Well played, Karma: The youngest son of the Home Secretary who signed the "gross indecency" arrest warrant against Oscar Wilde grew up to be the gay movie director of The Importance of Being Earnest. After graduating from Oxford, Anthony Asquith went to Hollywood not to struggle but to live in high style as a six-month houseguest of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Later, back in London, he directed his first feature, a romance called Shooting Stars set among actors at a movie studio. That success launched a career spanning forty films, including three Shaw adaptations and ten collaborations with Terence Rattigan, among them French Without Tears, The Winslow Boy, and The Browning Version. Asquith was at ease in many genres -- war movies, comedies, costume dramas, thrillers -- and directed actors as diverse as Leslie Howard, Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, John Mills, Dirk Bogarde, Rex Harrison, and Richard Burton. Closeted but not shrinking, he was widely believed to be the man in the mask at the orgy in the Profumo affair. That person's "theatrical display of masochism" crystallized the public's notion of the Empire in decay and a government run by degenerates... basically, the gross indecency trial of its day. He remained president of the film technicians union from 1937 to his death from cancer in 1968. The British Academy Award for best music is named in his honor.
After much childhood upheaval and fights with a stepfather who hated his constant reading and tried to prevent him from getting a library card, James Schuyler dropped out of Bethany College in West Virginia, joined the Navy, and was kicked out for being gay. He settled in New York with an alcoholic ex-soldier named Bill Aalto. When Schuyler inherited a farm, he and Bill moved to Italy. Their up-and-down relationship lasted five years until Bill attacked him with a carving knife. Back in New York again in 1950, Schuyler suffered his first of several breakdowns and the next year he met Ashbery and O'Hara. He published his first full-length book of poems at 46. After another relapse in 1961, Schuyler began living with Fairfield Porter's family on Long Island and in Maine, a situation that lasted eight years. In addition to more books of poetry he published a strange, funny, domestic novel in 1976 called What's for Dinner? memorable for many aspects, including its sexual relationship between teen brothers. He won the Pulitzer prize for poetry in 1981. He released another major work in 1985 and FSG published his Selected Poems in 1988. He died in 1991. Read his Collected Poems, Uncollected Poems, Selected Letters, Letters to Frank O'Hara, or Diaries.
[Schuyler at 19 in Key West via.]
Born frail but rich in 1883, Charles Demuth was free to follow his aesthetic inclinations, partly shaped by Beardsley and Wilde, without having to please the market to make a living. Attending the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, he lived in the same boarding house with William Carlos Williams, a lifelong friend whose poem "The Great Figure" inspired Demuth's most famous work, The Figure Five in Gold. In 1912 he had his first exhibitions, found another lifelong friend in fellow gay artsit Marsden Hartley, and began dating his most significant partner, Robert Locher. More than a decade before Paul Cadmus, Demuth painted gay men cruising, embracing, and having sex. Two favorite subjects were all-male baths, where patrons enjoyed relaxing, massage, or more [after the jump, in a 1918 self-portrait, see the upper right corner]; and salty sailors galore, dancing (above), with their pants open, with a john, with a woman, or nude with each other. When he died of diabetes at 51, he left his watercolors to Locher and his oils to Georgia O'Keefe.
In American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America, Robert Hughes wrote:
"Demuth was not a flaming queen, in fact he was rather a discreet gay, but if he could not place his deepest sexual predilections in the open, he could still make art from them. Seen from our distance, that of a pornocratic culture so drenched in genital imagery that sly hints about forbidden sex hardly compel attention, the skill with which he did this might seem almost quaint... [he] took a special delight in sowing his work with sexual hints. To create a secret subject matter, to disport oneself with codes, was to enjoy one's distance from (and rise above) "straight" life. The handlebar of a vaudeville trick-rider's bicycle turns into a penis, aimed at his crotch; sailors dance with girls in a cabaret but ogle one another."
For more, read Jonathan Weinberg's Speaking for Vice: Homosexuality in the Art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and the First American Avant-Garde from Yale.
