"The man who ushered in the Internet age still does not use a computer, much less a BlackBerry, but keeps up with blogs and sites like The Huffington Post through clips printed out by aides." Which president is so described in today's dawdling NYT profile? Bill Clinton.
He was our most American poet and his vision of the nation, of democracy, and of humankind was inextricable from his physical love of men. All you need are the complete poems and Gary Schmidgall's MLA Prize winning biography, Walt Whitman: A Gay Life. Ignore the generations of scholars who have tried to degay him, the contemporary critics who claim his homosexuality is "irrelevant," and his own late life prevarications about his having had a wife and children.
For You, O Democracy
Come, I will make
the continent indissoluble,
I will make the most splendid race the sun ever shone upon,
I will make divine magnetic lands,
With the love of comrades,
With the life-long love of comrades.
I will plant companionship
thick as trees along all the rivers of America,
and along the shores of the great lakes, and all over the prairies,
I will make inseparable cities with their arms about each other's necks,
By the love of comrades,
By the manly love of comrades.
For you these from me, O
Democracy, to serve you ma femme!
For you, for you I am trilling these songs.
Tied with the Japanese film Still Walking as the best I've seen so far in 2009. All the expected Pixar traits are in full play in Up -- gorgeous visuals, fanciful yet character-driven story, grownup humor, smart movie allusions, exquisite music -- but who would have predicted a third of yesterday's audience to be in tears within fifteen minutes? Up is as much about regret and loss as it is about plucky adventure and new opportunity. I thought there was real poetry in the image of an old man dragging a floating house (tethered by its garden hose) which becomes less a rescued, cherished repository of happy memories and more of a burden, preventing him from moving on. Afterward, someone at Don Weise's party for Alyson Books told me the almost universally acclaimed film was savaged by a critic who found it sentimental. But in a time when most children's movies end with multiple, public, over-the-top triumphs, usually with large crowds cheering them, I appreciated Up's simplicity: The crowning glory that all the action leads to here is two people sitting on a curb enjoying ice cream cones.
Pixar's inexplicable avoidance of women continues. The backstory has one female but the "now" of the movie is another all-guy world. Even the entire pack of dogs is male. The problem is so pronounced in Up that the boy has no one to pin his merit badge on his sash while his mother (never seen before) sits in the audience; then she's excluded from the ice cream outing. Next year is Toy Story 3, followed by Cars 2 the following June. Christmas 2011 marks Pixar's first movie with a female lead, The Bear and the Bow.
Before 2001, the largest city to elect a gay mayor was Winnipeg. Then,
in the spring of that year, came Paris, Berlin, and Hamburg. Tunisian-born French Socialist Bertrand Delanoë had come out in 1998, in a televised
interview when a journalist asked if he was gay. As a member of the
Paris city council and a member of Senate, he had always supported glbt
rights, and had often marched in Paris’s pride parade. As mayor, he has
been a great inventor in ways to improve the quality of free, public,
communal life in the city, which he does not want to become a museum.
