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.
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.
You're right to be ill over the state of publishing -- Fifty Shades of Grey accounted for one in five physical fiction books sold this spring -- but the literary world just got better because at last Sandy Leonard has returned to book reviewing. Sandy is the only non-author in Thebes' annual queer lit poll because he is an exceptional reader. Lambda invited him to critique John Boyne's new novel The Absolutist [Kindle]. Three bites from the full review are:
"Is it true that behaviors we dislike in others are the very ones we detest in ourselves? The characters in John Boyne’s The Absolutist (Other Press) would vehemently deny this. But actions speak louder than lies in this atmospheric novel that tracks a handful of guilt-ridden and self-questioning characters from the trenches of World War I to the poseur-filled publishing houses of Thatcher-era London.
"Boyne has, through nine novels, established a reputation as an accomplished stylist. And indeed it is style that buoys this book along beautifully through a sometimes predictable plot.
"This voice and tone of an earlier time layered over a constant simmer of sexual suggestion bring to mind the masterful literary edging of Denton Welch."
You should also read his daily travel photo blog, Sandy Leonard Snaps.
Cross-promoting the movie, this week Salon is running a series called Pariah Personals in which minority and immigrant teens write about coming out to their families. Some critics say the movie suffers from an over-familiar story, but all of these blessedly brief first-person essays have fresh, unexpected details:
Monday, Jamilah King's mother offered to attend a pride parade with her at a time when neither was comfortable with it.
Tuesday, Jean Melesaine [below], a Samoan Mormon lesbian, learned at five years old that she would go to hell and started jacking cars when she was seven and robbing apartments at ten.
Wednesday, Andres Garcia, 17, [above] avoided telling his family because he "just figured they'd be close-minded," and his coming out did spark a fight -- because his brother was hurt to be the last to know and his father felt awful for all the suffering Andres would face in a prejudiced world.
Photo: Sandy Leonard Snaps
If today is the day for miraculous stories from the Mediterranean region, none beats this one from photoblogger Sandy Leonard. Even if you somehow have never read Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk's knockout novel The Museum of Innocence [Kindle], you can appreciate the true story of a very literary traveler in Istanbul searching out a fictitious institution from a favorite book and discovering it to be real. That came entirely from Sandy's meticulous research, wanting to walk the exact neighborhood where the made-up museum would have been. But once he found the actual Museum of Innocence, created by Pamuk to recreate the one in his novel, he learned it will not open to the public until May 2012. Then serendipity stepped in, taking the form of a group of German officials including a leading Green lady much beloved by The Gays. Read Sandy's post. And make his blog part of your daily itinerary.
Yesterday June Thomas wrote an essay on whether or not the gay bar is a dying institution: "They make me feel old. But I feel bad about abandoning them... Gay bars are my cultural patrimony and my political heritage." Today, she asks eleven writers to remember their first happy-scary-dreary visit. Among them are Alison Bechdel, J.D. McClatchy, Susie Bright, Simon Doonan, Dan Savage, Mart Crowley, Pam Spaulding, and the unerring human wonder called David Rakoff who says:
"...I came fairly late to gay bars, since I came fairly late to alcohol, not until my mid-20s, when job hatred medically required that I develop a taste for spirits. Before then, I loathed booze—beer in particular—and lived in fear of the abandon it augured. Gay bars were a perfect storm of liquor's fetter-loosening powers of disinhibition and the scrutiny of men; things most desired and therefore most dangerous.
"... Intermittently smoking, fake-sipping my beer, and employing the old stage trick of becoming invisible by simply not moving, I probably stayed all of 45 minutes. I understood even then that this was a boil that needed lancing. It would be easier the next time, and the time after that, until eventually it became so devoid of importance that the experience of going out to a gay bar would be virtually indistinguishable from the experience of not going out to a gay bar, which, of course, is exactly what happened."
(I must undergo hypnosis to remember if my first was Badlands or J.R.s. At least I know my all-time best experience started at Le Palace and moved on to Queen in Paris and my second best was opening night of Junior Vasquez's Arena.)
Gay Bar Week continues through Friday at Slate. Photo from New York's pride gallery.
Although Sal Mineo was later twice nominated for Oscars, his career peaked when he was sixteen, playing Rebel Without a Cause's geeky Plato, a universal touchstone for anyone who's ever harbored a crush on James Dean. As if it wouldn't be exhilarating and nerve-wracking enough in 1955 to be a gay Sicilian sixteen year-old acting opposite the blond, bi twenty-four year-old superstar and Natalie Wood, Mineo was also having an affair with the director, Nicholas Ray, who was forty-four. It was all downhill from there. Mineo was praised for his stage roles and for his work in Exodus and Who Killed Teddy Bear? and he recorded a couple albums with two Top 40 hits, but he had been typecast and his moment had passed. Hollywood's sensitive, gay teen devolved into television's deranged psycho killer on Hawaii Five-O, Columbo, S.W.A.T., Police Story, and Ellery Queen. When he was thirty-seven, walking at night through an alley near his home in West Hollywood, he was stabbed once in a botched mugging, and died. John Lennon offered a cash reward to find his killer. Many people, including Mineo's family, believe the courts convicted the wrong man, who had confessed and recanted, was released in 1990, and was reincarcerated for parole violations. In Thebes' queer lit poll Kevin Killian praised Michael Michaud's new biography [[Kindle]] as one of the year's best.