After three seaons with the NY Giants, 6'3" 290 lb. offensive lineman Roy "Sugar Bear" Simmons quit the team in 1982 to concentrate on drinking and smoking crack. He worked as a baggage handler at JFK. Months later he went to rehab, wanted his job back, and was traded to the Redskins where he played special teams to block kickoffs, all the way to the 1984 Super Bowl. Among the twenty family and friends he'd invited to Tampa for that game, each staying separately in the same hotel, were his three lovers: two women and a man. The night before the Super Bowl, Simmons snorted coke and got laid three different times, which is not the reason the Redskins were destroyed by the Raiders (38 - 9) but it is typical of the chaos that got him cut from the team the next year. He moved to San Francisco and disappeared from the extended family he had supported on his player's salary. In 1992, accepting a free trip back east to appear on Donohue, he impulsively came out on national television to the great surprise of former teammates, family, and his female girlfriend on the show with him. Then he really disappeared. He amped up his drug use, his sex addiction, became homeless, and in 1997 discovered he was HIV+. Making that announcement to the NYT six years later on the eve of World Aids Day 2003, he hoped to reach other struggling closeted, self-destructive athletes engaging in high-risk-activities. In 2006, he published a truly unflinching memoir Out of Bounds [Kindle], that begins with him blowing a stranger who introduces him to a friend willing to swap Simmons' clock, jewelry, and table lamps for a few grams of crack. When it's gone, he trades his big-screen TV. As PW said, "Unlike recently celebrated and bestselling rehab memoirs, Simmons's story has no happy ending. Nor is there a happy beginning or happy middle." He says he has low self-esteem and wonders if he became gay because a married neighbor in Georgia raped him when he was eleven. His shocked family learned of the assault and ignored it. Simmons, 57 today, still lives in the Bay area.
It's been fifteen years since The Hours. In 2009, Michael Cunningham told Variety, "While I was writing about Virginia Woolf, my mind was never far removed from the idea of girls in bikinis being hacked up by guys wearing hockey masks, and I vowed that if I ever had a good idea, I would write one of these scary movies." Then he sold a slasher flick called Beautiful Girl to Screen Gems. At the same time, he was finishing a Dusty Springfield biopic for Nicole Kidman but, alas, is not the Dusty Springfield biopic by Ray Connelly that Nick Hurran has just been hired to direct, possibly starring Adele. Michael wrote two screenplays that did get made, his own A Home at the End of the World (2004) and Evening (2007) with Susan Minot, as well as episode eight of Showtime's Masters of Sex to air on November 17. In 2011, he announced he was writing "a movie with Gus Van Sant, a fictionalised documentary set in 1912 Portland, Oregon." In 2012, he said he was adapting Turn of the Screw for a feature film and writing a pilot for HBO about a big queer family with adopted kids. Now, he's adapting Ann Leary's novel The Good House for a film reteaming Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro for the fourth time. Today he's 61.
Following Specimen Days and By Nightfall, next May FSG will release Michael's new novel, The Snow Queen, which is in part about a nonbeliever's unexpected turn to religion. Synopsis -- degayed? not gay? -- after the jump.
At prep school in the 1910's Joe Ackerley was so extremely good looking he was nicknamed Girlie, and decades later he named the love of his life, his Alsatian, Queenie. So why is his classic book called My Dog Tulip [Kindle]? Because the magazine editors who bought first-serial rights worried Queenie would inspire jokes about Ackerley's homosexuality. Other books' revisions went the right way. In 1952 (after his parents' deaths) he rewrote and expanded his 1932 memoir Hindoo Holiday [Kindle] to be more open about his six months as secretary to a gay maharaja in Chhatarpur.
Earlier he had served in two tours of duty in WWI, with two serious injuries, nearly two years as a prisoner of war, and surviving the death of his older brother who had been their father's favorite. Later, he became editor of the BBC magazine The Listener, where he could promote the works of many nascent gay writers including Auden, Isherwood, Larkin, King, and Spender.
