For her 17th novel and 28th book overall, Francine Prose reclaims forgotten historical queer lives in Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 [Kindle]. In an approving review for the NYTBR, Edmund White called it "a novel of great reach and power."
NYT reporter Jo Becker's story of how we got marriage equality -- because of Chad Griffin?? -- has at last united the entire gay community... against it. The gay left consideres the book "bullshit," the gay middle says it's "truly horrendous," and the gay right memorably calls it "a fellatial account" by "an ignorant reporter" "who knows nothing of the movement's history." Confirming just how backward and out of touch the straights are when it comes to representing queer lives, Penguin has bizarrely given this high-profile gay success story a jacket fit for a funereal. Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality [Kindle].
Your wait is almost over. Four years after his oddball memoir Role Models and two years after his goofball journey, six weeks from today FSG will release Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America [Kindle]. Yes, at 66 he really thumbed alone from Baltimore to San Francisco. Fifteen rides with total strangers took him eight days, and he says of his drivers, “Pot smokers, cops, I got everybody. And everybody was lovely.” Last year he explained the new book saying, "The first half is a little novella. I imagine the 15 best rides that could ever happen, and I did the 15 worst rides that could ever happen."
His trashy yet sweet movies are part of the permanent collection at MoMA, but beyond the films John Waters has written four books, published three volumes of photographs, and his artwork has been shown in many museums and galleries internationally. As for the movies, he's made sixteen, with his best work clustered from 1972 to 1988: Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Desperate Living, Polyester and Hairspray starring the incomparable Divine [also pictured] who was his special ally since their shared childhood in Maryland. Johnny Depp fans might insist on including 1990's Cry Baby, but the four movies since then seem like lesser efforts, and, horribly, it's been a full ten years since he's directed anything. His children's Christmas movie starring Johnny Knoxville and Parker Posey, endearingly titled Fruitcake, has been canceled, as has the sequel New Line convinced Waters to write, Hairspray 2: White Lipstick, imagining Tracy in the late 60s during the British Invasion and Vietnam. Today, he's 68.
The Harvey Milk stamp is now available for preorder online here. The statement says, "The U.S. Postal Service® is proud to honor the life of Harvey Milk, a visionary leader who became an iconic figure in the struggle for gay civil rights. In 1977, Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, making him one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States." The stamp will be released on May 22, his 84th birthday.
Finland announced three stamps depicting the art of Touko Laaksonen, Tom of Finland, come September or October. Their statement reads, "His emphatically masculine homoerotic drawings have attained iconic status in their genre and had an influence on, for instance, pop culture and fashion. The drawings on the stamp sheet represent strong and confident male figures typical of their designer." Anyone who just can't wait to lick and stick those should get Tom of Finland XXL or The Complete Kake Comics.
Finland's first new commerative of 2014 showed two photos of favorite novelist Tove Jansson. Read The Summer Book [Kindle] or The True Deceiver [Kindle]. Earlier, her Moomins got a stamp of their own.
Gay wunderkind Xavier Dolan, still only 25, returns to Cannes for the fourth time with his fifth film, Mommy. This is his first to be in the official competition, against new movies by the Dardennes, Cronenberg, Assayas, Egoyan, Loach, Leigh, and Godard. Capote director Bennett Miller returns with Foxcatcher, the creepy gayish true story of John du Pont and his relationship with the Olympic wrestling brothers, one of whom he murdered, played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Last year Cannes screened HBO's Behind the Candelabra, but they skipped this year's HBO tale of tragic gays, The Normal Heart.
Opening Film: Grace Of Monaco, dir: Olivier Dahan
Closing Film: To be announced
Winter Sleep, dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Clouds Of Sils Maria, dir: Olivier Assayas
Saint Laurent, dir: Bertrand Bonello
Maps To The Stars, dir: David Cronenberg
Two Days, One Night, dirs: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
A late bloomer, perhaps, but what a flower -- Mexican singer Chavela Vargas did not release her first album until she was 42, didn't come out as a lesbian until she was 81, and didn't debut at Carnegie Hall until she was 83. What was she doing all those years before recording Noche de Bohemia in 1961? Well, she dressed as a man, often in her signature red jorongo, smoked cigars, drank heavily, and packed a pistol, so obviously she was busy with more than singing rancheras in the streets. And maybe she had an affair Frida Kahlo (as Josephine Baker had). Since that first record, she has released more than eighty albums. Her great fame of the 1960s and 70s subsided when she retired to battle her alcoholism. She returned to performing at 72 in 1991 in Mexico City. Since then her music has been widely used in films and she has appeared singing in several movies including Almodovar's Flower of My Secret, Taymor's Frida, and Innartu's Babel. All I can say is buy her, beware: The first time you hear Chavela unleash her power midway through the quiet Paloma Negra you might drop whatever you're holding. She died in 2012 at 93.
