Browsing: Stage Hands

March – April, 2007

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The following is excerpted from a piece that became something of an instant Internet classic following its publication after the off-year election on November 7, which saw the defeat of two-term Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. The notoriously homophobic senator took the national spotlight when he denounced same-sex marriage in such a way that he soon acquired the nickname “Man-on-Dog Santorum.” Author-blogger Dan Savage comments here on a contest he ran to find the best definition of “santorum” as a common noun. [Ed.]

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TENNESSEE WILLIAMS DIED just when AIDS was starting to explode (1983)—eight years after his Memoirs were published (1975), to more than one hostile review from a critic offended by the frank sexuality of the text. ( “If he has not exactly opened his heart,” went one notice, “he has opened his fly.”) Now New Directions is republishing them with an introduction by John Waters and an afterword by Allean Heale.

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JUST AT A MOMENT when the study of gay history and literature is flourishing, social critics have declared the death of the GLBT subculture due to the rapid assimilation of gay people, especially those born after Stonewall. The last major gay civil rights battle, marriage, should be won within a generation. Does this mean that the hidden gay worlds some of us inhabited well into the 1970’s are now nothing more than artifacts to be studied? Or do stories from those years resonate with a human significance beyond time and place and circumstance? These questions are raised by Brett Josef Grubisic’s ambitious first novel, The Age of Cities.

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PUBLIC OPINION on same-sex marrage and adoption show enormous variation from one European country to the next, according to a large-scale survey that covered all 25 current members of the European Union (EU), two countries in the process of joining, and two candidate countries. For all of the countries surveyed, under half of the sample populations favored same-sex marriage and a third approved of gay adoptions, but this finding may be misleading in light of this high level of variance.

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WHEN REVIEWING a recent book for The New York Review of Books, writer Larry McMurtry opened by indulging in the old thought experiment of deciding what one author’s works he would take with him to the proverbial desert island. His choice was none other than Gore Vidal. Noting that Vidal’s oeuvre encompasses 46 books that cover the gamut from historical novels to satirical plays and screenplays, literary essays, and political memoirs, McMurtry explained that Vidal has “a prose style that should be the envy of the dwindling few who realize that prose style matters.”

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SUSAN GUBAR is a professor of English at Indiana University, the recipient of several awards for writing and scholarship, and the co-author (with Sandra Gilbert) of The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Her latest book, Rooms of Our Own, a novel that’s an homage to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, examines contemporary women’s issues as they relate to feminism, gender roles, literature, and education in the 21st century.

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SEXUALITY HAS BECOME perhaps the single most volatile issue in the highly emotional and long-running set of skirmishes known as the “culture wars” that have shaped American culture since the 1970’s. In this sophisticated and subtle collection of essays, sociologist Arlene Stein provides a roadmap to this conflict. “American culture is a curious mix of the shameless and the shamers,” Stein argues, “a seemingly endless parade of Pamela Andersons and Jerry Falwells strutting their stuff and wagging their fingers.”

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FEW QUEER WRITERS plant their flag as firmly at the intersection of poetry and politics as does black lesbian poet Cheryl Clarke. This is clearly evidenced by Clarke’s latest book, a collection of her best known and most powerful essays (including “Lesbianism: An Act of Resistance”) interspersed with equally powerful and resonant poems.

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WHAT BRINGS AUDIENCES to the theater is “the expectation that the miracle of communication will take place,” explains a protester to the board of a city arts complex in “Hidden Agendas,” a one-act play that Terrence McNally wrote in 1994 in response to government-inspired attempts to censor an exhibition of the late Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs. “Words, sounds, gestures, feelings, thoughts! The things that connect us and make us human. The hope for that connection!” The purpose of theater, McNally says in a subsequent interview, is to “find out” and explore “what connects us” as human beings.

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DESPITE ITS TITLE, which might suggest another dreary self-help book soaked in Dr. Phil-speak, Gay and Single … Forever? is actually a thoughtful and intriguing meditation on the current state of being a gay man who’s not in a steady relationship.

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