More out in his homosexuality than many after him, Ackerley openly pined for a longterm relationship with what he called an Ideal Friend. Failing that, he paid for sexual encounters with young guardsmen, laborers, and sailors. E.M. Forster, who had gotten Acklerley his job in India, told him, "Joe, you must give up looking for gold in coal mines," but it was through one of these rough trade lovers, Freddie Doyle, that Acklerley at 49 inherited Queenie, as Doyle was being sent to prison for burglary. Ackerley tells their story in his only novel, We Think the World of You [Kindle]. The recent animated movie of My Dog Tulip is a quiet charmer, voiced by Christopher Plummer and Lynn Redgrave.A bit of a perfectionist, Ackerley spent 34 years working on his final book about his father [Kindle], who was a closet bigamist (having three children by his other wife) and secretly was a gay hustler during his years in the Guards. When, late in life, Ackerley tried to come out to him, his father interrupted with, “It’s all right, old boy. I prefer not to know. So long as you enjoyed yourself, that’s the main thing.”
In his writing, Ackerley refused to be cut off and insisted on oversharing. For one, his sexual relations -- "fantastically promiscuous," always with himself fully clothed and the young trade fully naked, never ever oral -- were ruined by premature ejaculation. In the New Yorker, Joan Acocella pondered the moral dimensions:
"How do you survive the humiliation of always having your body go against your will? Do you have to succeed at sex in order to feel that you have succeeded in life? And how do you tell your partner, who at that moment is innocently taking off his clothes, that the act for which he is preparing has already been completed?"
More importantly, she realized, "The real fruit of Ackerley’s candor, however, is the power it lent his writing: the richness of characterization, the tartness of metaphor, the protection that honesty gives against sentimentality, or just a stupid simplicity."
Read his biography by Peter Parker which Acocella calls "superb."
137 years old today and she has a new novel out, Amants féminins ou la troisième, about which the splendid Suzanne Stroh says, "it contains, without question, history's most explicit literary lesbian sex writing for 1926. Possibly ever. It relates two love triangles she was involved in at the same time. There was the stable base of her household shared since 1918 with Lily de Gramont and Romaine Brooks, contrasted with the unstable triangle she formed in 1926 with Mimi Franchetti and Liane de Pougy." More in the next post below.
Of course as a child Natalie Barney rode astride her horse rather than side-saddle. Decades ahead of her time, she knew she was a lesbian from the age of twelve, in 1888, and considered it unusual but perfectly natural, like being an albino. Born into one of DC's wealthiest families, she refused to hide. In 1900, she published a book of her love poems to women and her mother sketched the illustrations. Alas, when her father found out, he bought up every copy still available and paid the printer to destroy the plates. So she moved to Paris, where she published ten more books and for sixty years held a weekly salon that was the epicenter not only of lesbian life (yes, Mata Hari really did begin her Lady Godiva dance by entering on a white horse) but also the city's literary culture. Her guests included T.S. Eliot, Rilke, Rodin, Ezra Pound, Colette, Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, Djuna Barnes, Isadora Duncan, Radclyffe Hall, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Janet Flanner, Andre Gide, Jean Cocteau, Peggy Guggenheim, Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson, Thornton Wilder, Virgil Thomson, Truman Capote, Mary McCarthy, Marguerite Yourcenar, Somerset Maugham, Ford Maddox Ford, William Carlos Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce a few times, but never Hemingway. She kept her lovers enthralled despite juggling multiple long-term open relationships, including one with the painter Romaine Brooks for fifty years, as well as Elisabeth de Gramont and Oscar's niece Dolly Wilde. Newly arrived in Paris, Natalie seduced the most famous courtesan by dressing as a page and presenting herself at the woman's house. Not only did it work, but this Liane de Pougy wrote a book about their affair which captivated France and went through 70 printings in its first year, 1901. Such zest kept Natalie Barney going until 1972, when she died at ninety-five. Read Suzanne Rodriguez's Wild Heart: A Life: Natalie Clifford Barney and the Decadence of Literary Paris [Kindle] or Diana Souhami's Wild Girls: Paris, Sappho, and Art: The Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks.
