Browsing: The Mother Country

November – December, 2011

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Takes on news of the day.

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POETS WRITING literary criticism do so to generate income, to communicate aesthetic values to the public, and to build an audience for their imaginative work. Would readers of the 1950’s and 60’s have paid much attention to Randall Jarrell the poet if he hadn’t been a sharp-witted and engaging critic? Probably not. As for W.H. Auden, I can offer some personal testimony from nearly four decades ago.

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Mitko by Garth Greenwell
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THE RESTROOMS at Bulgaria’s National Palace of Culture had just one use—and it wasn’t to relieve oneself. So when the American teacher descended the stairs and was captured by a hushed voice, he knew full well what was going to happen. The young man was tall and thin with a “close-cropped military cut of hair so popular among young men … a hyper-masculine style” and he seemed a little bad-boy dangerous. He couldn’t speak English well and the American could only grasp a few words of Bulgarian …

Mitko was the man’s name …

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AS a university professor in Japan and a dabbler in its gay history, I must admit a certain fascination with the institution known as “nanshoku.” Literally “male colors,” nanshoku describes a wide range of Japanese same-sex relationships from ancient times up until the end of the 1860’s.

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IN NOVEMBER, 1910, a small but important art show opened in the Grafton Galleries in London. Titled Manet and the Post-Impressionists, the show was curated by Roger Fry, a member of the Bloomsbury group, a painter, art critic, and at different times the lover of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell. This was one of the earliest shows in London dedicated to Impressionist and Post-Impressionist French art.

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The Queer Art of Failure by Judith Halberstam
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FOR THOSE who are skeptical of a gay rights movement that aspires only to enable GLBT individuals to join the cultural mainstream, this book will seem as refreshing as water in a desert. Judith Halberstam looks at a variety of media to find ‘queer’ subtexts that undermine a mainstream conception of personal success as based on heterosexual marriage, childbearing, and the accumulation of property.

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Marketers of men’s underwear and swimwear added to the emerging trends of the sexualized male with new styles specifically designed for erotic exhibitionism. Prior to 1950, men’s swimwear always concealed the navel, even though rubberized Lastex yarns shaped and articulated the genital bulge below. In the early 1950’s, though, styles of men’s swimwear began to reveal more skin. Some inched below the navel, peek-a-boo cutaways bared the hips, and the male bikini made its first appearance on American beaches.

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Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life in America (Second Edition) by John-Manuel Andriote
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Reviews of Victory Deferred, Andy Warhol’s New York City, and Tiny Terror.

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Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato
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IF you don’t know the names of Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, you may have missed a lot of GLBT cinema over the past twenty years. For this exclusive interview I caught up with [Fenton] Bailey and [Randy] Barbato at World of Wonder in Hollywood.

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