In 2002 he began the hugely popular Paris Plage, turning two miles along the Seine into a beach. That same year he also initiated La Nuit Blanche,
slang for sleeplees night, a sundown-to-sunrise festival of the arts in
museums and public spaces throughout the city. About 2:30 AM, as he was
greeting people in the crowded Hotel de Ville, he was stabbed by Azedine Berkane. Delanoë insisted the events should
continue, though his wound was more serious than initially reported and
he was hospitalized for two weeks. Berkane’s act was not
premeditated—Delanoë had not been scheduled to be at Hotel de Ville—but
when he found himself with his five-inch knife close to the mayor,
Berkane felt it his duty as “the weapon-bearing arm of the Koran” to
stab Delanoë because “the Koran advocates the execution of
homosexuals.” Berkane was sentenced to a psychiatric hospital. In April 2007, doctors suggested he be allowed a three-month trial release. He fled and, despite an all-points bulletin manhunt, is still
at large. Last year Delanoë was re-elected with 58% of the vote. His term goes to 2014, though he is considered a likely candidate for president in 2012. Earlier this year he strongly refuted the pope's statements about condoms being ineffective against hiv. Predicting Nobel Prize honorees is a thankless, largely pointless pastime, yet it's worth noting today that everything the Nobel winners in literature have, Colm Tóibín has too: an impressive body of novels illuminating an overlooked group of people, many books of nonfiction, journalism, history, and travel, a staggering and seemingly effortless range of important critical essays, vision, verve, and gravitas. After being rejected by twenty publishers over two and half years, Tóibín’s debut novel The South was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and won the Irish Times/Aer Lingus prize for first novel. Two years later his second novel, The Heather Blazing, won the Encore Prize. His third novel, the widely-prized The Story of the Night, set in Argentina, is included on Publishing Triangle’s list of the 100 best lesbian & gay novels. The Blackwater Lightship,
his fourth, exploring the fractious family relations as a young man
with aids comes back to die in County Wexford, was shortlisted for the
Booker Prize and was adapted for a tv movie starring Angela Lansbury
and Dianne Wiest. The Master, his revelatory novel about Henry
James, was an international bestseller. It was shortlisted for the
Booker Prize, named one of the New York Times’ ten best books of the year, won the LA Times
Novel of the Year award, and won the International IMPAC Dublin
Literary Award, worth 100,000 Euros. His collection of short stories, Mothers and Sons, appeared to much acclaim in 2007, and, as you have have heard, his subtle and powerful Brooklyn
is currently on the NYT extended list. Three books Tóibín considers major
influences on his work are The Sun Also Rises, Giovanni’s Room, and Go Tell It On the Mountain, and he told B&N his ten favorite novels, not in order, are: Company, Beckett; A Book of Common Prayer, Didion; Doctor Faustus, Mann; Daniel Deronda, Eliot; Age of Iron, Coetzee; Amongst Women, McGahern; The Portrait of a Lady, James; The Trial, Kafka; Things Fall Apart, Achebe; Island, McLeod; and The Enigma of Arrival, Naipaul.
Predicting Nobel Prize honorees is a thankless, largely pointless pastime, yet it's worth noting today that everything the Nobel winners in literature have, Colm Tóibín has too: an impressive body of novels illuminating an overlooked group of people, many books of nonfiction, journalism, history, and travel, a staggering and seemingly effortless range of important critical essays, vision, verve, and gravitas. After being rejected by twenty publishers over two and half years, Tóibín’s debut novel The South was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and won the Irish Times/Aer Lingus prize for first novel. Two years later his second novel, The Heather Blazing, won the Encore Prize. His third novel, the widely-prized The Story of the Night, set in Argentina, is included on Publishing Triangle’s list of the 100 best lesbian & gay novels. The Blackwater Lightship, his fourth, exploring the fractious family relations as a young man with aids comes back to die in County Wexford, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and was adapted for a tv movie starring Angela Lansbury and Dianne Wiest. The Master, his revelatory novel about Henry James, was an international bestseller. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, named one of the New York Times’ ten best books of the year, won the LA Times Novel of the Year award, and won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, worth 100,000 Euros. His collection of short stories, Mothers and Sons, appeared to much acclaim in 2007, and, as you have have heard, his subtle and powerful Brooklyn is currently on the NYT extended list.
Three books Tóibín considers major influences on his work are The Sun Also Rises, Giovanni’s Room, and Go Tell It On the Mountain, and he told B&N his ten favorite novels, not in order, are: Company, Beckett; A Book of Common Prayer, Didion; Doctor Faustus, Mann; Daniel Deronda, Eliot; Age of Iron, Coetzee; Amongst Women, McGahern; The Portrait of a Lady, James; The Trial, Kafka; Things Fall Apart, Achebe; Island, McLeod; and The Enigma of Arrival, Naipaul.
