Browsing: Where Are We Now?

March – April, 2010

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SUGARLESS, James Magruder’s juicy, fruity new novel, is a 70’s coming-of-age story that combines the heady flavor of adolescent hormones with original cast albums and high school speech competitions.

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Reviews of Beauty Salon, Andy Warhol by Arthur C. Danto, and And Baby Makes More: Known Donors, Queer Parents,and Our Unexpected Families.

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“I WANT to love a young man of the lower classes, and be loved by him and even hurt by him. That is my ticket,” wrote E. M. Forster in 1935, “and then I have wanted to write respectable novels.”

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THIS DIVERSE COLLECTION of essays by the author of the novel Gods and Monsters stretches over a remarkable variety of topics that range from AIDS fiction to the sexuality of Henry James. While most of the essays touch on some aspect of “the gay experience,” there are some that do so only tangentially.

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“I HAVE NOTHING to declare—except my genius,” he pronounced famously on arriving in the U.S. Or did he? There’s no sign of Oscar Wilde’s notorious response to a routine Customs inquiry in any of these 48 interviews with the Irish playwright, who was then known only for his poetry, and scarcely for that. The 26-year old standard-bearer of the Aestheticist creed undertook perhaps twice that many interviews on American soil in the course of his 1882 lecture tour. The editors of this volume have collated the most significant, presenting each in its entirety, replete with fulsome notes.

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IF IT’S TRUE that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, then in Mama Dearest, the last novel by the late E. Lynn Harris, it stays close to home through three generations. The novel’s central character,Yancey Harrington Braxton, had been a real star once: a Broadway star with fancy clothes, a fancy apartment, and any man she wanted. So she knows what it’s like to make it big but now finds herself acting in a bus-and-truck company production of Dreamgirls, tromping around the country with a bunch of third-rate actors. The one saving grace of this gig is that it gives her a chance to hang out with her best friend, a gay man. But this isn’t enough to compensate for being around a bunch of wannabe actors. This road show is something she’s only enduring while she waits for her second big break.More than anything, Yancey wants to be famous again.

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Writing a memoir is fundamentally a ritualizing experience, a literary rite-of passage that tends to occur when a writer is facing—and challenging thereby—the implacability of mortality. Gore Vidal wrote that Tennessee Williams “could not possess his own life until he had written about it.” Of his own life, Vidal snarled when asked if he would be remembered, “I don’t give a god-damn.” In a more contemplative mood, he once mused, “As for life? Well, that is a hard matter. But it was always a hard matter for those of us born with a sense of the transiency of these borrowed atoms that make up our corporeal being.”

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The most striking and significant aspect of Plante’s memoir is its form. Comprised solely of a series of fragments, each no longer than a paragraph, The Pure Lover takes on a pensive and elliptical tone that works well with Plante’s themes and content on several levels.

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At various points in 2009—during gay pride month in June, at the October 11th march on Washington, among others—various media outlets eagerly reported criticism of President Obama by some gay leaders. The September 2009 Advocate ran on its cover a campaign image of a despondent looking Obama; in place of the word “Hope” was the question “Nope?”

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