Browsing: American Originals

May – June, 2008

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IN AN ESSAY titled “The Autumn in Florence,” Henry James reflected on the physical changes in the city that had been, for a brief period in the 1860’s, the capital of the newly formed Italian state.

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Jonathan Williams, who died on March 16 at age 79, was known for many things, but dullness was never one of them. Photographer, poet, essayist, folk art aficionado, and founder of the Jargon Society-an enterprise devoted to publishing “maverick poets, stray photographers, oligarchs, and characters,” and …

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JOSEPH A. MASSAD, an associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, does not shy from controversy. His departmental home page provides his response to an ad hoc grievance committee report that investigated allegations he intimidated students who disagreed with his political views on Israel. Massad turns the tables and accuses his detractors of a persistent witch-hunt.

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Allan Berube
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THE OBITUARY OF ALLAN BÉRUBÉ that appeared in The New York Times began with a reference to his MacArthur Fellowship and then moved on to Coming Out Under Fire (1990), his groundbreaking history of gay men and lesbians during World War II. Such obvious attention to these two markers as the signal achievements of his life is understandable. The MacArthur award labeled Allan a “genius,” and a book about World War II planted him squarely in the mainstream of American history. As a topic, it is readily legible to almost everyone as “important.”

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… James Davidson is famous for his fascinating study of Greek culinary pleasures (Courtesans and Fishcakes, 1998), and many scholars (including himself) expected him to provide the new paradigm on Greek homosexuality. Instead, he has refurbished a Victorian model: Greek love was not all about boys and sex; it was all about couples and romance. …

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TOBY JOHNSON is co-author, with Walter L. Williams, of Two Spirits: A Story of Life with the Navajo (2005), a historical novel that creatively recounts the brutal history of how Union soldiers mistreated the Navajo people in New Mexico just after the Civil War. It turns into a tender love story between the two-spirit “berdache” shaman of the tribe and the protagonist, a young government Indian agent with a conscience.

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THERE’S A SCENE in Alan Ball’s All That I Will Ever Be, as staged by director Serge Seiden last March at Washington’s Studio Theatre, that’s rather startling. When the lights come up, we see a hustler pounding his client’s ass so hard that the chair on which the young man lies spread-eagled keeps sliding across the stage in fits and starts till it stops, with his orgasm, just at the edge of the platform.

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THIS NEW BOOK of readings assembles eight autobiographical narratives written by late 19th- and early 20th-century Frenchmen (and one Italian) who were attracted to men, providing readable translations and just enough footnotes to answer obvious questions without slowing down the reading.

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FULL DISCLOSURE: I came of age in the 90’s and always thought of Bette

Midler as that middle-of-the-road star of Beaches who sang the movie’s

treacly theme song, “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Sure, she had her brassy

broad routi, but this pseudo-outrageous, semi-tough-talkin’ persona

seemed tailor-made for Middle America. So imagine my surprise when, a

couple of years ago while writing a master’s thesis on Glitter Rock, I

found nestled in the discussions of Lou Reed and Alice Cooper a

reference to Bette Midler.

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