"This amazing book... grips from beginning to end and leaves the reader elated," says Diana Athill of the gay work I've most looked forward to this spring, Damian Barr's memoir Maggie & Me: Coming Out and Coming of Age in 1980s Scotland [Kindle]. Winner of Stonewall's Writer of the Year Award and the humor prize at the Political Book Awards, Barr's book appeared on best of the year lists in the Times, the Sunday Times, the Guardian, the Observer, the Evening Standard, the Mail on Sunday, the New Statesman, the Independent, and multiple times on Band of Thebes queer lit poll, where one of the best-read men in Britain, Gay's the Word manager Jim McSweeney, said it's "engaging... beautifully written... wise, funny and deeply moving."
Maggie O'Farrell: "Out of poverty, brutality and prejudice, Damian Barr builds something riveting, touching and painfully funny. His account of growing up under Thatcher's regime defines the experience of a generation. At once personal and universal, Maggie & Me is a work of stealthy genius."
S.J. Watson: "As gripping as a thriller, laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching... A triumph."
Louisa Young: "Maggie & Me is a perfect chip supper of a memoir: nostalgic, tart, crisp and seductive. It’s also sad, kind, witty and sexy."
Out today from FSG is Lost and Found in Johannesburg [Kindle] (published internationally as Dispatcher) by Mark Gevisser, the award-winning biographer and Teddy-winning filmmaker who is an Open Society Fellow working on The Global Sexuality Frontier. Growing up gay, white, and Jewish during apartheid, Mark kept to himself and was keen on maps, fixated by the mysterious blank areas that separated his family's neighborhood from where their black servants lived. As a double outsider he developed an eye for boundaries, and transgression. His father married the daughter of an anti-Semite, Mark eventually marries his partner, a man of color, and they move to Paris. On a visit back to work on this memoir, he is the victim of a violent home invasion, bound, gagged, and held hostage at gunpoint. Throughout the book, he poignantly confronts the gap between assumptions and reality. Teju Cole: "Outstanding. A genuinely strange, marvelous, and complex account of a self and a city. Does for Johannesburg what Pamuk did for Istanbul." Claire Messud: "Mark Gevisser’s extraordinary memoir asks profound questions – about race, sexuality, faith and politics -- while examining both his own history and that of his beloved Johannesburg. The result is unlike any other book I know. It is illuminating, unsettling, engrossing, often funny, and, in a word, brilliant." Dinaw Mengestu: "A story as complex and beautiful as any memoir I've ever read."
For gay novels from South Africa try:
Michael Power, Shadow Game (banned for its interracial gay love in 1972, reissued)
Damon Galgut, A Sinless Season (1982)
Stephen Gray’s Time of Our Darkness (1988)
Mark Behr’s Embrace (2000)
K Sello Duiker, The Quiet Violence of Dreams (2001)
Michiel Heyns, The Children's Day (2002)
Guy Willoughby, Archangels (2002)
Michiel Heyns, The Reluctant Passenger (2003)
Barry Levy, Burning Bright (2004)
Craig Higginson, The Hill (2005)
Fred Khumalo, Seven Steps to Heaven (2007)
Damon Galgut, In a Strange Room (2010)
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, writer... the world's greatest genius did it all without a university education, denied to him as a lowerclass bastard. At twenty-four he was twice arrested for sodomy, in April and June, after which he became increasingly secretive about his affairs with men, including a young falconer named Bernardo di Simone, according to Michael White. His notebooks cover 5,000 pages and foretell inventions or discoveries to come centuries later: bicycles, calculators, military tanks, helicopters, hang gliders, the double hull, solar power, and plate tectonics. Other drawings are erotica, including an erect angel (qui) based on his tempestuous boyfriend, a hellcat named Salai, to whom he bequeathed the Mona Lisa.
