Browsing: Subcultures of Gaydom

September – October, 2010

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BEAR IDENTITY is inked into my flesh now. I turned fifty in August 2009 and, rather than marking my minor midlife crisis with an affair (too complicated) or a fancy car (too expensive), I opted for a tattoo sleeve, which took months to complete. Among the many symbols of sufficient import to me to wear permanently on my skin is a bear paw, a big one covering the inside of my upper left arm. This visual identification with the gay bear subculture seems timely, for 2010 appears to be my Annus Ursi, Year of the Bear.

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Mr Isherwood Changes Trains: Christopher Isherwood and the search for the 'home self'by Victor Marsh Clouds of Magellan
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IN 1965 AT UCLA, I took a class from Christopher Isherwood, and I recall him saying, “All I can do is to tell stories about my life.” He noted that he found support for this idea in Carl Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections, which had been translated recently into English. And he pointed to Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” in which “every flower … dreamed its own fairy tale, or its story.” Victor Marsh begins Mr. Isherwood Changes Trains with a discussion of the postmodern concept that the self doesn’t really exist …

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“WHAT The Well of Loneliness did for the man-woman, this most unusual tale does for the woman-man.” This is how an early gay classic was blurbed in advertisements and on the dust jacket flap by Samuel Roth, its first publisher, in 1933. A Scarlet Pansy, by Robert Scully (possibly a pseudonym), is a skillful and mature American novel about forbidden sex, complete with sensational packaging. That a book like A Scarlet Pansy could be displayed and sold openly in 1933 is itself remarkable.

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The Bad Life, a best-selling memoir by Frédéric Mitterrand, the openly gay minister of culture in the government of Nicholas Sarkozy (and nephew of a past president of France, François Mitterrand), …

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The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered Edited by Tom Cardamone
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TOM CARDAMONE invited 27 other gay authors to submit pieces about their “favorite out-of-print gay books or forgotten titles.” At the same time, he says in his introduction to the resulting anthology, he was looking for works of fiction that had been excluded from the “gay canon”: works that “embodied a diversity and history that was either pre-Stonewall or went far beyond the available urban story,” including “campy pulp paperbacks.” It was an admirable goal. I assume he is both exhilarated and somewhat disappointed by the outcome.

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DECLARING that she must distance herself “from this complicity with racism,” Judith Butler publicly rejected the 2010 Civil Courage Award at Berlin’s Gay Pride Celebrations, known in Germany as Christopher Street Day or CSD. This decision by one of today’s preeminent intellectuals provoked a scandal, but two factors prevented her statement from having its full effect: a reference to commercialism that sidetracked the mainstream press reception; and an insufficient explanation for the charge of racism.

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UNLESS YOU SPENT the spring and summer in a monastery, you will have heard the news that country singer Chely Wright broke new ground in that historically conservative world by coming out as a lesbian.

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A review of The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America by Don Lattin.

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Takes on the news of the day.

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