Where would Todd Haynes be without Christine Vachon? Poison, Safe, Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, I'm Not There, HBO's Mildred Pierce -- she produced them all. For that matter, where would independent cinema be if the New York native had chosen another career? Fifty-one today, she's produced more than forty features. A few highlights: Swoon, Go Fish, Kids, Stonewall, Office Killer, I Shot Andy Warhol, Happiness, Boys Don't Cry, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Storytelling, and One Hour Photo; as well as Robert Altman's The Company, John Waters' A Dirty Shame, The Notorious Betty Paige, Infamous, Party Monster, and A Home at the End of the World. In her spare time she has written two books about making meaningful movies with no money, Shooting To Kill [Kindle] and A Killer Life [Kindle]. A breast cancer survivor, she lives in the east village with her partner Marlene McCarty (a Guggenheim-honored artist) and their daughter, Guthrie.
Vachon's most recent feature, which debuted at Toronto, marks the return of gay partners Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland seven years after Quinceanera: a biopic of Errol Flynn's (Kevin Kline) affair with a 15 year-old girl (Dakota Fanning) called The Last of Robin Hood. The Hollywood Reporter said, "the film is virtually entirely lacking in visual dynamics or force; the straight-on compositions are almost always static, the surroundings are invariably pristine and never look lived-in, and the dramatic attitude remains far too polite for a story that, at its core, is about lust," while Variety said it is "defanged" and -- bizarrely:
"The script represents a too-tame middle ground, which gives the unfortunate impression that perhaps the filmmakers want us to empathize with this icky romance. For openly gay directors Glatzer and Westmoreland (who were on more comfortable ground with The Fluffer and Quinceanera), that’s an incredibly risky position to take, as homophobes level the argument that allowing gay rights opens the door to all sorts of other unconventional relationships — of which statutory rape by a straight, pushing-50 star needs no champions."
She has served on the juries at Venice, Sarajevo, San Sebastian, and Sundance.
Reviewing for Bookforum, Luc Sante said, Cynthia Carr's Lammy winner Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz [Kindle] is "unimprovable as a biography–--thorough, measured, beautifully written, loving but not uncritical -- as a concentrated history of his times, and as a memorial, presenting him in his entirety, twenty years dead but his ardor uncooled."
Newly out in paperback, the bio of the rebel artist appeared last year on Dwight Garner's top ten books of 2012 in the New York Times and on Thebes' queer lit poll cited by Jonathan Weinberg and by Lisa Cohen. She wrote, "Robert Duncan and David Wojnarowicz made visionary, complex, fiercely queer, wildly disciplined, inspiring work. Lisa Jarnot’s Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus and Cynthia Carr’s Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz—each book many years in the making—are equal to the genius of these artists’ lives and creations, and to the task of weighing the often conflicting evidence they left behind."
This holiday season please remember the Wojnarowicz graphic novel 7 Miles A Second powerfully rendered by James Romberger and gorgeously colored by Marguerite Van Cook. It hit #5 on the NYT graphic books bestseller list.
Running now through Sunday, the 26th MIX NYC Queer Experimental Film Festival hooked me with their summary of opening night:
"Queerdos of New York, welcome to the Funhouse. The MIX Factory reflects what you are! Hello, lover-army of fringe-dwelling geniuses! Hello, queers building community! Hello, destroyers of mainstream mediocrity! Whatever you are, let’s come together to reflect and enjoy immersive bodily experiences. We must also, sadly, reflect the world we live in. It's no secret we live in a nightmare surveillance state that conducts robo-drone-massacres while it poisons the planet. The films this year show sites of resistance to ever-escalating police and state-corporate power, both at home [The Leak] and abroad [Bradley Manning Had Secrets]. But our mirror is wonky: it bends inward and gathers light [I Told Her This Was Home; What I Want - What I Have] then shoots a deathray back out [Chromatic Cocktail; The Memory of Objects]. Sometimes it's flattering, and shows you gorgeous things to look at [Shift; Hoshi Neko]. And other times it trolls the morons listening in [Jimmy Carter; Balls]."
