Readers’ Thoughts

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Update: Cherry Grove Theater Lives!

 

To the Editor:

My essay “America’s First Gay Town” introduced a historic Cherry Grove, New York, to your readers in the Nov.-Dec. issue. The essay concluded with a reference to the listing of Cherry Grove’s “Community House and Theater” on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior on June 4, 2013.

On December 11, 2013, Governor Mario Cuomo announced New York State’s “Regional Economic Development Council Awards,” which included the Cherry Grove Community Association, Inc. community house as a recipient of a $335,000 matching grant. The award to restore the building will be administered by the NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Office.

Receiving this award completes a “Cinderella” story of sorts. The association, prompted by a question from its legal counsel—“Are you historic?”—embarked on a twelve-month project. It was advised to lobby state and federal elected officials and to research and apply for historic recognition. The goal: to raise awareness of Cherry Grove’s importance in the pre-Stonewall era to GLBT people and to the nation’s history, and to become eligible for government grant assistance to preserve its community house. Cherry Grove’s profile was elevated from that of a locally known GLBT resort to a nationally-recognized GLBT historic site in the National Parks System’s Fire Island National Seashore.

I want to thank GLR for its coverage. Your magazine’s cover, masthead and essay were forwarded to panelists in Albany, New York, to coincide with the grant application review period. GLR’s standing as a journal with a “worldwide” readership provided more evidence of Cherry Grove’s historic significance beyond its regional GLBT audience. GLR contributed greatly to an unimagined “happy ending” to the present-day Cherry Grove story.

Carl Luss, New York City

 

My Tense Moment with May Sarton

 

To the Editor:

Reading Dolores Klaich’s generous, astute tribute to May Sarton and Sarton’s rude response [Nov.-Dec. 2013] reminded me of my own awkward encounter with Ms. Sarton. She had come to the Bay Area for poetry readings. The three I attended were jam-packed, a sea of white-haired women.

I went early to the first, at San Francisco State, and there outside the auditorium was Sarton, by herself. I introduced myself and said that I would soon read a paper about her on a Modern Language Association panel titled “Non-declared Lesbian Writers.” “But,” she said indignantly, “I’m a declared lesbian writer.” Oops. She must have been thinking of her 1965 novel Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, but I knew from reading the reviews that her coming out was so muted that it escaped reviewers’ notice.

Ten years after the poetry readings at which Sarton was such a star, she was back in San Francisco. I was able to interview her at the home of her gay male friends in Noe Valley. She seemed to be very interested in the gay movement and to see herself as part of it.

After Sarton died, a woman knocked on the door of Doris Grumbach in her coastal village of Maine. “You,” declared the visitor emphatically, “are the new May Sarton.” Grumbach was aghast.

Margaret Criukshank, Corea, ME

 

What Robert Craft Was to Stravinsky

 

To the Editor:

In his vulgar speculation about the sources of Robert Craft’s income [in a review of Craft’s book, Stravinsky: Discoveries and Memories in the Jan.-Feb. issue], Alfred Corn seems to have forgotten that Mr. Craft was, throughout his more than twenty years as a virtual member of the Stravinsky household, a busy conductor whose pioneering concerts and recordings of modern music (eight volumes of Schoenberg, the complete music of Webern) and older music (Gesualdo, Monteverdi, Schütz, Bach, Mozart) introduced many Americans (including Stravinsky) to rarely performed music that they might not have discovered otherwise.

This is in addition to his contributions to literature as the co-author of Conversations with Igor Stravinsky (1959) and five subsequent books of “conversations” on which Craft and Stravinsky collaborated up to the time of the composer’s death in 1971.

In his years with the Stravinskys, Craft also prepared the orchestras for the maestro’s concerts and recordings and shared conducting duties with Stravinsky, especially during the composer’s last years. But for Craft’s influence, Stravinsky almost certainly would not have written the masterpieces of his later years—In Memoriam Dylan Thomas, Agon, Anticum Sacrum, Threni, or Abraham and Isaac. If Craft benefited from the association with Stravinsky, the benefit was mutual.

To call Robert Craft Stravinsky’s “amanuensis,” as Mr. Corn does, is a gross misrepresentation, but to insinuate that he was a parasite is unspeakable.

Robert Bass, Galveston, TX

 

Overlooked Obituaries

 

To the Editor:

I much admire Martha Stone’s remembrances of the year’s deceased GLBT notables [Jan.-Feb. issue], and I realize it’s impossible to include them all. But as someone who’s also involved with this magazine, I’d like to add a few names that were not included.

Lou Reed deserves mention for his groundbreaking body of work and self-presentation that defied convention even in the glitter rock days. He may have died as a heterosexually married man, but I think until the day he died he would have insisted on eschewing labels, and he never backtracked on how he lived his life—or how it was perceived by the public.

Catherine Nicholson was a co-founder of Sinister Wisdom, an early lesbian feminist journal that has published continuously for 37 years and has published most of the prominent lesbian literary figures we know today.

Finally, Julia Penelope, one of the first publicly out lesbians, died in January 2013. She was an activist, a scholar, an author, and a philosopher. Julia’s work could be serious or funny, personal or political. Her work was original and often cited and built upon by lesbians who came after her. For a great read and an introduction to her work, I recommend Found Goddesses: Asphalta to Viscera.

Diane Ellen Hamer, Melrose, Mass.

 

A Grittier Take on Rechy’s Significance

 

To the Editor:

Regarding Mark Merlis’ “mixed verdict” on the literary significance of John Rechy’s City of Night [Jan.-Feb. issue], I respectfully disagree. Even the title, City of Night, captured our attention. He told a story many of us lived. And, he told it in the only way he was able to. We who prowled those dark streets at the time would not have read a highfalutin work by some polished writer whom we would suspect did not know what he was talking about. The reason he was read (twice in my case) was that he rang true. We recognized our own lives in the experiences and characters he described.

Who better to judge City of Night than one of us sleazy sluts who were aficionados of the “baths after-hours”—not just after the bars closed, not after fold had had a very early breakfast, not even after the queens had finally arrived, “gotten theirs,” and gone home. Rather, after all of that, when a half-dozen or so denizens stayed on in order to ravish some sweet, naïve young thing who had stuck around to see what would happen next?

Another literary critic pontificated that “The Great American Novel was written by a long daisy chain of failed queers.” I would include City of Night on the chain. For whatever grammatical flaws Rechy may have committed, he drew an honest portrait of our world. In my opinion, that picture is worth more than all of Shakespeare only because it is of “my world” rather than the Bard’s.

John Kavanaugh, Detroit

 

Correction

An “Artist’s Profile” on director Joshua Sanchez, who’s interviewed about his movie Four (Jan.-Feb. 2014), stated incorrectly that the movie was based on Christopher Shinn’s play Dying City. In fact, the film was based on Shinn’s play by the same name, Four.

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