In honor of the great internationalist Sandy Leonard, a reminder to get Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk's newly translated second novel Silent House and his nonfiction wonder The Innocence of Objects, which Pamuk signed for Sandy in November when I snapped this photo. (By magic, Sandy got a tour of the museum in Istanbul months before it opened.) I highly recommend Sandy's daily travel photo site and Pamuk's lectures on literature collected in The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist.
After studying art history at the University of Heidelberg and flying as a combat pilot in WWI, F.W. Murnau directed his first film The Boy in Blue in 1919 when he was thirty-one. Before his death in a car crash at forty-two, he became one of cinema's early giants -- (said to be 6'9" tall) -- with a prodigious output in Germany, most famous of which is Nosferatu from 1922. After four years and many more successes (The Last Laugh, Faust) Murnau moved to Hollywood and made what many critics consider one of the greatest films ever, Sunrise, which shared the top prize at the first Oscar ceremony. Sunrise is #82 on the AFI 100 Greatest Films list but in 2002 the British Film Institute ranked it #7 of all time. He made two more movies -- Four Devils (lost) and Our Daily Bread (released as City Girl) -- before his final picture, Tabu, a loincloth romance shot in Tahiti that won a cinematography Oscar for Floyd Crosby (father of David Crosby who is biologically the father of Melissa Etheridge's children). He died a week before Tabu's premiere. Because humans are easily titillated, and because some are snickering homophobes, the baseless rumor persists that Murnau's fatal car crash was the result of his performing oral sex on his chauffeur.
Born in central Argentina in 1932, Manuel Puig first wanted to be an architect then became a film archivist with hopes of becoming a screenwriter. His love of movies infuses his first novel, Betrayed by Rita Hayworth, published when he was thirty-six. Praised in Latin America as that work was, his international reputation rests on his fourth novel, published in 1976, about a gay man and a political prisoner sharing a cell: Kiss of the Spider Woman [Kindle] also became an Oscar-winning film in 1985 and a Tony-winning Broadway musical in 1993. The buoyancy of his early books, mixing high literary art with the low-brow style of telenovas, gave way to a bitterness in later books that reduced their popularity. A leftist exile in Mexico City for decades, he died there at fifty-seven suffering a heart attack after gall bladder surgery.
Who brings the funk, da noise, and the klezmer? That's right, the super original Jewish Canadian rapper Josh Dolgin aka Socalled. If you think Ukrainian music from the 1930s won't mesh with drum n bass, you haven't heard his Ghettoblaster. His trippy "You Are Never Alone" video became a YouTube sensation with 2.5 million views, and last year he was the subject of a feature documentary by Garry Beitel. In a world of timid, homogenized, market-driven art, Socalled is a standout. Which doesn't mean everything he tries works, but when he hits, he's genius. I met him and loved him after the NYC screening of the documentary. Not to brag, but after talking a while I did the very best thing one man can do for another... insisted he read Tatyana Tolstaya. Next month he rocks Banff, Calgary, and Edmonton.
Remember last July 4 when 25 year-old New Orleans R&B hip-hop singer Frank Ocean came out -- via tumblr, of course -- and you said, Who? Understandable, because his debut album Channel Orange didn't come out until a week later. Last month it was voted Album of the Year at the Soul Train Awards, and by the music critics at USA Today, and now the album has topped the UK's 12th annual Poll of Polls (Jack White was second, Tame Impala third). Earlier this month Ocean was named MTV's Man of the Year. Channel Orange is nominated for six Grammys, including Album of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Urban Contemporary, and Record of the Year for this gay song, "Thinking About You."
Thomas Gray was the only surviving child of eight born to his parents and when he was nine, in 1725, they sent him to Eton. There, he was literary and lonely, until he formed the Quadruple Alliance with three other bookish boys who avoided athletics: Thomas Ashton, Richard West, and Horace Walpole, son of the Prime Minister. Later, he and Walpole toured Europe together and after West's early death Gray wrote one of his most famous sonnets to memorialize him. A perfectionist who was tremendously insecure about his work, Gray published only thirteen of his poems during his lifetime, yet he was widely revered and was offered the position of Poet Laureate, which he declined. His Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard gave rise the entire churchyard school of poets and added to the language these phrases: kindred spirit, the paths of glory, celestial fire, and far from the madding crowd. Another ode originates the line, "where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." A professor at Cambridge, he fell in love with one of his students, Charles-Victor de Bonstettin from Switzerland, who rejected him and returned home. All of Gray's ardor is said to have gone into his work. His entire collected poems run fewer than one thousand lines.