We’ll Be Your Mirror (Tuesday November 12 at 8 PM)
This year we open with a premiere of a Super Special Secret Surprise from Tarnation filmmaker Jonathan Caouette. We are not at liberty to discuss the Super Special Secret Surprise any further. After that, we show 12 of the best short queer experimental films received by the MIX Programming Committee in 2013. From over 550 submissions we put together a slew of sexy-funky-psychotic visions better left unmentioned in print. Highlights include Jimmy Carter in the buff, a stunning 3D experiment in chromovision, and a rotoscope reenactment of Chelsea Manning on the eve of her arrest.
Valencia: The Movie/s (Sunday November 17 at 7:30 PM)
“Valencia is the most masterful dyke-centric artsy-weirdo film I’ve ever seen.”—Autostraddle
Twenty queer filmmakers (including Cheryl Dunye, Silas Howard, and recent Sundance award-winner Jill Soloway) combine forces to create Valencia: The Movie/s, an ambitious project/experiment from author Michelle Tea and producer Hilary Goldberg. With the book Valencia as their muse, filmmakers worked separately on their own given chapter, and their resulting short films were pulled together to form an epic feature-length adaptation of the novel. Valencia: The Movie/s is an ode to 1990’s San Francisco sex radical dyke culture that speaks beautifully about love, queer politics, and alienation, accompanied by a soundtrack of vintage queercore and alt-rock tracks by bands like Team Dresch, Bratmobile, Tribe 8, Bikini Kill and Pansy Division.
Afro-Asian Visions: Exploding Lineage II (Wednesday November 13 at 7:30 PM)
Afrofuturism. The Asian avant-garde. Genderqueer love. Anarchy. Ancestral trauma.
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.]
Summarizing his ten-minute Iris-nominated short film "20MALEGAYNYC" for Gay Star News, Blake Truitt lists the seven biggest problems young gay men have with young gay men. Alas, lack of reading isn't one of them. It's more like this: ‘If you were to just say gay guys, an image pops into my head that I’m not so fond of.’ And this: ‘I just thought I hated gay people, but I think that I really just don’t like people in general.’
Watch it here.
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.
Two hours of heaven. Yesterday the NYU Humanities Initiative hosted a panel on Barbara Pym. From left: Salon's Laura Miller, NYU's Patrick Deer, event mastermind Perri Klass, food historian Laura Shapiro, and novelist Cathleen Schine.
Deer unearthed Pym's 1978 appearance on Desert Island Discs and illuminated how, in her layered modesty, she's doing the same thing in the interview that she does so well in her books. (Listen to that broadcast here.) Through her research at the Bodleian reading Barbara's notebooks, Shapiro made the delightfully impassioned case that Pym was promoting the Mediterranean diet before Elizabeth David. Klass ran through brilliant excerpts showing how Pym used drink to reveal character. Shapiro explored the dividing line between readers who do and don't appreciate Pym and said she resisted comparisons to Austen because Jane idealized her young men and Barbara would never do those unqualified blissful endings. And Cathleen Schine praised Pym for "embracing imperfection as the human condition" and perpetually depicting the private self intersecting with the public world, arguing she was a "brave" writer and "pretty radical." She said she constantly reads Pym and Trollope, and Pym was the only author she could read after 9/11, and she had considered doing a major Pym tribute for the centennial but "once you write about something you can lose the magic, and this a writer I can't afford to do that with."
People lamented the reading public's widespread ignorance of Pym's work, the lack of availability, and the unfilmable interiority of the novels. Schine, who has had two of her novels made into movies, said she felt the one Pym that could be adapted is Quartet in Autumn, "but it would have to be by an artist."
After the suitable reception, I went directly to a bookstore and bought The Three Weissmanns of Westport [only $5.60 for you]. I had, wrongly, drifted away from Schine's work after The Evolution of Jane, and how I've missed her voice and eye and humor. The abandoned wife refers to her husband's mistress Felicity as Pleurisy. Since her marriage ended, Schine has been open about living with a woman and her gayest book is She Is Me [Kindle]. Three months ago FSG published her ninth novel, Fin & Lady.
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.
Your favorite gay curator has done it again. Jonathan Katz makes up for everything the Met's Costume Institute has ignored all these years: On display at FIT through January 4, A Queer History of Fashion showcases about 100 ensembles spanning 300 years.
Get the catalog A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk.