You can fixate on his sexual sadism, mutilation, murder, and cannibalism of nihilistic teenage boys, or you can step back, acknowledge his craft and his sly use of humor, and ask why isn't Dennis Cooper considered the Michael Haneke of American letters? Something to ponder while you read the eighteen stories in his second collection, Ugly Man, released this week.
As required, critics are divided. Kirkus is a solid no: "Some people call Cooper a maverick moralist and an innovative stylist. Well, some people will swallow almost anything." PW is in the middle: "The Anal-Retentive Line Editor proceeds through interstitial edits upon a series of drafts of a piece of gay erotica, forming a running conversation and problematic seduction between author and editor. This is classic Cooper: explicit, unconventional and, to the uninitiated, alarming." Time Out said: "But even in these moments of intense melancholy, Ugly Man has a lightness that Cooper hasn't achieved elsewhere. Though the collection deals with topics that are shocking, even abhorrent, it is certainly this highly talented author's most accessible work to date."
Cooper presented the top two awards last night at the Lammys. He reads from his work in Los Angeles on June 1 (Skylight Books) and 2 (Book Soup), and in Paris on June 6 and 8 (Shakespeare & Co.).
What was it about the gay books of 2008 that the judges of the top lgbt literary awards can't reach any consensus about them in 2009? None of last night's Lambda winners overlapped with any of the winners of the Publishing Triangle Awards; in adult fiction there weren't even any repeats among nominees; and in two of the major categories, the Lambda judges couldn't unite behind a single winner and had to resort to ties. Complete list below.
The high points of last night's overlong ceremony were seeing Judy Grahn accept the lesbian poetry prize, hearing honorees Andrew Holleran, Edmund White, and Felice Picano reminisce about the early days of the Violet Quills, and watching Christopher Rice outshine Dustin Lance Black in hair, haberdashery, and his visionary speech about the demise of gay bookstores, the rise of glitch-prone online behemoths, the endurance of gay books, the responsibilities of gay bookbuyers, and the power of gay authors.
As for upsets, you may have stumbled in your office pool when William Eskridge's Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America 1861-2003 lost to Jane Rule's Loving the Difficult, and Evan Fallenberg's Light Fell lost to Shawn Stewart Ruff's Finlater.
Among the best presenters were Kate Clinton (who said she bought a toaster and was given a free bank), Keith Boykin (who claimed to have been mistaken for RuPaul yesterday afternoon), Jacqueline Woodson, Alice Quinn, Sarah Chinn, Dennis Cooper, Katherine V. Forrest, Michelangelo Signorile, and Edmund White. As a literary nerd who doesn't own a tv, I had difficulty reconciling host Scott Nevins' generic riffs on American Idol, Adam Lambert, Paula Abdul's hair pieces, Hugh Jackman, the Oscars, Angela Bassett, and Fantasia with the year's most prestigious lgbt literary awards. Is it really so hard to find a gay comic / writer who could talk about books? Next year ask Kate Clinton, or David Rakoff, or David Sederis, or Mike Albo, or Bob Smith, or Eddie Sarfaty, whose Mental
drops June 30.
I've haven't read his competition, but if Martin Wilson wins the YA Lambda Literary Award tonight you can celebrate that a moving novel has been justly honored. In a rare case of alternating point of view chapters being equally captivating, What They Always Tell Us toggles between James, a high school senior tennis jock with 1480 SATs, and Alex, his less successful brother one year younger who recently became so despondent at a crowded but unfun party he shut himself alone in the bathroom and drank Pine-Sol. Wilson does a fine job bringing to life this Donaldson family and the town of Tuscaloosa, and he's particularly alive to the nuances of sexual dynamics: Alex with his nascent boyfriend, James withdrawing from his girlfriends, the single mom across the street balancing her male visitors. If the story covering their school year is somewhat familiar, Wilson's depth of insight into all his characters makes it fresh.