Henry James, four centuries later and 400 times more repressed, wrote some of the world's finest fiction. His gayest works are the novel The Bostonians (excluded from his collected works due to its queerness) and the long short story The Pupil. Undiminished even in the age of txtng, he is the subject of Colm Toibin's IMPAC Dublin winner The Master and the reigning spirit of Alan Hollinghurst's Booker winner The Line of Beauty. Exactly one year ago, the Pulitzer judges named as a finalist Michael Gorra's superb Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece [Kindle], which was also a NBCC nominee and a best book of the year at The New Yorker, WSJ, the Guardian, and The Millions.
You deserve it. Get George Platt Lynes: The Male Nudes (my favorite, after the jump) or see him in front of the camera in When We Were Three: Travel Albums of George Platt Lynes, Monroe Wheeler and Glenway Wescot 1925-1935. He is the basis for the photographer in Donald Windham's novel Tanaquil.
Always a favorite recommender on Thebes queer lit poll, Peter Gadol studied with Seamus Heaney and Helen Vendler at Harvard from which he graduated magna cum laude. Four years later Crown published his first novel, Coyote (1990), followed by The Mystery Roast (1993), Closer to the Sun (1996), a PEN West prize nominee The Long Rain [Kindle] (1997), Light at Dusk (2000), and the Lammy-nominated Silver Lake [Kindle] about two gay architects and their dangerous overnight guest. Fifty today, Peter is working on American Modern, a novel about 20th century design.
Rick Whitaker's audacious new fiction An Honest Ghost [Kindle] is a Publishing Triangle nominee, a Lammy finalist, an ALA Over the Rainbow book, and a TLS book of the year. Previously he wrote a memoir about his experiences as a hustler, Assuming the Position, and a book about reading gay American writing, The First Time I Met Frank O'Hara. I wish he would write about his experiences as an adoptive single dad -- not easy, given his published history as a sex worker -- though of course I respect any privacy decisions in not writing about family.
Fiction: The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
Nonfiction:Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, Dan Fagin
History: The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, Alan Taylor
Biography: Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, Megan Marshall
Poetry:3 Sections, Vijay Seshadri
Drama: The Flick, Annie Baker
Music: Become Ocean, John Luther Adams
Bizarrely, the fiction finalists were not Lahiri, McDermott, Kushner, Ozeki, or any of the other nominees for the National Book Award or the NBCC... they were The Son by Philipp Meyer and The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis. The Reporting prizes and full citations here.
In 1991 John Gielgud became the fourth person in the universe to EGOT, having won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Also the winner of multiple BAFTAs and Golden Globes and a special Olivier Award, Gielgud was and is still considered one of the world's finest actors. A consummate performer of Shakespeare on stage and screen, he was equally at home in historical dramas such as Brideshead Revisited (and Caligula), experimental works such as Beckett's Catastrophe, and contemporary comedies like Arthur. In 1953, he was arrested and convicted of cottaging in Chelsea Mews. Unlike today's finger-wagging moralists (see George Michael's career after his entrapment for cruising, thanks largely to homophobic record execs and radio programmers), the post-War public did not scorn him; rather, at his next appearance on stage he was given a standing ovation. Indeed, that same year he was knighted. Although Gielgud was out and discussed his homosexuality in his autobiography, when he died at ninety-six in 2000, many obituaries degayed his life and omitted his partner of almost four decades, Martin Hensler. When criticized, the Washington Post defended their decision saying he was known for being an actor, not for being gay. Their long tribute included the details that he loved to garden and enjoyed trashy commercial paperback novels. Read his books An Actor and His Time and Backward Glances.
My sister Angela is every kind of awesome, and more. At three, upon hearing she was going to get a baby brother, she urged our parents to name me Julia Child. From that summit of prescience, her insights have grown wiser every day. She and her partner of 22 years met by sitting next to each other at the SF lgbt film fest, Frameline. (See what happens when you support queer film!) They live in Berkeley.