The publisher: "From Christian Dior to Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, many of the greatest fashion designers of the past century have been gay. Fashion and style have played an important role within the LGBTQ community, as well, even as early as the 18th century. This provocative book looks at the history of fashion through a queer lens, examining high fashion as a site of gay cultural production and exploring the aesthetic sensibilities and unconventional dress of LGBTQ people, especially since the 1950s, to demonstrate the centrality of gay culture to the creation of modern fashion.
"Contributions by some of the world’s most acclaimed scholars of gay history and fashion – including Christopher Breward, Shaun Cole, Vicki Karaminas, Jonathan D. Katz, Peter McNeil, and Elizabeth Wilson – investigate topics such as the context in which key designers’ lives and works form part of a broader “gay” history; the “archeology” of queer attire back to the homosexual underworld of 18th-century Europe; and the influence of LGBTQ subcultural styles from the trouser suits worn by Marlene Dietrich (which inspired Yves Saint Laurent’s “Le Smoking”) to the iconography of leather. Sumptuous illustrations include both fashion photography and archival imagery."
Critics are rightly swooning for Alice McDermott's Someone [Kindle - only $5.99] with typical praise coming from the Los Angeles Times -- "This is the grand accomplishment of Someone, a deceptively simple book that is, in fact, extraordinarily artful, a novel that traces the arc of an unexceptional, almost anonymous life and, seemingly by accident though of course on purpose, turns a run-of-the-mill story into a poem." -- but what most critics aren't saying is that a gay man is very close to the core of the novel. In the same delicate, sly way McDermott presents the heroine's entire life in a handful of minor chords, many of the key notes of a closeted existence in the 40s and 50s and 60s are included at the edge of the story, including being sent to an asylum. If that sounds vague, it's to avoid spoilers. The character whose trans status is not revealed to the shocked spouse until their wedding night, upsetting the entire Irish Brooklyn neighborhood, is seen only briefly but alluded to several times to underscore people's surprises and life's mysteries.
Next year is the James Purdy centennial and this literary precursor to brilliant weirdos like David Lynch and Almodóvar is once again struggling to achieve a full-blown renaissance: Here at last are his Complete Short Stories [Kindle] in one big volume emblazoned with Gore Vidal's assessment that Purdy is "an authentic American genius." Degenerate, funny, inspired, and queer in every sense, Purdy's tales are likened by John Waters in his charming introduction to "a ten-pound box of poison chocolates you keep beside your bed — fairy tales for your twisted mind that should never be described to the innocent. Randomly select a perfectly perverted Purdy story and read it before you go to sleep and savor the hilarious moral damage and beautiful decay that will certainly follow in your dreams." Jonathan Franzen says Purdy delivers "the inexorable progress toward disaster in such a way that it's as satisfying and somehow life-affirming as progress toward a happy ending."
Purdy began publishing his fiction six decades ago and his vast admirers include Beckett, Langston Hughes, Dorothy Parker, who called him "a writer of the highest rank in originality, insight and power," and Tennessee Williams, who said, "He may shock and offend some partisans of the well-trodden paths in fiction, but he will surely enchant the reader who values a new expression of new feeling and experience." You should add your name to the growing list of Purdy fans. If you prefer novels, try his Eustace Chisholm and the Works, an early gay classic that nearly ruined him in 1967. Or the even earlier The Nephew about a Midwestern spinster who decides to write a memoir of her nephew killed in war only to discover he liked men. More open is the lusty, violent novel of young gay love and hate, Narrow Rooms, from 1978. Fifteen years on, Purdy unleashed his gayest, funniest, Firbankian romp, Out With the Stars (1993), in which a Virgil Thomson type decides to write an opera about a Carl van Vechten-ish photographer, revealing on stage in song his bent for his black male subjects. His Russian widow, a former silent-film siren claiming a Romanov connection, tries to shut down the NYC premiere. Supporting characters include a young Kentucky drama queen addicted to unhappy affairs and a has-been movie star who keeps his forty-room mansion crammed with obedient young men.
