Browsing: Winter Reading

November – December, 2008

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THE RECENT DEATH of Heath Ledger, who made his way into gay cultural history by playing a cowboy with homosexual tendencies in Brokeback Mountain, brings to mind the odd but ongoing presence of the cowboy in gay imagery for more than half a century. The image of the cowboy is a powerful one in American history. Since the emergence of gay magazines in the 1950’s, there has been a brisk use of cowboy imagery in the marketing of their allure.

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AIDEN SHAW’S 1996 novel Brutal was, with apologies to Thomas Hobbes, a nasty, brutish, and short book about Paul, an HIV-positive male prostitute. It was a memorable effort by a writer who made his name in gay porn.

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THE FRAUGHT legal and social history of same-sex male relations in Britain over the last thousand years should naturally be of interest to us. Much of American law and cultural practice derive from the mother country. The Puritanism that crossed the sea from England remains a deeply embedded strain in the American psyche.

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FOR TEN YEARS, Bob Morris’ mother, Ethel, suffered from a blood disease that made her weak and frail. She was a beauty in her day, and she loved to sing and dance, but the disease slowly stole these pleasures away. Although Morris missed her, he admits in Assisted Loving that her death was a bit of a relief, partly because he thought he wouldn’t have to play the role of caretaker anymore. …

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AMID THE TURMOIL of the French Revolution, one of the little-noticed legal transformations was the axing of ancien régime laws criminalizing “crimes against nature.” The Constituent Assembly of 1789-1791 dropped longstanding (albeit rarely enforced) laws against “sodomy” and “pederasty” in the course of its broad modernization of the penal code in 1791.

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Reviews of Hiding in Plain Sight, The Nancy Book, and Troubled by RM Vaughan.

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IN PURELY VISUAL TERMS, they appeared to be an odd couple. With his exceptionally handsome face etched deeply with a desirable masculine divinity, and held gracefully atop a tall, impeccably dressed build, Sam Wagstaff exuded sophistication, taste, education, old money, and confidence, while his slim younger partner, dressed rebelliously in denim and silver-studded black leather, seemed vaguely edgy and preoccupied. Robert Mapplethorpe did not appear to fit comfortably among the guests gathered at a cocktail party on Gramercy Park East that early fall evening of 1975, and gave the slightest impression that he’d rather be elsewhere.

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IN 1983, when Torch Song Trilogy won the Tony Award for Best Play, John Glines, who produced Harvey Fierstein’s epic gay play from its humble beginnings way off Broadway, thanked his lover. It was the first time a gay man ever publicly thanked his partner on national television (and it would not be the last). But for John Glines, a writer, producer and co-founder of The Glines, a production company dedicated to nurturing gay art in New York through the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, it would become a legendary moment not only in gay history but also in his own life.

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What has changed during glaad’s history is not its strategy but its tactics. The group has not abandoned the tactics of the late 1980’s and early 90’s but instead has added tools to its activist arsenal.

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THIS IS a timely book, with three reasons for existing. Images of Ancient Pederasty offers: first, the series of intelligent and resourceful essays by Lear and Cantarella on various aspects of the representation of pederasty in Athenian vase-painting; second, more than 110 illustrations of the most significant examples of the different typologies; and third, an appendix based on research undertaken by the late Keith DeVries …

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