Browsing: In Search of Lost Time

January – February, 2010

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NO ONE TALKS about gay literature anymore. The topic sounds quaint, hardly cutting edge. And indeed its moment may well have passed. Edmund White says that it “has come and gone as a … serious movement.” Yet, I think we need to talk about gay literature again, because the silence may tell us a good deal about how we live now. My approach to the topic, however, may seem a little recherché: I want to discuss gay literature as a minor literature.

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Reviews of the books Something to Declare : Good Lesbian Travel Writing, Interruptions: A Novel, The Resurrection of the Body: Pier Paolo Pasolini from Saint Paul to Sade, Sordid Truths: Selling My Innocence for a Taste of Stardom, and the film The Country Teacher.

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Ardi may also knock a brick or two out of another wall-that of conventional evolutionist dogma. Some scientists can be no less dogmatic than scripturalists when they set their feet in concrete on a position that they believe to be settled. Already there are hot debates about which prehistoric primates Ardi was related to, and what sex might have been like in Ardi’s world. We GLBT people can add our own questions about sexual orientation and gender differences that may have left their fossilized footprints upon that distant horizon.

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IN THE OPENING essay of The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art, Eileen Myles neatly summarizes her career as a writer: “I’m a poet and a novelist, one-time college professor, among other things. Generally as many things as possible.” It is that spirit of openness-the willingness to consider what’s surrounding her at any moment, and its potential for being absorbed into her own writing-that shapes Myles’ visceral explorations of other artists’ works in this book of art criticism.

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I am a recently separated United States Army Captain, a fiscal conservative, a lifetime member of the Republican Party; and I am angry. I am mortified that these characteristics align me with the forces of sexual discrimination that permeate our nation’s politics and its armed forces.

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IT WOULD SEEM self-evident to readers of this publication that the exclusion of gays or lesbians from a public association is a violation of basic civil rights. The Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) rejection of gays from membership seems like an obvious injustice, so perhaps a conservative analysis of the Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale case is necessary to explore the complex and fascinating stakes in this balance of rights.

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RECENTLY I completed a federal prison sentence for receiving and possessing a few items identified as child pornography. Federal postal inspectors sent them to me because my name appeared on the mailing list of James Kemmish, an adult porn distributor who was caught at the border with some illegal videos recently filmed in Mexico.

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HARRIET HOSMER (1830-1908) was a lesbian sculptor who emigrated from the United States to Rome at an early age to become part of an expatriate community of writers and artists, including a circle of prominent “independent women.” She worked in marble, and the quality of her surviving sculptures is extraordinary. The operative word is surviving: much of Hosmer’s work has been lost or destroyed, preserved in sketches and descriptions in dusty catalogs but otherwise forgotten.

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THE OTHERS is a trance-like excursion into contemporary Saudi Arabian life, where divisions between people inform every aspect of social behavior. Mysterious and commonplace, nationalist yet saturated with American popular culture, Saudi Arabia is a place that makes for a journey both sensuous and strange. And its exploration of lesbian sexuality places it instantly at odds with the extreme social conservatism of the Saudi regime.

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