In his searing memoir Before Night Falls, Reinaldo Arenas recalled his impoverished childhood in Cuba and his early memories of being so hungry he ate dirt. He also described his vivid and prolific sexual adventures beginning at a very young age with a male cousin, and later with his uncle, a domesticated animal, and countless men, all told with an unvarnished honesty that shocked some readers. The New York Times Book Review named it one of the ten best books of the 1993, but Arenas could not enjoy its success. His hard luck was a constant. In his teens he became besotted with and then disillusioned by the Castro regime, which eventually imprisoned him, prohibited him from publishing, and threatened him with death. He attempted to escape from Cuba on an inner tube, was caught, and was sent to a far worse prison. Even when he was officially forbidden from having paper, he managed to write and got his work smuggled out of the country and published abroad. Released from prison in 1976 after renouncing his fiction and essays, Arenas was, by a fluke, part of the Mariel boatlift to Florida in 1980. Exploding with the boundless freedoms of writing and gay sex in New York, he entered his most fertile phase: Farewell to the Sea, The Color of Summer, The Palace of the White Skunks, and The Doorman. Within seven years he got aids. Ravaged by the unstoppable disease and depressed by the lack of attention paid to his work, he intentionally overdosed on his medicine on December 7, 1990. His memoir was published in Spanish in 1992 and in English the following year. In 2000, Julian Schnabel adapted Before Night Falls into a gorgeous, gay, award winning film starring Javier Bardem, Johnny Depp, Olivier Martinez, Diego Luna, and Sean Penn. Earlier this year, Duke released Jorge Olivares' Becoming Reinaldo Arenas: Family, Sexuality, and The Cuban Revolution [Kindle]. Jaime Manrique said it "reads like an engrossing novel whose main character—the phenomenally talented Reinaldo Arenas—has a vitality and genius that haunt our imagination. This very personal, and relevant, work of literary criticism is a fitting tribute to a brave and great writer."
Although F. Holland Day is remembered (some say imitated after this) as an early pioneer of art photography, he was also an influential book publisher whose 100+ titles included works by Aubrey Beardsley and Oscar Wilde. The sole inheritor of a fortune from his father, a Boston merchant, Day was able to indulge his artistic pursuits with abandon. He amassed a large collection of ephemera connected to John Keats and he built a summer camp in Little Good Harbor, Five Islands, Maine where he hosted other artists and youths who modeled for him. The lads were usually from Boston’s immigrant slums where Day often tutored poor children in reading. One of his young models was Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese immigrant, whom Day encouraged in his literary ambitions and achieved fame with his book of poetic essays, The Prophet, published in more than twenty languages. (Gibran is the source, often paraphrased, for everything from Beatles’ lyrics to Kennedy’s “Ask not...”) Day also photographed adults, notably himself as Christ, as well as prominent artists and gay leaders such as Edward Carpenter. A fire in 1904 destroyed Day’s studio and most of his negatives. He later lost interest in photography and died in 1933 at sixty-nine. Read Patricia Fanning's Through an Uncommon Lens: The Life and Photography of F. Holland Day for many revelations about turn of the century Boston.
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 Superman Henry Cavill as Theseus in Tarsem Singh's ancient Greek hotfest The Immortals.) 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, the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, PPG Place in Pittsburgh, the IDS Tower in Minneapolis, the Boston Public Library's 1972 addition, 101 California in San Francisco, 190 South LaSalle in Chicago, 191 Peachtree Tower in Atlanta, Das Amerikan Business Center in Berlin, Puerta de Europe in Madrid, and the Tata Theater in Mumbai. Considered by many to be among his greatest designs is the LGBT Cathedral of Hope-United Church of Christ in Dallas, a soaring structure "without right angles or parallel lines." Although the ambitious cathedral remains a dream, the church finally broke ground on the Interfaith Chapel in 2007. You can learn more about it and take a virtual tour here. Johnson lived with his partner, curator David Whitney, from 1960 to his death in 2005.
Anyone might think a blog that loiters at the intersection of gay and books would be eager for a memoir by NYC's lesbian mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, but I avoided it knowing every personal syllable was a political calculation. Witness her overreaching title, With Patience and Fortitude [Kindle]. What queer Irish former Mets fan talks like that? As it turns out, no one is buying it. Literally. The Daily Beast reports her first-week sales were only 100 physical copies.* They've compiled a fun list of other failed memoirs but unfortunately omit Mary Cheney's epic fail, Now It's My Turn: A Daughter's Chronicle of Political Life.
