If you wish you were in the West this week, read Thomas Savage's novel of a gay and straight brother on a Montana ranch in the 1920s, The Power of the Dog. The brutish, repressed Phil isn't happy when George marries a woman. Then her "sissy" teen son comes to visit from his Eastern prep school. An unsentimental story in the spirit of Annie Proulx, who wrote the afterword to the rereleased edition.
A newish nonfiction book about the gay frontier of the 1840s is Men in Eden: William Drummond Stewart and Same-Sex Desire in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade [Kindle]. Previously the author won a Stonewall award for Male-Male Intimacy in Early America: Beyond Romantic Friendships covering roughly one hundred years from the 1770s to the 1870s.
Decades before Stewart, Lewis & Clark penetrated unknown areas. Brian Hall's novel I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company recreates Merriweather Lewis's struggle as a gay man exploring.
A terrific straight book about the West is Ron Carlson's short novel Five Skies. I don't know any reader who has disliked it.
Having lost the Man Booker to Hilary Mantel last year, Tan Twan Eng has now triumphed over her, as well as former Booker winners Pat Barker and Thomas Keneally, to take the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction his gay-inclusive second novel, The Garden of Evening Mists [Kindle]. In March it won the Man Booker Asia Prize, beating Nobel winner Orhan Pamuk.
Elliott Mackle chose it as one of his favorites for Thebes queer lit poll saying, "The male/male elements in Tan Twan Eng’s lyrical The Garden of Evening Mists, set during and after World War II in Malaya, are comparatively minor but crucial and heart-breaking."
The complete shortlist for the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize:
NPH is forty! The rare child tv actor (Doogie Howser, M.D.) to transition successfully to adult roles (How I Met Your Mother), Neil also handled his coming out better than most, after Perez Hilton planned to reveal his relationship with David Burtka in 2006. Still together, Neil and David welcomed boy-girl twins (Gideon and Harper) in 2010. In his spare time, he hangs out with Harold & Kumar, sings in Joss Whedon's musical web series Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog, and hosts the Tonys. He's done that four times and is certain to beat Angela Lansbury's record five-time hosting. He has two sequels out this summer, Smurfs 2 and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.
Chances are, Philip-Lorca diCorcia wasn't the first man in the world to use government money to buy hustlers, but he might be the first to highlight the exact dollar amount he paid in the titles of his work. From 1990 to 1992 the photographer used his NEA grant to hire young male L.A. hookers to pose for him. The dudes set the price, often the same they charged for their other services. The results have titles like the shot above including their age and hometown, “Eddie Anderson; 21 Years Old; Houston, Texas; $20,″ and twenty-five of these prints formed his first solo show at MoMA in 1993. Yet it's taken another twenty years for the entire series to be collected in his new book, Hustlers.
DiCorcia got his MFA from Yale, where he has taught for many years. Erudite, yes, but still playful: Please enjoy the hovering Greek temple and the carefully presented meat.
Another Technicolor entry in Monica Nolan's brilliant, camp-reclaiming Lesbian Career-Girl series that began with the tag line, "Stories your mother never told you—printed here for your own good." Bay Area readers, get yourself to tonight's launch for her classiest heroine yet Maxie Mainwaring, Lesbian Dilettante from 6:00 to 8:00 at El Rio, 3158 Mission.
Maxie Mainwaring, Lesbian Dilettante [Kindle] (2013) PW raves, "In this clever and campy send-up of 1960s pulp... Maxie Mainwaring, a Bay City heiress whose wealthy family cuts off her allowance after she’s caught kissing Elaine Ellman in the bathroom at the 1964 Daughters of the American Pioneers Spring Tea. In the ensuing fallout, the feckless heroine—who has never had to support herself, although she has held a part-time job as an assistant to a gossip columnist—is forced to seek employment, first as a recreational aide, then as an assistant at Polish, an upscale magazine. Along the way, Maxie gets caught up in a Scandinavian mob scheme, finds her mother in a compromising position, falls for an attractive butch named Lon, and dodges a murder attempt. Maxie—and Nolan—charm the pants off everyone in this original and engaging romp."
Bobby Blanchard Lesbian Gym Teacher [Kindle] (2010) Welcome to Metamora Academy for Girls, where some rules are made to be broken. Ex-field hockey star Bobby Blanchard uncovers hidden talents among both her students and colleagues while building a winning field hockey team and learning some thrilling lessons about love.
Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary [Kindle] (2007) When ex-cheerleader Lois gets a job in an ad agency and moves to Bay City, she has no idea that she's entering a world of working girls whose passionate desires smolder beneath their fashionable suits. EW says, "Nolan squeezes her kicky premise for plenty of juice, leaving the pulp deliciously intact." PW says, "Unabashedly campy and titillating...Nolan effortlessly parodies the world of the career girl and tries to do for the growing lesbian pulp genre what Hammett and Chandler did for the private dick novels of the 1940s... this is a must-read for any fan of pulp fiction."
Siegfried is 74 today. It is the younger one, Roy, 68 until October, who last year was hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit from three male caretakers who have videotape of the incidents.
Born in York in 1858, Henry Scott Tuke grew up in Falmouth where he discovered the pleasures of nude swimming that become the core subject of his en plein air paintings until his death at 70 in 1929. Moving to London when he was sixteen to attend art school, he graduated six years later, then toured Italy and Paris. His friends and acquaintances of the time included Symonds, Wilde, and Sargent (whose many, secret paintings of male nudes were numerous enough to fill this book). But by 1886 Tuke was back near Falmouth, spending £40 to buy a two-masted sailboat which he converted to a floating studio and living quarters. Initially the only models he could get to pose were from London but before long he and the local youth had become friends for life, though many of them died in WWI. An avid traveler, in the 1890s Tuke returned to Italy, adding Corfu and Albania to his list and a new, vibrant light to his palette. Later he ventured to the Caribbean and Central America, further brightening his colors. Nervous critics over-emphasize the innocence of his art, stressing that if anything the depictions are sensual not sexual, and making obvious comparisons to Eakins. Among Tuke's big collectors is Elton John. His work fills many books like Catching the Light.
After 42 years in love, 33 of them at their ravishing 27-acre North Hill Garden in Vermont, and a lifetime total of two quarrels, Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd were working on their fourth book together, when Wayne died of a heart attack at 68 in 2010. Alone, Joe didn't step foot in the garden, skipped every meal, collapsed, and ended up in the hospital for a week. Little by little, he returned to life and eventually finished their wonderful new book, To Eat: A Country Life [Kindle], on sale yesterday.
I read it on an airplane. Having given away my upgrade seat in business class to my partner, I took his aisle seat in coach, until a pushy mother kicked me to her *middle seat* elsewhere -- and I didn't mind. That's how enjoyable the book is. Each of the 35 short chapters begins with an enchanting line drawing by Bobbi Angell depicting the food under discussion: apples, chard, potatoes, winter herbs, wild salads, Egyptian onions, etc. and continues with just the right blend of historical, personal, and cultivating details. Four chapters describe their farm animals, including a herd bull who was the son of the queen's herd bull at Balmoral and a pig named Rolo who died of bleeding ulcers. They asked the vet why:
"Loneliness, he thought, simply too many hours spent waiting for our two brief visits each day. Pigs are social animals and they need company; humans will do, if not other pigs. But they must not be left in solitude. We have since then always kept two pigs even though we could never consume in a year the quantities of pork two pigs render. It pleases us that they have happy communal lives and we have fine pork to give to our friends."
In the eyes of the devoted authors, the fruit and vegetables are portrayed with just as much personality as the livestock. Spinach can be "cranky," leeks are part of a "gifted and clever family" of kitchen alliums. Very rarely, the writing slips into a sun-dappled sentimentality, as when they recall in order the hallmark weather of the year's four seasons, and certainly the book is an unabashed ode to "the deepest reward of a country life... the rhythms, values, habits, and flavors of another time." Some readers may come to want a few more failures in the narrative, because those ulcers, and blight, and raccoons who stole the corn harvest are sometimes more interesting than yet another happy memory of a favorite food plant. But no one could complain about a book whose discussion of beets opens into a wider conversation about their tradition of eating Christmas dinners away, in Paris, or Amsterdam, or California.
About half the chapters end with a recipe or two, some from Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta of Il Bagatto in the East Village. Many more recipes can be found in Eck and Winterrowd's excellent Living Seasonally: The Kitchen Garden and the Table at North Hill.
For more about them and their flowers, read their longer books Our Life in Gardens or A Year at North Hill : Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden.
A frisky mentor eager to bend teacher-student boundaries, John Cheever gave Allan Gurganus his first big break. Cheever got Allan's story Minor Heroism published in The New Yorker in November 1974 when he was 27. But Allan didn't publish a book until he was 42, the enormous hit Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. He followed it with an uneven collection of stories called White People, and, finally, a second novel in 1997, the all-gay Manhattan comic tragedy Plays Well with Others. A very fine quartet of novellas came in 2001, The Practical Heart, but no books in the past twelve years. He's 66 today and will end the long draught in September with Local Souls, a trio of novellas from a Norton affiliate Liveright, again returning to the fictional Falls of his native North Carolina:
Catherine Lord and Richard Meyer distill 130 years of Art and Queer Culture in their new book.