Although I don't know the strictures of YA fiction, I suspect a prime law is that young readers like to see themselves. Fair enough. As an adult reader, I wondered if another Southern writer like Eudora Welty might have flipped the story, putting the smooth J. Crew family in the background and focusing more on quirkier Henry, the heartbreaking, dictionary-reading ten year-old son of the single mom, or Alice, the dumped, working class girlfriend who continues to flip James the bird and call him to tell him off even after she's begun dating a "redneck quarterback." But of course I wouldn't want any less of Alex and James; maybe I simply wish it were twice as long. Whichever it is, it attests to Wilson's generosity, that he imbues his secondary characters with as much life as lesser writers save up for their stars, and makes readers yearn for more of them all.
When you think of gay Nobel Prize winning novelists, do you only think of André Gide and Thomas Mann? The Australian writer Patrick White won the award in 1973. White lived with a former Greek soldier his same age, Manoly Lascaris, who was his ballast and partner for forty-eight years. Although he never forgave his parents for shipping him off to a detestable boarding school in England, White inherited their conservatism and did not discuss his sexuality nor did he include openly gay characters in his work until 1979's The Twyborn Affair, which was short-listed for the Booker Prize. After winning the inaugural Miles Franklin Award for his enduring Voss, White declined that award a second time for Riders in the Chariot and refused all other prizes, asking the Booker judges to remove his name from their shortlist to give younger writers a chance. Obviously, he made an exception for the Nobel, but he sent his friend the painter Stanley Nolan to Stockholm to accept the prize on his behalf. White finally came out when he was sixty-nine with the publication of his memoir, Flaws in the Glass. He died at seventy-eight in 1990, and Lascaris survived him by thirteen years.
If you find it hard to believe a novel could have one foot firmly planted in the realistic autobiographical Indian-American tradition and the other foot tapping in the whimsical universe of the great French movie Ma Vie En Rose, chances are you haven't met Rakesh Satyal. He embodies both worlds seamlessly and you can experience the unique hybrid in his first novel, Blue Boy.
Kiran Sharma is a twelve year-old who prefers dancing and playing with his mother's makeup rather than hanging out with other boys at Martin Van Buren Elementary School in Ohio. Realizing he's different from them, he plans to reveal his secret at the talent show: He thinks he's actually the 10th incarnation of Krishnaji. Then his skin turns blue. PW praised the book as "lovely," concluding, "Satyal writes with a graceful ease, finding new humor in common awkward pre-teen moments and giving readers a delightful and lively young protagonist."
Last night at B&N's Lincoln Square, he ended his reading by performing an extended version of the song Kiran sings, Whitney's classic ode to excited uncertainty, How Will I Know? For an encore he sang an especially emotive Mr Cellophane from Chicago. Mr. Satyal was so proud he leapt onto the stage, hugged Rakesh, and pointed emphatically, to make sure the large, adoring, cheering audience knew whose son was dazzling them.
With all the fictive reading and vocal styling, time for questions was brief. Satyal, whose day job is editing for Harper (most recently Vestal McIntyre's Lake Overturn), said he can't find time for a daily thousand words and mainly writes on weekends. Aside from the Alain Berliner film, which he considers "a touchstone," he worships at the shrine of Lorrie Moore, "the funniest writer alive." His longest reply was a discourse on Strawberry Shortcake, explaining, "she's pretty amazing" and how the old school version is far better than the revised character.
If you missed him last night, he performs again tonight at The Slipper Room at 7:00.
One good gay thing happened yesterday: Finally, a year and a half after its British publication, James Davidson's 832 page The Greeks and Greek Love: A Bold New Exploration of the Ancient World was released in America. You'll notice the British subtitle is the clearer, more accurate A Radical Reappraisal of Homosexuality in Ancient Greece, but Random House removed homosexuality, obscuring the subject and confusing potential buyers.
However, Random's flap copy is superior:
I haven't read it yet but am gratified to see the Sacred Band of Thebes is discussed (though Davidson often uses their 80s band name Army of Lovers, grrr). Even Antinous gets a couple shout-outs. The photos (too few) are nicely reproduced.