Like so many great artists, Néstor Almendros did not follow a straight path to his genius. Born in Barcelona in 1930, he became disgusted with Franco's Spain by age eighteen and followed his father to Cuba, then went to film school in Rome, tried and failed to work in New York, left for France, was ready to give up at thirty-four, and got an absurdly lucky break: He happened to be on set the day the director of photography quit a short project with Eric Rohmer. From there Almendros became one of the world's greatest cinematographers, carefully composing each frame and using natural light like a painter on over fifty films, including, in order, Two English Girls, Chloé in the Afternoon, The Story of Adele H., The Marquise of O., Days of Heaven for which he won an Oscar, Kramer vs. Kramer, The Blue Lagoon, The Last Métro for which he won a Cesar, Sophie's Choice, Pauline at the Beach, Places in the Heart, Heartburn, Imagine: John Lennon, and Billy Bathgate.
For anyone seriously interested in cinema, his book A Man with a Camera is essential reading. Not only does he clarify how the director of photography differs from the cameraman but he devotes a brief chapter to each of forty films. He describes the challenges and innovations of working with directors (again and again it's Rohmer, Truffaut, or Robert Benton) to decide which colors they want the costume and set designers to use and how Almendros will light and shoot each scene. They usually start with fine art. Their initial inspiration for Kramer vs. Kramer, set on the Upper East Side of the 1970s, was Piero della Francesca, with a little Hockney and, for the child's bedroom, Magritte. For The Blue Lagoon, he concentrated on Gauguin. For the Meryl Streep - Robert DeNiro psycho-thriller Still of the Night, he looked to old Fritz Lang movies and Edward Hopper. Remarkably generous with the secrets of his working trade, his autobiography completely ignores his private life. And yet, even though he was closeted, when he had the opportunity to direct his own movie in 1984, he chose to make a documentary about Cuba's persecution of gay men, Mauvaise conduite [Improper Conduct], which won the audience award at Frameline. He also shot ads for Calvin Klein and Armani. He died of aids in 1992 at age sixty-one. Human Rights Watch gives an annual film award named in his honor, most recently to Kirby Dick's The Invisible War.
Born in 1909 on Dublin's Lower Baggot Street to English parents, Francis was one of five Bacon children raised by a nanny (who slept on the kitchen table) until his father banished him at sixteen for something queer: either it was sex with the groomsmen or his effeminate manner and love of dressing in women's clothes, the final straw being the day dad found him absorbed in his reflection while wearing his mother's underwear. (This would hardly have shocked Lord Byron, who dedicated Childe Harold to his lover, Lady Charlotte Harley, Bacon's great-great grandmother.) Skint in London, Francis scrounged meals and dodged rent collectors and found himself needing butch men especially if they were rich. Loose in the 1920s gay underground he eventually paired up with a relative of his mother's, Harcourt-Smith, who took him to Berlin in 1927 and blew his mind with Weimar freedom and new movies Metropolis and Battleship Potemkin. Bacon went alone to Paris for eighteen months and experienced more shattering sensations with the movie Napoleon and Picasso's show of 106 drawings at Galerie Paul Rosenberg.
Back in London, again living with his nanny, Bacon began work as an interior designer creating his own rugs and furniture and he may have shown his first painting in 1929, the year he met his older lover and patron Eric Hall. As a painter his initial success was Crucifixion (1933) and his breakthrough was Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944). He had his first solo show of twelve paintings, including Head I to Head VI, one of his so-called screaming popes, in 1949 at Erica Brausen's new Hanover Gallery. In 1953's Two Figures [right], he retooled Muybridge's early photos of wrestlers, moving the action to bed: There, when gay sex was still illegal, critics overlooked the central, violent event and praised his art.
