the many responses by Vidal’s contemporaries to his “relationship” with Jimmy Trimble, which was on the order of: “What is Vidal talking about?” Smith also doesn’t seem to be aware of the “origins” of the later book, which I have written about in my memoir Art & Sex in Greenwich Village. The bookstore owner of A Different Light alerted me as publisher of SeaHorse Press and Gay Presses of New York (GPNY) that Myra Breckenridge had fallen out of print. He suggested that GPNY reprint it, and provided addresses for me to write to Vidal in Italy. I did so and received a late night phone call from Vidal, one of many in the following three years. Vidal wanted Myra and Myron to be published together, and Random House had said No. When GPNY offered to print them together, Vidal contacted Random House and they folded, and put the two books together in a Vintage edition.
Felice Picano, Los Angeles
Back to the Bach of My Youth
To the Editor:
What wonderful memories were stimulated by Dale Boyer’s article “Switched-On Bach Has a Back Story” (Jan.-Feb. 2021) on Wendy Carlos’ music and life. I discovered classical music (actually Baroque) in a survey course as a freshman in college during the early 1970s. Specifically, I fell in love with J. S. Bach’s music and spent many hours in the “audio-visual” unit of the campus library listening to Wendy’s Switched-On Bach vinyl album. Since then, I have acquired the CD version and still get the same joy in listening now as then.
Linked with those college musical memories are academic explorations, discovering my gay sexual orientation, coming out, and three of my first significant relationships. Beautiful harmonies and memories indeed!
Donald Page, Montclair, CA
In Memoriam Addendum
To the Editor:
I was disappointed at the exclusion of Stewart Butler in Martha E. Stone’s In Memoriam piece in the January-February 2021 issue. Butler, who died March 5, 2020, was a long-time political activist and the elder statesman of the gay rights movement in Louisiana.
Butler’s queer activism was sparked the night he survived an arson at the Up Stairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans’ French Quarter, in 1973. Until the Pulse massacre in Orlando in 2016, the Up Stairs Lounge arson, which claimed 32 lives, was the deadliest crime against LGBT people in our nation’s history.
Butler was a founding member of lagpac (Louisiana Lesbian and Gay Political Action Caucus), the New Orleans chapter of pflag, the LGBT Community Center of New Orleans, the Louisiana State Conference, and the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana. He was also a member of ACT UP New Orleans. In addition to playing a key role in the 1991 passage of a New Orleans City Council nondiscrimination ordinance, Butler was at the forefront of the transgender rights movement long before it became fashionable. At his urging and under his leadership, the New Orleans pflag chapter led a successful campaign in the 1990s to have trans people included in the national pflag mission statement. In 1998, it became the first national LGBT organization to do so.
Although Butler won numerous awards for his activism in his lifetime, he always shied away from the limelight. Eschewing the victory lap, he preferred to work in the trenches. And while he never sought recognition, he certainly deserves it. I trust his omission was an oversight.
Frank Perez, New Orleans
Language and the Art of Lifelines
To the Editor:
In his review (“Photos Elegant and Elegiac”) of Eric Rhein’s book Lifelines (Jan.-Feb. 2021), Michael Quinn takes poet Mark Doty to task for an essay Doty wrote for the book. Quinn complains that the essay has an out of place “jaunty” tone and that Doty seems “more interested in talking about Whitman, less so about Rhein.” Quinn’s reading seems to me profoundly wrong.
“Jaunty” is a singularly inappropriate adjective to describe the essay. Doty ties the experience of the adolescent’s search in literature for meaning about himself and the world (a universal rite of passage) to Rhein’s own adolescent readings and the two books Eric discovered in his mother’s cedar chest—books written by his Uncle Lige Clarke expressing a positive view of love between two men. Doty only notes in a sentence that Rhein later nherited Leaves of Grass from his uncle (who always carried that book with him). The inheritance is part of the story about how Uncle Lige became a guiding spirit in Rhein’s life.
Doty then begins several pages of a thoughtful, painful journey—hardly “jaunty”—through the challenges posed to queer artists and writers in coming to terms with the difficulties that history has posed, particularly in the age of AIDS. Doty beautifully weaves his thoughts about these challenges toward the meaning of same sex love, and his words are tied to specific images in Rhein’s work. Near the end of the essay, Whitman is cited once, but the reference is related to one of Lifelines’ most moving photographs, titled River. The point is clearly to applaud the way this photograph echoes a Whitman sensibility. To me that’s not pushing Rhein aside to focus on Whitman, but, to the contrary, a way to give Rhein high praise indeed.
Louis Wiley, Jr., Boston
Correcting Cicada’s Creators
To the Editor:
I’d like to offer a correction to the article “Those First Tries at Love” in the January-February 2021 issue. Reviewing the indie film Cicada, the article correctly identifies the two directors (Matthew Fifer and Kieran Mulcare), but then incorrectly reports that Kieran Mulcare was a co-writer and costar. Sheldon Brown contributed to Matt Fifer’s script and was the co-lead, playing Sam.
As a long-term supporter of The GL&R, I’m multiply disappointed by this error. I like to take every opportunity to share my enthusiasm for the magazine with others, and had planned to do so with this article that highlights a wonderful film. I worked on a project with Sheldon Brown this past fall. I had planned to congratulate him on the good press. Alas, now that won’t be possible.
Larry Wolf, Chicago