When it comes to southern California fiction of sex and violence, Brett Easton Ellis is the popular one and Dennis Cooper is the artist. In 1968, when he was fifteen, he read 120 Days of Sodom and wrote his own de Sade-like 1,000 page novel set in high school. Thirty-nine years later, Cooper was award the Prix Sade in France for his tenth novel, The Sluts [no Kindle]. We'll never know how that first fiction compares to his mature work with his signal interest in transgressive behavior and exploited boundaries (alienated youth, predatory gay men, child abuse, sexual torture, eroticized murder, mutilation, satanic sacrifice, snuff porn, and drugs) because he was so afraid his mother would find his manuscript he burned it. His George Miles cycle of novels -- Closer, Frisk, Try, Guide, Period [[Kindle]] -- has been translated into seventeen languages. A child of Pasadena, Cooper has lived in New York, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, and Paris. Whether or not you follow his fiction into its darker explorations, his blog is essential daily reading [NSFW]. Cooper is always writing, and when he's not, he's publishing important young newcomers through his own imprint at Akashic, Little House on the Bowery. Prominent among these is Derek McCormack's breakout Tod Browning fantasia, The Show That Smells. Next month comes Lonely Christopher's story collection, The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse.
If Justin Halpern's twitter feed can become a #1 bestselling hardcover and a William Shatner sitcom, the brand new treasure Sandy Leonard Snaps deserves to be a Taschen art book and a feature film. A travel photoblog, the site each day offers one picture and a paragraph of impeccable prose describing the circumstances. You might worry that living vicariously through Sandy's four decades of adventures might ratchet envy and jealousy to fatal levels. Not so. Just admiration and gratitude. But hurry: In four days you've already missed lavender marshmallows in Paris, local slang in Barcelona, "potty-mouthed" Diana Rigg in London, and this miffed dog in Tucson who believed the cat got to dine at a restaurant with the humans.
Another friend's blog that is ripe for a book contract and a darker Hollywood comedy of ADD, motherhood, and autism is Tracy Stroh's Everloving Mess.
Huge year for Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke, and impossibly I missed every milestone. October 2009, Bloc Party officially on hiatus. January 2010, Kele launches his photo blog, which he updates all the time. March 2010, after all those Bowie and Morrissey hints, Kele finally comes out, quite awesomely choosing to do so with BUTT Magazine. (Kele describes his Nigerian parents as "super Catholic" and troubled by his news.) June 2010, Kele appears on the cover of Attitude, is voted #1 sexiest out gay male musician by LP33, and releases his first solo album, The Boxer. October 2010, Kele earns a Stonewall nomination for entertainer of the year and begins a massive European tour. By end of 2010, Kele claims he will move to Manhattan. (!!)
Apparently you've been subjected to these bloated, completely unrevealing profiles of Gawker Media millionaire and Brit nihilist Nick Denton recently not because he's looking to unload his company but because his boyfriend of four years dumped him. After New York magazine last week, The New Yorker this week devotes a numbing 9,600 words to Denton's successful poses and inability to open up. But there's this bit toward the end of Ben McGrath's fact piece, which sensitive readers may find a little dismissive about gay relationships and/or black conceptual artists:
"Denton recently split up with his boyfriend of four years, an African-American conceptual artist who made a show of hating bloggers and blogging, and who was, in turn, generally beloved by Denton’s friends and colleagues. The mere existence of the relationship, and Denton’s evident vulnerability in the wake of its demise, served to humanize the Gawker chief, whose public presentation had allowed no room for romanticism. “He didn’t understand my frenzy when I would get excited about a scoop,” Denton told me. “He’d say, ‘I can’t stand you like this.’ You know how journalists, or former journalists, turn into monsters when confronted by a big story? The adrenaline surges through your body, and you’re gleeful and unconcerned about civilian casualties, like a warrior going into battle.” A couple of Denton’s friends speculated to me that the breakup had been a contributing factor in his decision to coöperate with this profile, in the interest of projecting emotional availability. A certain person advised me, off the record, not to name the ex, out of respect for his parents, who may not be entirely comfortable with the possibility of their son’s being “caught up in the vortex,” as it were, of Internet celebrity. When I assented to this advice, and said, “Who cares what his name is, anyway?,” meaning New Yorker readers, this person looked hurt, and said, “That’s mean.”