PW: "In this history of queer art since 1880, Meyer and Lord take a broad view of homosexuality “as a site of sexual meaning and symbolic investment under continual negotiation.” They draw upon artists and thinkers...whose works, the authors suggest, enter an ongoing conversation about the limits of sexual definition. Meyer and Lord’s “curatorially promiscuous” strategy includes two comprehensive essays and a wealth of texts by artists, theorists, and activists. Stanford University art historian Meyer (Outlaw Representation) contextualizes the works in terms of composition and historical trend, while Lord—a practicing artist, curator, and U.C.-Irvine professor—highlights the underlying activism and politicization of each work. There is a strong documentary impulse, with photos of protests, riots, and key political moments. The authors recognize that queer art “does not move toward ever more affirmative images of equality and dignity.” They also draw on theorist David Halperin’s statement that “queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal.... There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers.” By including no more than one work by any artist, Lord and Meyer account for a broad array of genderqueer, transgender, and more liminal identities."
A gay co-producer, a gay director/choreographer, a gay writer, a bi composer, and a gay leading actor transform a sweet little film into a big Broadway musical about drag queens and make every character straight. They win six Tonys and declare their product's message is it's okay to be who you are.
CBS didn't show Larry Kramer's full acceptance speech for his Stevenson humanitarian award. They did flash a split-screen snipet in which he said the words "gay activist."
Obvs, the big winner was NPH.
Nominated for multiple Lammys, the Wilde Stories series continues with its fifth edition, Wilde Stories 2013: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction [Kindle], featuring these twelve writers: Laird Barron, Hal Duncan, L Lark, K. M. Ferebee, Alex Jeffers, Richard Bowes, Vincent Kovar, John Langan, Steve Vernon, Rahul Kanakia, Ray Cluley, and Chaz Brenchley.
Lethe Press says the collection covers "adolescents suffering growing pains in the midst of lake monsters, boyfriends seeking safe pest-free shelter in an infested dystopian world, the most unique story of a boy and his dog ever written, and pirates encountering a living island."
PW's review of this year's collection said, "With many genres, tones, and styles represented, there's a little something for everyone."
Among the 32 people Kergan Edwards-Stout asked to reflect on aids 32 years later are several authors: Frank Bruni, Trebor Healey, Patricia Nell Warren, Greg Louganis, Michael Musto, Richard Kramer, and MIchael Nava, whose memory from 1984 features a woman baffled by the idea of an angry protest against the diet candy Ayds.
"Frank Bruni: I'm 48, have been "out" since the age of 18 and had many acquaintances and friends who, in the mid 1980s and late 1980s and even early 1990s, got sick and died. Only a few were close friends, and it saddens and horrifies me that they're no longer here. But what really saddens and horrifies me isn't personal loss; it's our country's loss, our world's loss. So much talent, so much verve, so much humor, so much mischief, so much generosity, all gone. For me the legacy of AIDS -- which, I hasten to point out, is still with us, not to be overlooked or belittled -- is an awareness of how unpredictably and mercilessly the future can disappear, how randomly disease can strike and also how dangerous and shortsighted it is for people themselves, and for society in general, not to confront public health threats immediately, vigorously, honestly and without denial or prejudice. The sadness that sticks with me is less about the friends gone than about the revelation of human and societal shortcomings."
Read all 32 in a Huffington Post slideshow.
The zenith of sophistication, Cole Porter wrote the wittiest, worldliest love songs ever recorded and a good part of his genius emanated from his experience as a gay man. Born to a rich family in Indiana, a graduate of an East Coast prep school and Yale, married to a famed, older socialite for thirty-four years, Porter was utterly at ease in the highest society, yet his constant sexual relationships with men allowed him permanent outsider status. His art depended on his double life. Unable to express gay love openly, his lyrics are far more original and memorable for their necessary codes and double entendres. If you still don't understand You're the Top with its refrain "But if, Baby, I'm the bottom, you're the top," please see me after class. Porter is peerless at hiding in plain sight, subverting the scandalous into showstopping "innocent" fun, as in Let's Do It (1928), You Do Something To Me (1929), Love for Sale (1930), All Through the Night (1934), Anything Goes (1934), I've Got You Under My Skin (1936), Let's Misbehave (1937), My Heart Belongs to Daddy (1938), I've Got My Eyes on You (1939) Well Did You Evah! (1939) Let's Be Buddies (1940) You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To (1942), Something for the Boys (1943), He's a Right Guy (1943), I'm In Love With a Solider Boy (1943), Too Darn Hot (1948), All of You (1954) Mind If I Make Love To You? (1955) and You're Just Too, Too (1956), among countless others.