For people who think of David Sedaris as an author, the ticket prices for his readings may seem a tad high, though he could effortlessly spin a droll anecdote about avarice... featuring his signature wry observations about expat life in England or France, and memories of his much-milked zany childhood in Raleigh, with nods to his sister/collaborator Amy or his longtime partner Hugh Hamrick. But perhaps if you think of David primarily as a performer who writes, like Steve Martin, and remember that his shows often include musicians, it's easier to swallow the $85 (Los Angeles), $79 (Tacoma), or $60 (Boston). Next month he has seven consecutive sold-out nights in Denver, again proving his cult-like fan base will pay anything to be near him. Obviously, it's not enough to read his books (roughly 10 million copies sold), hear him on the radio, and see him on Craig Ferguson. His next #1 bestseller will be released on Shakespeare's and Cervantes' birthday, typically titled Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls.
Hairsplitters may say it's comparing apples and Charles Darnay, but draw your own conclusions from these two recent high-profile crowd-funding efforts for gay projects. One was local, physical, retail, books; the other, a global digital online game.
BGSQD, the emerging NYC queer bookstore temporarily housed at the Strange Loop Gallery (open today until 4:00pm!) and hoping to establish its own permanent space, sought $15,000 on Lucky Ant. The effort ended last week, at less than 32% of its goal, or $4,795. Because the project failed, its supporters will not be charged for their pledges and the store receives no money.
Coming Out on Top, a sweet video game in which you are a college boy who comes out and must navigate any number of sticky situations, "could be called a dating sim, a visual novel, or an interactive story," according to its creator. (Although the faces here are white, the game has characters who are Asian, black, or Latino. And although the demo is PG-13, the actual game has enough erotic situations to make it 18+) With 27 days still to go on Kickstarter, it has already achieved 433% of its original goal, or $21,120. So far, the game has attracted 893 supporters, including 534 people who gave $10 each and one donor who gave $1,500+.
Queer national treasure Kevin Killian is 60. A native of New York, a survivor of Catholic schooling, he moved to San Francisco in 1980 and by the end of that decade published two novels Shy (readers of which, said PW, "will be richly compensated by its intellectually stimulating and emotionally gripping prose") and Bedrooms Have Windows. Seven years later he released his debut collection of stories, Little Men, and the following year came his third novel, Arctic Summer. His second collection, I Cry Like a Baby, appeared in 2001. His third collection, the brilliant Impossible Princess, won a Lammy in 2010, the same year he published his fourth novel, Spread Eagle. He shared an American Book Award for co-editing My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer. A co-founder of the Poets Theater, he is said to have written more than 30 plays. Queering matrimony, he is married to lesbian Dodie Bellamy.
In 2003, when Halle Berry had her Oscar moment for Monster's Ball, as the first black Best Actress, it was also the first time an Academy Award-winning film was solely produced by a black person: Lee Daniels, 43. He followed it in 2004 with the triple-Independent Spirit Award nominated, Kevin Bacon child molester movie The Woodsman. In 2005 he produced and acted in his directoral debut, Shadowboxer, starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Helen Mirren, Macy Gray, and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt. Then came Precious. Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, it won two, supporting actress and adapted screenplay. It was nominated for five major Independent Spirit Awards and won all five. It won awards from the Golden Globes, BAFTA, and the NAACP, among many others. Daniels' followup, this year's pulpy, violent, Zac Efron starrer The Paperboy, was largely panned, though it was selected for Cannes and Nicole Kidman's performance is nominated for SAG and Golden Globe awards. Brace yourself for next year when he releases The Butler, in which Forest Whitaker is a real-life White House servant whose career spanned six First Families: the Eisenhowers (Robin Williams, Melissa Leo), the Kennedys (James Marsden, Minka Kelly), the Johnsons (Liev Schreiber), the Nixons (John Cusack), the Carters, and the Reagans (Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda). Amping the star power, the film also has roles for Vanessa Redgrave, Alex Pettyfer, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, and Oprah.
Daniels was partners with longtime casting director Billy Hopkins and together they adopted and raised Daniels' niece and nephew. Since their breakup Daniels has been with Andy Sforzini (in purple), still raising their children.