By this point, he and Hall had broken up and, as the official, not-shy Bacon website explains, "Sometime before 1952, Bacon became involved with the former fighter pilot and test pilot, Peter Lacy. Their relationship was a potent mixture of the compulsive and destructive, and Bacon remained in thrall to Lacy’s neurotic sadism for much of the decade." In 1962 his fortunes changed with a large retrospective at the Tate and two years later they changed again when he met petty criminal George Dyer, 30. For the first time, Bacon, at or approaching 55, was the older partner and the protector. He painted Dyer many times and they were together in Paris for his career-making show at the Grand Palais in 1971, on the eve of which Dyer killed himself. His suicide is commemorated in the left panel of Three Portraits (1973) below, seen in Masculin Masculin. Bacon's late work returned often to death and grew in popularity despite art critic Margaret Thatcher dismissing him as ""that man who paints those dreadful pictures." Since his death in 1992, his fame has skyrocketed. As Robert Hughes wrote in 2008:
"He is probably the best-known one, and possibly the most popular, since JMW Turner. But Turner painted things the English love: landscape, grand and tender effects of weather and light, images of mountains and the sea which are saturated with primordial, romantic power. He couldn't draw a portrait or paint a figure that didn't look like a worm or a spindle, but that had no effect on his reputation. Whereas Bacon's main subject and primal obsession is the human figure, radically reshaped and engaged in an activity that, before 1969, was punishable in England - and quite often was punished - by criminal prosecution, social obloquy and jail. A small step for a man, but a giant leap for (consenting, adult) mankind. This painter of buggery, sadism, dread and death-vomit has emerged as the toughest, the most implacable, lyric artist in late 20th-century England, perhaps in all the world."
Hughes' essay appeared weeks after a twelve-inch painting of Dyer's head sold for $27.4 million and the NYT noted that was the tenth of Bacon's works within eighteen months to go for more than $25 million (including one Sophia Loren sold). Two months earlier his Triptych 1976 went for $86.3 million, breaking records for any post-war painting. Right now, Christie's is previewing Bacon's triptych of Lucien Freud which is expected to exceed that price when it's auctioned in New York on November 12.
Daniel Craig plays Dyer and Derek Jacobi is Bacon in the 1998 film Love Is the Devil [watch it now]. For more depth, get Michael Peppiatt's bio Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma or his collection of interviews spanning 40+ years, Francis Bacon: Studies for a Portrait.
Adam Mars-Jones (Cambridge) and Alan Hollinghurst (Oxford) were born five months apart in 1954 and each published his first book, boldly gay, in the 80s, both winning a Somerset Maugham Award. Second fictions appeared from each in the early 90s, and Hollinghurst, with his steady output of a novel every six years, became a star, a constant prize winner, and a literary novelist who can debut a book at #1. Mars-Jones wrote reviews, published essays, and didn't release a book of fiction for fifteen years, re-emerging in the era of Twitter snippets with a monumental work rivaling Proust. In 2008, Pilcrow took 544 pages to see its gay, disabled, vegetarian protagonist John Cromer to age 16. Later, Cedilla added 752 pages, with even stronger reviews, bringing John through Cambridge and his 20s. The Telegraph said, "There isn’t a passage here that doesn’t sparkle." Two more volumes are forthcoming, with an expected total of 2,500 to 3,000 pages devoted to an ordinary gay life. Mars-Jones is a vivid, brainy critic who sometimes dips his pen in acid. After Gore Vidal's death, he remembered he wore a singlet and black leather biker pants to interview the icon in his room at the Dorchester.
A towering outsider with massive insider pull, 6'5" Dan Mathews led the "I'd Rather Go Naked" anti-fur campaign and convinced Morrissey, Pink, Pam, and Paul McCartney to do spots for the love-them-or-hate-them animal rights group PETA. He started poor, was bullied in high school, worked at McDonalds and as a model to put himself through American University, and after graduating started at PETA as a receptionist. His memoir Committed: A Rabble-Rouser's Memoir [Kindle] finally pubbed in the UK in 2009, when gay rights living legend Peter Tatchell chose it on Band of Thebes best lgbt book poll saying, "It’s a story full of ideas, action and loads of gossip about the many celebrities who support PETA’s work. Off-beat, hilarious, irreverent, and highly ethical, Committed is a damn good read. It shows how direct action can raise consciousness and secure social change – and be lots of fun."