Openly closeted, Porter enjoyed affairs with Ballets Russes librettist Boris Kochno, Boston hotshot Howard Sturges, architect Ed Tauch, actor Robert Bray, choreographer Nelson Barclift, and director John Wilson, as well as innumerable shorter interludes with servicemen and chorus boys at weekend all-male parties. Remarkably, he kept his spirits up (ditto his libido) despite a crippling leg injury from a 1937 riding fall which necessitated thirty-four operations over the rest of his life and ended in amputation. When he died in 1964, Porter left half his royalties to the children of his longtime friend and ex-lover Ray Kelly. He was decidedly de-gayed in the Kevin Kline movie De-Lovely, but not in William McBrien's "complex and groundbreaking" biography, whose "most startling scholarship is on the subject of Porter's homosexuality."
Sandy Leonard offered this illuminating comment: "I wonder if 'Love for Sale' informed in any way his later masochistic attraction and ongoing (if not "constant") sexual relationship with actor, husband (Shirley Jones) and father (David, Shaun, et al.), Jack Cassidy. Capote's got a story about this in his Gerald Clarke biography."
Lucky you, having endured each October 7 this blog's slapdash note on the forgotten post-WWII bestselling gay author John Horne Burns who died at 36, now you get a proper biography that's also proudly queer: Vanity Fair contributing editor David Margolick's Dreadful: The Short Life and Gay Times of John Horne Burns [Kindle]. Released this week from Other Press, the book has been widely blurbed by Jonathan Galassi, Ed White, Michael Bronski, John Loughery, Chris Bram, and Louis Begley. They swath the book in the same high praise -- fascinating, poignant, powerful, brilliant, extraordinary, engrossing, and beautifully written -- but what's also intriguing is these six trusted authors can't quite agree on his gay life and his downfall.
Was he ruined "by liquor and relentless social pressures arrayed against gay men at mid-century" or was he flatly "a self-hating gay novelist who drank himself to death" or is more that "Burns' story is not so much about homophobia as it is about what it means to be an American artist and intellectual in the years after World War II," regardless of orientation, a "heroically difficult character on a collision course with an indifferent world," the "tragedy of the uncompromising loner"? Or the triple combination: "destroyed by alcohol, homophobia, and his own crazy, vindictive pride."
NYRB Classics rereleased Burns' novel The Gallery which draws on his experiences in Italy during the war, including frank despictions of gay couplings, and sold 500,000 copies in 1947. Dos Passos called it the best book to have come out of WWII.
Alysia Abbott's mother liked it that her husband was bi and sometimes picked out guys for him. She also had extra flings, but she died when Alysia was two; suddenly Steve, enjoying the golden age of gay sex in San Francisco, had to raise a daughter on his own. He got aids and died before she turned 22 in 1992. Their twenty years together are the subject of her brand new memoir Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father [Kindle].
Earlier this week Alysia got the whole hour on Fresh Air.
Edmund White: “A vivid, sensitively written account of a complex but always loving relationship. This is not only a painfully honest autobiography but also a tribute to old-fashioned bohemian values in a world that is increasingly conformist and materialistic. I couldn't put it down!”
Alison Bechdel: “Generous, precise, and deeply moving, Fairyland is a love story that not only brings a new generational perspective to a history we’re in danger of forgetting, but irrevocably shifts the way we think about family itself.”
Dani Shapiro: “At once a father-daughter love story, a testament to survival, a meditation on profound loss, and a searing chronicle of a complex coming of age, Fairyland is a beautiful, haunting book that instructs, even as it breaks our hearts.”
Honor Moore: “In Alysia Abbott’s gorgeous account of her 1980s San Francisco childhood, a whimsical gay poet becomes an intelligent father, his motherless daughter a forceful and articulate young woman, and a rich, dizzy fairyland is shuttered by a plague. As a chronicle of the moment when the San Francisco of Armistad Maupin became the city of Harvey Milk, when gay and experimental poetry flourished in California, Fairyland is vivid and indelible. As the portrait of a conspiracy of love between a father and a daughter, it is heartrending, a brilliant addition to the literature of American memoir.”