In the storied tradition of gay travelers' romantic adventures and cross-cultural relationships, comes Pierre Fréha's novel French Sahib. His publisher writes,
"What happens when a Frenchman falls in love with a young Indian guy? Set in India with a French protagonist, and written by a Frenchman, French Sahib is a French-Indian love story revealing the taboos of Indian society and the hypocrisies of French milieu. On his arrival in India Philippe is confronted with the traditional Indian values which are very unlikely from the country he hails from. When young Dipu wants to marry Philippe it is the stereotyped social values that become the stumbling block in their romance. How can they confront the unbridgeable gulf between the traditional East and the modern West? In French Sahib Pierre Fréha tells that amusing tale of identity, individuality, love and universal human need for connection and belonging."
Fréha, born in colonial Algeria, is a freelance writer based in Paris.
SIlver-tongued sourpuss Rupert Everett can't abide gay marriage, can't stand gay parenting, can't believe he's not a movie star, and can't forgive the Tonys for ignoring his performance in Blithe Spirit, but he can write. Exceedingly well. I liked his novels Hello Darling, Are You Working? and The Hairdressers of St.Tropez.
The Independent named his brand new Vanished Years [Kindle] one of the best memoirs of 2012: "Rupert Everett surprised us with his ability to string beautiful sentences together in the first volume of his autobiography. Vanished Years, his second, can be defined simultaneously as a celebrity memoir and a meta-memoir on the transient – and silly - nature of celebrity. Almost every sentence is worth savouring with one great anecdote after another. In one near-miss with reality TV, Everett accidentally signs up for The Apprentice without knowing of the much-feared Sir Alan Sugar... 'Imagine my surprise when I saw Sid James sitting on one side of a large table'. A no-holds-barred memoir with everything a fan of the genre could wish for: humour, honesty, self-deprecation, sharp observation and his friend, Madonna."
The next time you discuss outing and public figures and privacy, you might bear in mind that in 1926, the New York Times ran a front page story calling de Wolfe's wedding "a great surprise" because "she makes her home with Elisabeth Marbury at 13 Sutton Place." Not that everything can be explained by early experiences, but the woman who spent her life making things beautiful grew up listening to her mother tell her she was ugly. When she was seventy, Parisian fashionistas named her the best dressed woman in the world. She is immortalized in song lyrics by Irving Berlin and by Cole Porter:
When you hear that Lady Mendl, standing up,
Now turns a handspring, landing up-on her toes
Still wondering what gift to take to your Winter Solstice/End of the World party on Friday? Make it Carol Anshaw's novel Carry the One [Kindle]. As we approach the darkest day, let's speak frankly. Sometimes men and straight women skip over books by lesbians. Don't. Michio Kakutani and gay gods love Carry the One. Did you notice 75% of its boosters on Thebes' survey are male?
Because I cruelly, unfairly limit writers to 100 words of praise for their choices, I don't think anyone had space to convey the special power of this novel, which is its effortless, exacting depiction of the passage of time. In just 288 pages, Anshaw captures the ebb and flow of family life, relationships, and artistic careers over 25 years. What more do you need about the current state of masculinity than to watch an adorable boy who insists on wearing capes everywhere morph into a sullen teenager who spends all his free time working out and all his spare cash buying weight-gain protein supplements?
Ultimately, with the lightest touch, the novel is about what happened to America from the 80s to 2008. Are you sure you can stand to miss out on a book that does this?
Get Anshaw's three earlier novels Lucky in the Corner [Kindle], Seven Moves [Kindle], and Aquamarine. Her great story The Last Speaker of the Language is the opening piece in this year's The Best American Short Stories 2012 selected by Tom Perrotta.
“The night had been long and arduous. And pointless. She had not moved Jeff to think in a larger way about the world. She only pissed him off and put some final punctuation on an already run-on friendship. She was losing her belief in the possibility of changing people. It wasn’t so much that they were in opposition to her, or that they held their own beliefs so strongly. Rather, they appeared to have lost interest in belief itself, as though belief were tennis, or French films. And this was so discouraging Carmen had to put a lid over the abyss or risk falling in.”
