Browsing: Another Country

July – August, 2010

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I’M ON A SHIP, a small one built for the rigors of icy seas, not for transporting people comfortably, and so as it rocks and rolls, dips and surges, so does my stomach. We’re riding 25-foot waves, and explosions of salt water are smashing against the small porthole of my cabin. Eventually we get to our destination, where I’m unloaded with the rest of the cargo and a few other people. Here I am, at a station in Antarctica where I’ll be living for a couple of months with a group of scientists and their support staffs.

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Is the Rectum a Grave?: and Other Essays by Leo Bersani
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LEO BERSANI begins this collection of essays with a concise list of his three major interests: sexuality, psychoanalysis, and æsthetics. To readers not familiar with Bersani’s work, this list suggests that the book will be more traditionally academic—and dull—than it turns out to be. A better sense of what Bersani is about is found in the second of two interviews that conclude the collection.

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IN HER RADIO SHOW, Dr. Laura Schlessinger said that homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstances. The following open letter to Dr. Laura was posted anonymously on the Internet.

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AN OLD JOURNALISM PROFESSOR of mine who may have read too many Hemingway impersonators once solemnly informed me that short travel pieces—very short ones—were the truest test of fine writing. Real writers, he suggested, were the ones who could squeeze the essence of a place down into a tight little nub of a paragraph, a sentence, maybe only a clause. A word or two. This advice sounded at the time like the kind of considered wisdom that makes sense; but later of course I realized that it didn’t. Later I realized it was just wrong.

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The Golden Age of Gay Fiction Edited by Drewey Wayne Gunn
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ASSUMPTIONS about what gay life and culture were like before Stonewall—that it was an era of all-consuming repression, secrecy, and shame—might lead one to conclude that depictions of gay people in film and literature were non-existent or, if they did surface, heavily coded. Many film historians have examined the movies of this period, but the history of gay literature, which arguably provides perhaps an even richer history, has not been explored as thoroughly. Of course, one must be willing to allow for a more expansive and inclusive definition of what constitutes “literature.”

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TO WHAT EXTENT did Walt Whitman consciously pitch his books to men who were attracted to other men? We know that he carefully crafted his public persona in general, right down to writing pseudonymous reviews and letters that praised his books but also focused on his character and appearance.

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Redeeming Features: A Memoir by Nicholas Haslam
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WHOEVER put together the index of the English decorator Nicholas Haslam’s memoir evidently had a low opinion of the reasons people read a book like his. When I had to look up George Dyer (the lover of the painter Francis Bacon), I discovered that the index consists entirely of names.

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Socrates and Jesus: The Argument That Shaped Western Civilization by Michael E. Hattersley
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THIS EXTENDED ESSAY explores the competing visions of Socrates and Jesus, demonstrating how their debate, continued by their philosophical ancestors over two millennia, helped shape Western culture into the uniquely argumentative, individualistic force it would become by the time of the Enlightenment.

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JON MARANS’ new play, The Temperamentals, is about Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, and the beginning of the gay rights movement with The Mattachine Society. Today we can talk about “the gay community,” but Jon’s play is about a time before that—our early history—and about the courageous and strong-willed people who stuck their necks out so that we could find each other.

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Vanessa and Virginia by Susan Sellers
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SUSAN SELLERS’ novel is an imaginative glimpse into the Bloomsbury circle of artists and intellectuals, and the two sisters—painter Vanessa Bell and writer Virginia Woolf—who were at the heart of it. In a series of vignettes, many of them lovely prose poems, Vanessa, the narrator of the novel, addresses Virginia, who is already dead, having killed herself in 1941.

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