Browsing: Culture Wars 2.0

September – October, 2009

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… the news that [Kate Clinton] had a book coming out this summer piqued my curiosity. I am older now and more comfortable in my skin; Clinton has built a terrific career and fan base that keep her in constant demand. Clearly her material has evolved over the years…

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Little Ben was an active, well-nourished baby who had had an unusually tumultuous gender history. After the physical exam was completed and the room cleared out, I got to talk to Mr. Jones privately. The Joneses had been told they had a baby boy when he was delivered at a small, rural hospital. But a few days later they received a panicked call from the hospital: “Your child’s a girl! Take him to UCLA right away for surgery to become a girl!”

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Cheever lived a life of pretense-about his sexuality and his gentility. He discovered early on that words were the way to beguile readers, and maybe himself, into believing that his hoped-for world was possible. Blake Bailey’s biography demonstrates how close the connection was between Cheever’s life and his writing. It is a sad book, but if it sends readers back to this writer’s stories and novels, it will have done John Cheever a worthwhile service.

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AS THE SUN SET in Riverside, California, on Election Day 2008, Matthew Lawrence anxiously watched as the presidential election returns came in. Trying his best to relax, the 28-year-old Lawrence reclined on his second-story apartment balcony while numbing his nerves with cigarettes and screwdrivers. Time seemed to stand still until a reporter on his 52-inch TV panel delivered the news: the election had been called for Barack Obama, who would be the 44th president of the United States. “It was a beautiful and powerful moment,” he said.

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NAIRNE HOLTZ WRITES like an old soul in a Generation-X body. Her tales of gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/genderqueer/label-free characters in various Canadian cities are both timeless and in touch with the Zeitgeist. The wit in her writing is so dry that the reader is likely to notice its pessimism before recognizing its sparkle.

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DURING the Spring 2009 semester at Princeton University, my students in “Queer Theory and Politics” and I staged a demonstration on campus against the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a Princeton-based nonprofit organization whose self-described mission is “to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it.”

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QUEER THEORY has been criticized on a number of grounds, notably for its difficult language and abstruse categories; in Queer Optimism, Michael D. Snediker charges queer theory with a pervasive negativity and pessimism, a mood that causes its practitioners to focus most of their attention and analysis upon negative emotions rather than affirmative ones.

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IN A BRAZEN EFFORT to pre-empt an American Psychological Association report on human sexuality before its scheduled release in August, an anti-gay organization unveiled its own report, which amounts to rubbish in the guise of research. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality’s (narth) “new” study, “What the Research Shows: narth’s Response to the American Psychological Association’s Claims on Homosexuality,” is so embarrassingly slipshod that no scientist would take it seriously.

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THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE: scene of scintillating literary salons, endless nightlife, after-hours parties, and a lot of drinking, if Richard Bruce Nugent’s writing is any indication, but it was also a sweatshop of intellectual productivity. The Renaissance writers’ often confessional work was at times treated disdainfully during their lifetimes, labeled the “cabaret school” by some literary critics of their day.

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I DO NOT UNDERSTAND why historians and academics, including many gay ones, refuse to believe that homosexuality has been pretty much the same since the beginning of human history, whether it was called homosexuality, sodomy, buggery, or had no name at all. Isn’t it time for us to put a stop to this nonsense …

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