Cyril Collard [above, right] adapted, directed, and starred in the vividly bisexual film Les Nuits Fauve (Savage Nights), based on his second novel. The autobiographical story examines the life of a thirtyish aspiring director, Jean, engaged in simultaneous affairs with an 18-year-old French girl and a young, "straight" Spanish rugby player, Samy, who develops a taste for S&M and moves in with him, while Jean still (compulsively?) enjoys frequent, rough anonymous hookups, all of which is further complicated by his being HIV+. Heralding the start of a dazzling career, the movie won four Cesar Awards in 1993, including Best Film, but Collard did not attend. Three days earlier he died of aids at 35.
Flashback to 1949: South Pacific opened on Broadway, James Gould Cozzens won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, All the King's Men won the Oscar for Best Picture, and in France, Jean Genet received his tenth criminal conviction, which meant he would be sent to prison for life. In the preceding seven years he had published his five groundbreaking novels -- Our Lady of the Flowers, Miracle of the Rose, Funeral Rites, Querelle, The Thief's Journal -- as well as three plays and dozens of poems, all of which were greatly esteemed by his European contemporaries despite his focus on petty thieves and his inclusion of gay sex. As news of his dire situation spread, rather than ostracizing Genet, the leading intellectuals rallied to his defense, and with a public push from Cocteau, Sartre, and Picasso, among others, Genet was pardoned by the French president. It is safe to say Harry Truman would not have done the same because at that point Genet's fiction was still banned in the United States. Genet never returned to prison after that, nor did he ever publish another novel, although he continued to write plays, poems, and a memoir, Un Captif Amoureux, published in 1986, the year after he died of throat cancer. For the full story, read Edmund White's definitive Genet: A Biography.
Yesterday Towleroad compiled "The 50 Most Powerful Coming Outs of 2012," including many long-postponed announcements from Anderson Cooper, Kristy McNichol, Sally Ride, Mika, Sam Champion, Jim Parsons, and the director of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. You might toggle between enjoying the diversity and questioning the veracity: Nate Silver and Andrew Rannells are two of several listees who were already out; aging opportunist Gillian Anderson isn't queer. I was happy about Omar Sharif Jr., Matt Bomer, Ezra Miller, Wade Davis, Orlando Cruz, and Shaun T [in white trunks, with his husband Scott Blokker in blue].
Many folks were wowed by Lana Wachowski's October speech, which I never posted, so here goes.
Ultimately, even with their delay, the Green Carnation Prize judges couldn't agree on a single winner, so the 2012 award is a tie between veteran Patrick Gale's A Perfectly Good Man and newcomer Andre Carl van der Merwe's Moffie [Kindle].
Gale's sixteenth novel looks at the life of an Anglican priest in Cornwall who apparently assists in the suicide of a paralysed former rugby player.
Van der Merwe's debut novel is about a sensitive, gay nineteen year-old conscripted into the Angola Bush War.
The shortlist was:
Previous winners are Catherine Hall's The Proof of Love last year and Christopher Fowler's Paperboy in 2010.
Paul Cadmus was part of Hide/Seek with his epic "What I Believe," [above] titled after E.M. Forster's 1938 essay, available in his thumping Two Cheers For Democracy. Cadmus's 1947 heavy-handed painting depicts happy gay life on the left and miserable heteros on the right. (So yet again, let's eradicate the falsehood that there was no gay identity before Stonewall.) On the bright gay side, lush fecund green grass supports loving couples and great artists like Forster and Kirstein. On the dark straight side, there is no grass at all, only bleakness, horror, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and, terribly, miscegenation. It's from the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas.
Although the controversy over his 1934 WPA painting The Fleet's In! was sparked by homophobia and led Henry Latrobe Roosevelt to remove it from the Corcoran show, Cadmus was always aware that the outcry helped establish him. For the rest of his life, he said he was grateful for it. By 1937 his paintings at the Midtown Galleries in New York attracted more than 7,000 visitors. He had grown up in Manhattan and was fascinated by sailors, frequently hanging out at the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Riverside Park, where he was often propositioned by navy men on leave but was too shy to go with them, preferring instead to sit on the benches with them and talk. By his twenties, he was over his shyness and traveled through Europe for three years with his lover Jared French, who urged him to quit advertising and paint fulltime. Back in New York, they formed a circle of prominent gay artists including George Platt Lynes, who used Cadmus as a model, and Lincoln Kirstein, who married his sister, Fidelma Cadmus, and fifty years later wrote the catalog as Cadmus was being rediscovered. He enjoyed more than a decade of increasing interest in his work before he died, eleven days after 300 friends had gathered to celebrate his 95th birthday. He was survived by Jon Anderson, his partner of more than thirty-five years.