When editors of the New York Review of Books Classics finally seek me out to ask which forgotten titles must be brought back into print, one of my top five recommendations will be Robert Ferro's novel The Family of Max Desir published thirty years ago, in 1983. Amazingly, it spans three generations and seventy years in the Desiderio family, from Sicily to Brooklyn to New Jersey, in a mere 215 pages. It works because the writing is so swift and right and alive. Reunited with distant relatives after decades apart: "Then he recognized certain faces, older and changed, like music played slower." Pushing forty, the gay character Max worries when he cruises the Village: "People will no longer turn to look at him, will see nothing but themselves being seen." Everything rings true about this family, including their complicated, shifting degrees of acceptance of Max's actor boyfriend of fifteen years, Nick Flynn. Ferro's other novels are his debut The Others from 1977, his final book Second Son when he was dying of aids in 1988, and his third novel, The Blue Star, which Stephen Greco selected for Tom Cardamone's The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered [Kindle].
You already know Robert Ferro as the patron of the Ferro-Grumley Award. He and Michael Grumley met as graduate students and stayed together wo decades, until their deaths from aids a few months apart in 1988. Both men were forty-six. They co-authored Atlantis: The Autobiography of a Search.
Like John Kennedy Toole, gay novelist James Robert Baker became despondent over his stalled career, went off his meds, and killed himself in 1997, sixteen years ago next month. In 1992, Simon & Schuster released his angry, funny, unapologetic fourth novel, Tim and Pete, which, like all his work, takes place around Los Angeles, begins as a love story, and ends with a violent response to indifference about aids. It was exactly what some readers needed, yet every publisher rejected all his subsequent manuscripts, possibly because they took his violent fiction as a call to arms. Two books appeared posthumously: Anarchy and Testosterone, which became a movie directed by David Moreton (Edge of 17), written by Dennis Hensley (Misadventures in the 213), starring Antonio Sabato Jr., Sonia Braga, and Jennifer Coolidge, all to no avail. It was a critical and commercial disaster. James Robert Baker's partner Ron Robertson became his literary executor. His earlier novels were Adrenaline (1985), Fuel-Injected Dreams (1986), and Boy Wonder (1988). Three later works remain unpublished, as do his four screenplays. (He graduated from UCLA film school.) The total number of his novels available as ebooks is one or zero. The UK's Gay Times wrote, "Baker's suicide is particularly tragic because it robs American gay writing of a refreshingly distinctive voice quite unlike the po-faced prose of so many of his contemporaries." Today he would have been 67.
At this point, what's left? You've done the essentials -- studied his great works, read Richard Ellmann's biography, and watched the Stephen Fry - Jude Law movie. Well, you could fly to see the statue erected to him in Dublin or Maggi Hambling's strange bust in London (which creates the effect of everyone looking down on him) or pop over to Paris to put more flowers on his grave in Pere Lachaise. Or reread his letters, like this one, asking to see Walt Whitman a second time during his U.S. visit in 1882: "Before I leave America I must see you again -- there is no one in this wide great world of America whom I love and honour so much. With warm affection, and honourable admiration, Oscar Wilde." See the original here.
