Browsing: In Search of Lost Time

January – February, 2010

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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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BORN on August 6, 1930, in New York City, Martin Duberman graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale in 1952, and earned a masters and a doctorate in history from Harvard in 1953 and 1957. His first book, a biography of Charles Francis Adams, won the coveted Bancroft Prize in 1962, after which he spent nearly a decade teaching at Princeton, while also debuting his first play, In White America, which portrayed the Negro experience in the United States. It opened to critical acclaim and had over 500 performances Off Broadway.

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WITH HIS ANTI-WAR NOVEL ALF, from the year 1929, the Leipzig writer

Bruno Vogel (1898-1987) acquired a prominent place in gay literary

history. The novel, which Vogel himself subtitled “A sketch,” describes

the love between two high school students, which ends in tragedy. It is

the time of the First World War.

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THE HOUR BETWEEN turned into several hours of guilty pleasure. Sebastian Stuart’s coming-of-age story, set in a private, residential high school, brings together Arthur and Katrina, the Will and Grace of secondary education. (He’s gay and she’s flighty.) Their maturing process is set against the battle of administrators at the school.

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In the introduction to her fascinating study, James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade, Magdalena Zaborowska opens with a striking quote from the writer: “Perhaps only someone who is outside of the States realizes that it’s impossible to get out.”

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On balance, the biggest difference between the two books is their readability. Hart’s memoir is lighter and easier going, a book that you want to read to the end. Agabian’s book, while well-written and insightful, could have ended forty pages before it did. Both are worthwhile contributions to the growing body of personal memoirs from everyday people with an exceptional past.

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News of the queer and quirky

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