More importantly, critics like the book. The British press said:
Publishers Weekly loved it:
Last night two or three thousand people marched from Sheridan Square to Union Square to rally for marriage equality in New York and against yesterday's 6-1 California Supreme Court ruling upholding Prop 8. The speeches were okay. Irish lesbian firebrand City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was best, echoing the statement she gave the NYT. Several people condemned the White House's ongoing cowardice on lgbt issues but nothing anyone said came close to the power of Gilbert Baker's new banner. Andy Towle captured it. I'd like to see that slogan and two-faced image reproduced everywhere.
Closeted, self-hating, alcoholic, miserably married, and a frequent liar, John Cheever was the bard of the suburbs and his best writing is beautiful. Not coincidentally his most accomplished novel, Falconer, is the one that deals openly with love between men, and a handful of his stories are even better. He slept with everyone from Walker Evans when he was young to Allan Gurganus when he was old. (Read Cheever's memory of the Evans hookup here.) Blake Bailey's recent biography covers his life in 784 pages.
The curators at Villa Adriana (the gigantic complex of more than thirty buildings on 250 acres Emperor Hadrian built at Tivoli, an hour outside of Rome) have omitted all references to his male lover Antinous. They even fail to identify the Antinoeion [foundation below], the temple Hadrian built after declaring his dead lover a god. Currently it has no sign or marker whatsoever.
Before our trip, while it was all I could do to remember my passport, my bf was trading emails and transatlantic phone calls with staff and archeologists connected to Villa Adriana. After noting Antinous's pronounced absence, he called again and was told a sign for the Antinoein would be up within a year.
To their great credit, the villa's curators have named the arrival forecourt in honor of Marguerite Yourcenar, the writer who was elected the French Academy's first female member 345 years after its inception. Her exquisite fictional recreation, Memoirs of Hadrian, was a work of love, doubly so as her longtime lesbian partner Grace Frick did the English translation. They lived together in Maine for nearly fifty years.
Here are the four essential things you need to know about Alan Hollinghurst, the only openly gay person to win the Booker Prize, who turns fifty-five today:
1. his first novel The Swimming-Pool Library (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award)
2. his second novel The Folding Star (winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize)
3. his third novel The Spell
4. his fourth novel The Line of Beauty (winner of the Man Booker Prize)
Read them all. When he made his debut with The Swimming-Pool Library, Edmund White called it, "the best book on gay life yet written by an English author." Hollinghurst has only gotten better with time, though perhaps you should put The Spell last on your list. He is late with his next novel.
Forgot to mention I'd be away last week. Click each image to enlarge.
2,500 feet above the sea, workmen dangle on the side Erice's Pepoli castle.
A hazy day in Capri is better than a clear day almost anywhere else.
The unfinished 5th century BC temple at Segesta.
An olive grove near Comino.
My bf and I swam in Zingaro Nature Reserve, the first protected land on Sicily as of 1980.
Looking for spices in a smalltown market, we found the Italian sweet tooth.
Looking at the ruins at Selinunte, we found eye candy imported from Germany.
The Rome train station's billboards never, ever disappoint.
Speaking of unrequited glances, how many do you see in this Naples mural? Six?
A reminder from Agrigento that gay love is mutually returned...
...and confirmed in Naples.
A final favorite.
Sing Unhappy Birthday, for the 50th time! The bible of British indie music, NME, called Morrissey's band The Smiths "the most influential artist ever." Can't argue with facts. They released four studio albums and three compilations between 1984 and 1987 and pretty much changed the world with the songs This Charming Man, William It Was Really Nothing, Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, The Boy with the Thorn in His Side, Sheila Take a Bow, Shoplifters of the World Unite, Ask, Panic, Unlovable, Girlfriend in a Coma, Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before, There Is a Light that Never Goes Out and How Soon Is Now? Morrissey has released nine solo albums since then, not all of them as good as the life-changing Viva Hate, Bona Drag, or Vauxhall & I. The most recent, Years of Refusal, earned wild superlatives in March. At his Carnegie Hall gig this spring, he opened with This Charming Man wearing a dinner jacket.