Professor of the History of Systems of Thought at the Collège de France, leftist gay activist, and S&M enthusiast, Michel Foucault is a towering figure in queer thought. Years of brilliant, turbulent studies -- he said he only became smart by doing homework for a beautiful, stupid classmate -- culminated with moving from Poitiers to Paris at nineteen and enduring a breakdown at twenty-one and the first of several suicide attempts. Six years later he published his debut book. His doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne became his second, Madness and Civilization in 1961, followed two years later by The Birth of the Clinic. That year, 1963, he met philosophy student Daniel Defert (still living, 76) who was his partner for the rest of his life. While those early works were highly praised, Foucault's breakout success came in 1966 with The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, which "offers a global analysis of what knowledge meant—and how this meaning changed—in Western thought from the Renaissance to the present." Ever alive to the social constructs demanding "normal" behavior and conformity, he sees queer lessons everywhere, especially in his Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. His gayest book is the first in his groundbreaking series The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2: The Use of Pleasure, and The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3: The Care of the Self. While guest lecturing at Berkeley in 1983, he was an avid patron of San Franciso's bathhouses and sex clubs, where he may have contracted the hiv that killed him in June 1984. The official statement on his death at 57 did not mention aids. Defert, who co-founded France's first aids awareness organization AIDES, officially confirmed the cause on the second anniversary of Foucault's death in June 1986. The most gay-inclusive of the major biographies is David Macey's The Lives of Michel Foucault.
Cousin to Australian author Elizabeth von Arnim (The Enchanted April), friend of D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, spiritual heir to Chekhov's humanism, New Zealander Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp became a peerless master of the short story and died at thirty-two. She burned through sexual passion with women and men but not really with either of her husbands. Blatantly exploiting the affection of a singing teacher eleven years her senior, she agreed to marry George Bowden only because she was already pregnant by another man, refused to sleep with him on their wedding night and left him for good within hours. Her starchy mother arrived in England from New Zealand, blamed the breakup on her longtime lesbian lover Ida Baker, dispatched her daughter to a spa in Bavaria, and cut her out of her will. Mansfield miscarried. But it was there she discovered Chekhov. Upon her return to London in 1910 she started writing more seriously. In 1911 she began a relationship with editor John Murry, left him, got back together, left him again in 1913, got back together again, left him again in 1917, and in 1918 married him. Within two weeks she departed to travel for her health. First Paris, then she and Ida Baker lived in San Remo, Italy. As her tuberculosis worsened, she weakened, and yet this final period gave rise to her greatest works. Thirty-five of her best, including "The Garden-Party," "The Doll's House," and "At the Bay," are found in her Selected Stories from Norton. To understand her life, get her notebooks or brilliant biographer Claire Tomalin's Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life or Jeffrey Meyers' Katherine Mansfield: A Darker View. In a wise appreciation for the Telegraph, lesbian author Ali Smith mentions Mansfield's immediate impact on her contemporaries thus:
"She dunted Virginia Woolf, with a good sharp elbow, into the kind of experimental writing for which Woolf is revered. She unknowingly presented her friend DH Lawrence with one of the more sapphic narrative episodes of The Rainbow by telling him stories of her youth, and was later, again inadvertently, his model for the character of Gudrun in Women in Love."
Smith also cites Mansfield's influence on T.S. Eliot, Simone de Beauvoir, Scott Fitzgerland, Willa Cather, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, Elizabeth Bowen, Brigid Brophy, Christopher Isherwood, Carson McCullers, Philip Larkin, and Angela Carter.
Liverpool born, London raised Kele Okereke was twenty-three in 2005 when Bloc Party released their million-selling debut Silent Alarm which peaked at #3 on the UK charts. Although by that point Kele had been in bands for five or six years, he kept his musical exploits secret from his "super Catholic" Nigerian parents until the album's release. Despite his newfound fame, he continued to study at university, specializing in English literature. Through two more successful albums and subsequent touring, Kele kept his gay life largely hidden, though he did compare himself to Bowie, Molko, and Morrissey. Bloc Party went on hiatus on Halloween 2009 and Kele came out in a March 2010 interview with Butt. Three months later he released his solo album The Boxer, followed by The Hunter in 2011. Last summer he sang on Sub Focus's single "Turn It Around." Said to be shy, it hasn't stopped Kele from publicly feuding with Oasis, "the most pernicious band of all time." Today, he's thirty-two. Follow his visual blog.
