Browsing: In Search of Lost Time

January – February, 2010

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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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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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AS IF peering through a kaleidoscope of twisted history and distorted time, I could not help but become drawn in by the characters and images that J. J. Sagmiller has created in this delightful romp through the raucous world of early 18th-century London theatre.

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THIRTY-SOMETHING S. Bear Bergman has already lived several lives and is leaving a trail of documents for us fortunate readers to decipher. A performance artist, memoirist, educator, and more, Bergman’s elegantly written collection of essays chronicles life as a gender non-conformist-on the “transmasculine spectrum”-with a laugh-out-loud sense of humor.

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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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MARGOT CANADAY’S The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America argues that the last century’s evolving perception of sexuality changed the concept of American citizenship. She pursues her thesis with a rigorous review of the archives to illuminate how federal policies were increasingly inflected with an awareness of non-normative sexualities.

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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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In The Sealed Letter, Donoghue takes on the real lives behind a scandalous English divorce case of the 1860’s, a time when divorce was rare and shocking when it occurred.

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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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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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