Online journalist Pam Spaulding of the essential, influential lgbt political blog Pam's House Blend today turns forty-seven (click for a photo tour of four decades of happy smiles and evolving hairstyles). A Fordham alum who lives in Durham, with family backgrounds in both New York City and North Carolina, Pam considers herself to have "dual citizenship" as a Southerner and a Yankee. She started the Blend in 2004 "as a personal response to the anti-gay state of the political landscape." It won Best LGBT Blog at the 2005 and 2006 Weblog Awards and made Pam one of OUT's 100 last year. Make sure she's part of your daily reading.
Filmmaker Thom Fitzgerald worried his debut feature The Hanging Garden would be too arty and too gay for anyone to pay attention to: Sweet William, now slim and confident at twenty-five, returns home for the first time in a decade to attend a wedding, where he talks to the hanging corpse of his fat fifteen year-old self who was caught having sex with the bi guy his sister is now marrying. The universally lauded movie was nominated for eleven Genie Awards and won three, among many other Canadian and international prizes. His second movie was Beefcake, the popular docu-drama homage to Bob Mizer of the early gay muscle mags from the Athletic Model Guild. Fitzgerald's fourth and fifth features, The Event and 3 Needles, cover different aspects of aids and hiv. 3 Needles stars Olympia Dukakis, Chloe Sevigny, Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh, Stockard Channing, and Shawn Ashmore, and earned its director a DGA nom. Earlier this year, Fitzgerald debuted his first play, Cloudburst, to rousing acclaim. Raised in New Jersey, Fitzgerald attended Cooper Union and spent a semester in Halifax, Nova Scotia where he has lived ever since.
British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans (far left) did not begin his famous excavations at Knossos until 1900 when he was forty-nine. In 1878 someone had discovered a small portion of the ruins but it was only after Crete became an independent state free of Turkey that Evans was able to purchase the site and organize a dig on a necessarily massive scale. The "palace" is a series of 1,000 interlocking rooms. Luckily, Evans lived another forty-one years, plenty of time to unveil the structures he decided were source of the mythic King Minos and his fabled Minotaur; hence Evans' coining the term Minoan civilization from the 27th to 15th centuries BC. One aspect of real life there was bull dancing, a tradition in which youths cavorted with angry steers to great honor and, usually within three months, certain death. Mary Renault brings the practice alive in her novel The King Must Die about Theseus's Cretan adventures. (Below, my picture of bull dancing from Knossos this May and actor Henry Cavill as Theseus in Tarsem Singh's ancient Greek hotfest The Immortals coming November 2011.) Evans was Keeper of Oxford's Ashmolean Museum from 1894-1908 and many, many of the treasures he found at Knossos ended up in its collection. He is degayed in most accounts of his life but not in Cathy Gere's intriguing Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism.
Soon after graduating from Harvard in 1930, Philip Johnson became the first director of MoMA's Department of Architecture and Design though he himself was not yet an architect. In the ensuing years he was a committed fascist, an ardent admirer of Hitler, and he even toured conquered Poland at the Nazis' invitation. How he as a gay man reconciled the Reich's murder of gay men probably shouldn't be any more pressing than how he as a human reconciled the Reich's slaughter of humans, but somehow it sharpens the point. In 1948, when Johnson built his master degree thesis, Glass House, was immediately hailed as a masterpiece and remains one of the most important designs of the century. His two best known other works are the Seagrams Building (with Mies van der Rohe) and the AT&T Building with its controversial Chippendale top, completed when he was seventy-eight. His many other projects include the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, the Amon Carter Museum,
Huffington Post's Alex Leo offers a slideshow decoding seven old sitcoms that she says were actually about "gay couples who (for some reason) weren't allowed to be gay on TV, so ridiculous back stories and ludicrous plot twists were introduced." Yes, My Two Dads made the list.
Last week, Gawker's Brian Moylan posted a "Handy Guide to All Gay Men." For him, eight is enough: Twinks, Bears, Gay Jocks, Circuit Boys, Gay-Listers, Show Queens, Art Fags, Drag Queens. Unlikely that you'll find yourself here. The arty boy "dresses either in the most current prissy fashions or like a homo version of Terry Richardson, in big glasses, flannels, and jeans that looks so thrown together that it took him hours to put together."
Britain's Lesbian and Gay Foundation has released its list of 100 best lgbt blogs. They write: "LGF online have scoured the internet to bring you the most informative, entertaining and inspiring blogs from around the world. The blogs we've chosen cover diverse issues from all sides of the LGBT equation. There's blogs from gay parents, gay conservatives, gay activists, young people coming out, older people coming out, and gay asylum seekers to name but a few."
The list is unranked and not alphabetical, but if you scroll down you'll find some very worthy familiar names including Towleroad, Pam's House Blend, and Joe My God. Read them all and find some new favorites.