Continually, for centuries, white Westerners have projected their gay fantasies on the Arab, Persian, and Ottoman other. In The Homoerotics of Orientalism [Kindle] USC professor Joseph A. Boone examines books, art, photography, and film to consider why. His second chapter covers "Beautiful Boys, Sodomy, and Hamams," with sections on The Hypervirile Male Other, The Cruel Pasha, and The Dancing Boy. His thousand-year survey of literature spans the Rubbiyat to many favorites like Flaubert, Gide, Maugham, and Lawrence Durrell, to a few non-favorites like Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenings and the stereotypes in al-Aswany. His final chapter looks at movies, gay images in pop culture, and porn. The 500-page book is heavily illustrated throughout with 250 b&w images and 22 color plates.
Boone's previous books include Queer Frontiers: Millennial Geographies, Genders, and Generations and Tradition Counter Tradition: Love and the Form of Fiction.
Shortlisted for both the Booker and the NBCC, Ruth Ozeki wins the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Mystery / Thriller
After the jump, winners in HIstory, Science, Poetry, Graphic Novels, and YA
Frank Murphy was mayor of Detroit (1930-33), governor of Michigan (1937-39), U.S. Attorney General (1939-40), the final Governor-General of the Philippines (1933-35), and a Justice of the Supreme Court (1940-49) appointed by Franklin Roosevelt. Never married, he was romantically involved with Edward G. Kemp, his housemate for most of his adult life. Read more about him in Deb Price and Joyce Murdoch’s excellent book Courting Justice.
Born and raised in Missouri, playwright Lanford Wilson was a founding member of New York's Circle Rep, which first presented many of his dramas. His best-known works include Balm in Gilead, Hot L Baltimore, Fifth of July, Talley’s Folly, and Burn This. Among his many honors are the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Obie Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. In 2004 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He died of pneumonia at 73 in 2011.
Deborah A. Batts grew up in Philadelphia then attended Radcliffe College and Harvard Law School. In 1994 Bill Clinton appointed her to the federal bench, making her the first openly gay federal judge in U.S. history. She is shown above with her portrait, which is the first portrait of a black woman and first of an out person on the walls of Harvard Law School. Now 67, she took senior status two years ago.
A favorite on Thebes' poll in 2012 and again in 2013, and a local bestseller in Los Angeles, Richard Kramer's smart, funny, affecting gay novel These Things Happen [Kindle] gives voice to multiple narrators as fifteen year-old Wesley navigates first love and four parents -- mom, stepdad, dad, and dad's partner George, who to my mind is the book's winningest character. The story's heart and snap is no surprise to followers of Kramer's impressive career in television, writing / directing / producing many series including My So-called Life, Thirtysomething, and Tales of the City. Indeed, this story is ready to become a series for HBO produced by Oprah. Read it now before the show kicks Modern Family asunder.
Someone had an inspired idea to illustrate this New York novel with art by James McMullan (get his brand new Leaving China: An Artist Paints His World War II Childhood) but it's wrong to denude the cover of its many marquee blurbs and reviews. NYT: "Funny and captivating." PW: "Kramer's triumph." Lambda: "Compulsively readable." Julia Glass: "A fresh, brave love story." Michael Cunningham: "Incisive, wise, funny, moving." Cathleen Schine: "Artful, thoughtful, and extremely funny... wonderful." Daniel Mendelsohn: "wise and wide-eyed, sage and sensitive, extremely funny and, in the end, disarmingly touching."
Former enfant terrible Slava Mogutin, 40, still lives to provoke. Born in Siberia (and, according to Wikipedia, “the first openly gay personality in the Russian media”) now a New Yorker (after Amnesty International and American PEN helped get him political asylum), the writer and photographer is permanently at war with the establishment. A constant critic of Moscow’s leaders, Mogutin has written seven books in Russian, winning the Andrei Bely Prize in 2000. He aims for a similar shock value in his hatred of establishment gays, and he loves to antagonize his audience, once describing himself as a "cave-based, homo terrorist, pinko commie fag, and propagandist of brutal violence, psychic pathology and sexual perversions." Happily, he brings all that angry energy to his photography, which appears regularly in art, fashion, alt, and porn magazines. His best photo books are Lost Boys and NYC Go-Go. Last month he released his first book in English, Food Chain.