David Halperin says he wrote his new book How To Be Gay, out this week from Harvard, to "make clear the genuineness of the intellectual stakes in [his] inquiry into gay male culture."
PW: Halperin argues "there’s far more to gay male American identity than a same-sex preference. Halperin interprets gayness through traditional pop culture preoccupations like golden age Hollywood, opera, and Broadway musicals, focusing on Joan Crawford (in particular her role in Mildred Pierce) and Faye Dunaway’s notoriously over-the-top portrayal of the star in Mommie Dearest. Identifying the source of the camp appeal exerted by these ostensibly serious films, Halperin asks why gay men continue to be drawn to coded representations of their experience. He arrives at an apologia for such clichéd signposts of gayness in an era of domestic partnerships and Born This Way. Halperin persuasively defuses charges of misogyny lobbed against gay male culture, but may alienate some by too narrowly defining his vision of what that culture should be. Nonetheless, this book should appeal to specialists and general readers alike with its academically rigorous but accessible argument."
Sarah Schulman says: "Distinguished scholar David Halperin's long-awaited manifesto delivers on its promise. Macho, faggy, queeny, butch diva, opera-swilling, Broadway-loving, gourmet, sex-fascinated, beauty-appreciating, love-desiring, rough trade, high art, race- and class-inflected but not exclusive, generationally situated but not entirely, intellectual, open-hearted, politically minded, leather chaps! Mary!"
Mark Simpson writes: "I've always been a big fan of Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, and Doris Day. Though it was a secret, shameful love. David Halperin's wonderful, wildly ambitious masterpiece has given me the courage to come out about it. And even tell the golden daffodils. As Halperin eloquently explains, desire into identity will not go, even with plenty of poppers and lube. What's more, the dignified, proper, and very particular gay identity really doesn't deserve the giddy, gushing, world-grabbing gay sensibility. And vice versa."