Browsing: Winter Reading

November – December, 2008

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THE COVER of Terence Kissack’s book depicts a rainbow flag overlaid with the portraits of Benjamin Tucker, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, John William Lloyd, and Leonard Abbott-five important figures within the American anarchist movement during the early years of the 20th century.

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THE HEART of this little book is a 72-page essay, Poulenc’s Priest, by the British novelist Paul Bailey. The title stems from an anecdote about the gay composer Francis Poulenc that appeals to Bailey’s “sense of what is right and wrong”: “[Poulenc] confessed to his priest that he’d had a sexual encounter in a park with a stranger, and the priest-exasperated-stopped him short with the admonition: …

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IN A POEM called “The Dump,” one of the last published by the late Thom Gunn, he describes a dream in which he wanders around a lifetime’s worth of ephemera left behind by a departed friend and fellow author. He sees vast mounds of paper, collections of every note and draft and manuscript the writer ever produced. But he also peruses the more common refuse of the man’s life: “I went in further and saw/ a hill of match covers / from every bar or restaurant/ he’d ever entered.” I thought of this poem as I read Donald F. Reuter’s Greetings from the Gayborhood, because …

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FOR SOME TIME NOW, familiarity with the works of Klaus Mann (1906-1949) in the English-speaking world has been limited to a small but devoted cadre of readers. Understandably, Klaus Mann, a noteworthy literary figure on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1920’s to the 1940’s, will forever be obscured by his much more famous father, Thomas Mann. Nevertheless, …

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LESS THAN FIVE PERCENT of Allen Ginsberg’s extant correspondence makes

it into a recently published volume of his letters, yet it is more than

enough. The Letters will doubtless serve a purpose for the many

scholars and students of the Beat generation. As a “read,” though, it’s

depressingly base. Whether or not you think Ginsberg’s poetry took

flight, there’s no doubt that his prose stayed definitively earthbound.

Whining, wheedling, on the make; defensive, accusatory, and

sly—Ginsberg the letter-writer will exhaust and enervate you.

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DANCE HALL ROAD opens with a teenager, Jimmy Drake, handing Adrian Drury a picture of an electric chair. What young Adrian has done isn’t clear, but one girl is dead and another is injured.

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AS A BIOLOGIST, I have found the arguments against same-sex marriage

misguided—not because the evidence hints at homosexuality being based,

at least in part, on biological roots, but because the same arguments

that are used to keep same-sex marriage illegal could also be applied

to some ostensibly opposite-sex marriages. It may be shocking for some

people to hear that the sex and gender of every individual in our

population does not fit into a conventionally defined box that can be

labeled “male” or “female.”

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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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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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