On sale this week, Vanessa and Virginia was reviewed by PW as: "A delectable little book for anyone who ever admired the Bloomsbury group, Sellers's first novel speaks in painter Vanessa Bell's voice as she addresses her sister, Virginia Woolf. The story includes everything one ever imagined that happened in the intimate lives of the sisters and their astounding circle, which burst upon late Victorian England and shattered both the artistic and cultural boundaries of the times. Sellers begins during the girls' childhood with their beloved brother, and as they grow up, she taps into the incest, sexual encounters and homoerotic love with and among the many great minds of the era. The fictional world the author has recreated-of the sisters striving to perfect their respective art forms while trying to keep the reality of children and war and illness at bay-is full of color and intellectual promise and laced with despair and untimely deaths. While the mix of first- and second-person perspectives gets tedious (there are many variations on the theme of "I sensed you watching me"), the narrative's a genuine treat for Bloomsbury fans and those at least vaguely familiar with the milieu."
It wouldn't take Perry Mason to figure out Raymond Burr was "acting" when he invented heterosexual details about his life in order to hide his gay relationships. His alleged first wife, "Annette Sutherland," was supposedly a British actress who died in the plane crash that killed Leslie Howard, but, as you've already guessed, British Equity has no record of an actress with that name and the fatal plane had only three women on it, all of them otherwise accounted for. Later Burr claimed to have had a son who died at ten of an incurable disease, possibly leukemia, and he even said he took a year off to travel the country with him as his dying wish. Yet his publicist at the time said Burr was working steadily that entire year, 1953, and that Burr "never mentioned any wife or son." One marriage, short-lived, can be documented. Happily, Burr did have a very long relationship with fellow actor Robert Benevides. They met on the set of Perry Mason, together bought an island in Fiji where their passion for orchids eventually became a business back in California, sold their Fiji land in 1983, and spent their time on their farm in Sonoma, where they later started a vineyard. Among his many movie roles, his menacing turn as the killer in Rear Window came three years before his beloved television series Perry Mason, which ran for 271 episodes from 1957 to 1966, and remained so popular it was later revived in 26 tv movies. Burr's next series, Ironside, ran for 195 episodes from 1967 to 1975 and it too spawned a tv movie comeback in 1993, the year Burr died of cancer. One of his nieces fought with Benevides over Burr's vast estate, questioning his right to it. They were together thirty-one years.
For all of us who loved Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, here's Ariel Schrag's Likewise.
Kirkus says it's her best: "Third and final volume of the High School Comic Chronicles (Potential, 2008, etc.). The artist's senior year is full of profound changes, and it's no accident that the strip invokes Ulysses, Infinite Jest and The Brothers Karamazov. This installment has an epic scope and scale as it deals with everything transpiring in Schrag's life, mind and art while she prepares for the transition from high school to college. The complications inherent in this rite of passage are compounded by Schrag's unrequited-or less requited than she would like-love for Sally. Now a college student, Sally seems more hetero than bi, while Schrag alternately questions and embraces her own homosexuality. The breakup of her parents' marriage causes strained feelings toward both of them (not helped when Schrag's mother tries to bond with her over marijuana). She's excited when she's accepted at Barnard, but it also adds to her tension; she's having a hard enough time deciding who she is, and now she will have a new stage for self-invention. Schrag's art is strikingly transformed as well. The lettering veers from print to scrawl, and panels change from white to dark to gray, reflecting the emotional turmoil of a cartoonist who finds herself "thinking in double frame," simultaneously engaging with her life and the comic narrative it inspires. There's also a meta-comic dimension here, as the artist confesses to "all the lies" in her previous volumes and confuses dreams and fantasies (many of them masturbatory) with reality. Toward the end, some of her experiences become so fragmentary that chapters are only two panels long. A big leap of artistic ambition and self-discovery; Schrag saved the best for last."