Since his death at 79 in 1998, Jerome Robbins has inspired five biographies, the most recent of which is NBCC finalist Amanda Vaill's Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins [Kindle]. She received a Guggenheim to research it and PW gave it a strong, starred review, saying, "Robbins (1918–1998) was the choreographic genius behind the 1957 Broadway hit West Side Story and other musical classics, in addition to such great ballets as Fancy Free and Dances at a Gathering. Vaill was given unprecedented access to Robbins's personal papers after his death, and the result is a critically sophisticated biography that's as compulsively readable as a novel. As she traverses Robbins's growth as an artist, his ambivalence about his Jewish heritage, his bisexuality and his relationships with other artists from Balanchine, to Bernstein to Baryshnikov, she writes with both passion and compassion. More than Deborah Jowitt in her recent bio, Vaill delves into Robbins's personal life, quoting frequently from his diary and letters. But the result isn't salacious; rather, it allows a more vibrant and vital rendering of the man. Known for being very harsh on dancers, Robbins was called everything from "genius and difficult to tyrant and sadist," says Vaill, "yet the work... was marked by an ineffable sweetness and tenderness." In her balanced, sensitive portrait of an American theatrical genius, Vaill captures these contradictions elegantly. The book is essential reading for lovers of theater and dance."
In addition to being one of the most energetic humanitarians of the 20th century, requiring mind-warping amounts of travel -- 40,000 miles in three months, for example -- Eleanor Roosevelt was also an inexhaustible writer. Her syndicated column My Day appeared six times a week for twenty-seven years, missing only four days when her husband died. Always insightful, she was usually decades ahead of her time and frequently funny. Read her column from October 1947 about Hollywood and HUAC by clicking here. Detractors obfuscate ad nauseum but there is no question that she and Lorena Hickok, her closest friend for thirty years, were lovers. Their most intimate letters were destroyed, many by Hickok herself, after Eleanor’s death in 1962.
Brainyquote.com lists seventy-four of her most memorable sayings. Three are:
"Sometimes I wonder if we shall ever grow up in our politics and say definite things which mean something, or whether we shall always go on using generalities to which everyone can subscribe, and which mean very little."
"Women are like teabags. We don't know our true strength until we're in hot water!"
"I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall."
Obviously, the only place to start is Blanche Weisen Cook's Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1: 1884-1933, then Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume 2 , The Defining Years, 1933-1938. When she won Publishing Triangle's lifetime achievement award back in 2010, out lesbian Cook promised she was about to finish volume 3.
After earning his Ph.D. at the Yale School of Drama, translating the finest French plays, and writing the book for Broadway's misnamed musical The Triumph of Love, James Magruder jumped to fiction. His great debut novel about a horny gay teen growing up with religious parents in Florida in the 1970s, Sugarless [Kindle], was a finalist for a Lammy and for the Saroyan International Prize for Writing, and it earned him strings of adjectives from famous writers: "important, funny, heartbreaking, and beautiful" (Tony Kushner) and "compassionate, funny, wrenching, and real" (Amy Bloom). After several publishing delays, his story collection Let Me See It will come out next May. Follow him on Facebook for glimpses of the extraordinary year he and his longtime partner Steve Bolton are spending in East Africa.
Born in New Delhi, Urvashi Vaid moved with her family to Potsdam, New York in 1966 when she was eight; attended her first anti-war rally when she was eleven; and gave her first political speech, supporting McGovern, when she was twelve. Basically, she's never stopped working for broad issues of peace and social justice, especially for LGBT rights within a larger vision of fairness and equality. After receiving her law degree, she joined the ACLU's prisons project, then began her long association with the NGLTF, whose Policy Institute she headed for many years, both before and after a break to write her book Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation. For five years she was deputy director of a unit of the Ford Foundation's peace and social justice program, and from 2005 to 2010 she was Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation, whose dual missions are, srsly, rights and protections for Great Apes and LGBT humans. Last year she released a collection of essays, Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class and the Assumptions of LGBT Politics, which ubiquitous blurbist Tony Kushner called," evivifying, incisive, provocative, scrupulously argued, and beautifully articulated." For a long, funny time she's been partners with Kate Clinton, dividing their time between Manhattan and Provincetown. (Photo by Jurek Wajdowicz.)