Finally getting the international recognition he deserves after winning an RFK Human Rights award last fall, Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha is profiled in the current double issue of The New Yorker. It's another chapter in staff writer Alexis Okeowo's forthcoming book about LGBT Africa. Two weeks ago she compiled a brief list of the 8 Most Fascinating Africans of 2012, mandatory reading for anyone stuck in an all-US/Europe news cycle. Meet Malawi's lady president, Nigerian pop star twin brothers, Cameroon's gay rights lawyer Alice Nkom, and a 19 year-old college girl who, between classes, is a member of Parliament.
Abstract says: "LETTER FROM UGANDA about activist Frank Mugisha. On a breezy October night two years ago, Frank Mugisha was having a beer with friends in Kampala when he was shown a local tabloid called Rolling Stone, which had outed him and ninety-nine other gay Ugandans. The next morning, Mugisha—who leads Sexual Minorities Uganda, orSMUG, the country’s largest gay-rights organization—scanned the article and e-mailed it to other gay-rights activists and lawyers. The fallout had been immediate. David Kato, at that time Uganda’s best-known gay activist, began receiving threats, and was murdered three months later. In 2009, a year before the article was published, David Bahati, a Ugandan politician, had introduced an anti-homosexuality bill to parliament. When the Rolling Stone article came out, LGBT activists, feeling under attack from the bill, which had not yet been put to a vote, decided to sue the paper for defamation and inciting violence. SMUG led the initiative. In the past two years, SMUG has documented more than fifty cases of discrimination, harassment, and violence against LGBTs in Uganda. In May, gay-activist groups, under SMUG’s leadership, opened the country’s first LGBT health clinic. Ugandans have traditionally been indifferent to homosexuality, as long as it stays in the closet. International disapproval of the Bahati bill has allowed Mugisha and his fellow-activists to strengthen the Ugandan gay-rights movement. The efforts of anti-gay advocates like Bahati are partly informed by outside forces—in particular, by American evangelical missionaries."
Although many of his sophisticated, camp comedies play peekaboo with the closet, especially the threesome in Design for Living (1932) and less popular later works like Song at Twilight (1966), the urbane Coward never actually came out. A friend of King George, Coward traveled widely to perform for WWII troops and secretly worked as a spy, hiding behind his high life persona. The press attacked him for his excesses during wartime. The king suggested a knighthood, but Churchill disliked his "flamboyance" and blocked it. After the war, Coward fell in love with the actor Graham Payn and they stayed together nearly thirty years. In 1956 they became tax exiles, landing first in Bermuda then in Jamaica where they were neighbors to the constantly bickering Mr. & Mrs. Ian Fleming. Coward enjoyed a revival in the 1960s and finally was knighted in 1970. He died in Jamaica in 1973, still with Payn. You can read his biography or go right to his diaries, letters, plays, or the The Noël Coward Reader.Born in Kobe in 1974, Kanako Otsuji was a junior karate champion in Asia, opting to attend university in Korea to study tae kwon do. Although she failed to make the Japanese olympic team in 2000, three years later she became one of only seven women -- and the youngest person ever -- elected to the 110-member Osaka Assembly. She came out the day before Tokyo Pride in 2005 by publishing her memoir. That same year she succeeded in changing the law that previously allowed only married couples to rent public housing in Osaka; now lgbt couples can too. In April 2007 she did not stand for re-election and two months later she married her partner Maki Kamura in an outdoor, public ceremony, although Japan does not recognize same-sex marriage. (Adorable wedding photos here and here.) In 2009, filmmaker Naomi Hiltz premiered her documentary about Otsuji at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
Oh, THANK GOD. The colors! The costumes. Those faces. Watch 45 seconds of Almodóvar's overdue return to funny, I'm So Excited, coming in 2013. Naturally, the bright comedy springs from dire circumstances as airline passengers and crew on a troubled flight from Spain to to Mexico City share candid confessions – and musical interludes –to ward off fears of imminent death.
For the obligatory real-life WTF moment, Almodóvar says he tried and failed to get the rights to The Silence of the Lambs, The Hours, The Human Stain, The Reader, and The Paperboy, for his English language debut. Aren't you glad he didn't? Look at Wong Kar-wai.