*Like so much in publishing, Nielsen BookScan numbers are a half-assed imitation of how real industries operate. Hollywood can tell you exactly how many tickets were sold, television can tell you exactly how many millions of viewers watched a show, Billboard can tell you exact music sales, but books? The sales are so pitiful they are generally kept secret. BookScan typically captures about 75% of physical book sales but does not include giants (Wal-Mart) or dwarfs (indies). Or ebooks.
Just since 2009 when she turned 70, pioneering queer filmmaker Barbara Hammer has had a retrospective of her work at MoMA in New York, the Tate in London, and the Jeu de Paume in Paris; her short called "A Horse Is Not a Metaphor" won a Teddy at the Berlinale; her brilliant and inspiring book Hammer!: Making Movies Out of Sex and Life [Kindle] won a Publishing Triangle Award, won a Lammy, and was a favorite on Thebes' queer lit poll; and this year she won a Guggenheim. All deserved, and all infinitely more gratifying when you remember she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. Her decades of creating dozens of experimental work to record queer lives (Dyketactics, A Gay Day, Superdyke Meets Madam X, etc.) reached a new high in 1992 with her first feature documentary Nitrate Kisses, acclaimed at Sundance, festivals worldwide, and at the Whitney Biennial. She says, “I choose film and video to make the invisible visible. I am compelled to reveal and celebrate queer and other people whose stories have not been told. I make a multi-level cinema that engages audiences viscerally and emboldens them intellectually. My current work has turned towards recovering missing histories of lesbian artists and is inspired by the words of Gayatri Spivak who cautions against an uncritical archivism leading to nostalgia.” The MoMA curator wrote:
... she came out as a lesbian, an act that helped radicalize her approach to directing. Galvanized by the second wave of feminism in the 1970s, she soon became a pioneer of queer cinema. Hammer has since directed more than eighty films, using avant-garde strategies to explore lesbian and gay sexuality, identity, and history, along with other heretofore unrepresented voices. In the 1970s her films dealt with the representation of taboo subjects through performance, and in the 1980s she began using an optical printer to make films that explore perception. In the 1990s she began making documentaries about hidden aspects of queer history.
Barbara was born in Hollywood, graduated from UCLA, and earned two masters degrees at SFSU. She has lived in New York City for many years and still teaches each summer at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.
Last Wednesday an online poll to rank viewers' favorite web series of all orientations put the gay L.A. series Husbands (The New Normal minus the baby) at #3 with 2,249 votes and the gay Brooklyn series The Outs (Girls minus the females) around #40 with 52 votes. Back when it started, NPR's Ira Glass called Husbands "the future -- of tv, of America." It has the better pedigree, particularly in the form of co-created Jane Epenson, a veteran writer of Buffy, Firefly, Gilmore Girls, the O.C., Game of Thrones, and Warehouse 13, which she created. Also, that funny cameo from Joss Whedon. And a visit from Jon Cryer. It was not so far-fetched for Husbands to boast it was "the most critically successful show ever to emerge in new media," with strong reviews from mainstream critics like Time ("more complex and interesting...than The New Normal") and The New Yorker ("totes adorbs").
This Wednesday, the Atlantic profiled The Outs, citing cooler mags like Interview calling it "the most accurate and essentially human portrayal of young gay men today" and Paper insisting it's "the best web series ever." The article has gotten some attention for quotes from the show's creator and star, Adam Goldman:
"I'm not necessarily knocking what's on television," Goldman says. "I just think there is always room for more well-rounded stories."
"The democratization of media is really exciting," Goldman says. "Particularly for minorities or underrepresented people. You don't have to wait for a studio to say now we are going to make your show. You can look to everyone and say, don't we need this? And if they say yes we do, then you get to make it."
"...But Goldman bristles at being lumped in with a wave of 'gay shows.'
"What's a gay show?" he says, seeming annoyed. "It just doesn't mean anything. There aren't definitions of these things. I don't think of every other show as a straight show. Is it gay because I suck dick? Or is it gay because it's about two gay men? It just doesn't mean anything.
"As soon as people give the label that you are speaking for a whole group, there's just too much pressure. There are black gay people, Asian gay people, trans people...There's no such thing as the voice of a generation for the gay community."
What's a gay show? If you really don't know, try Hunting Season, based on the unshy blog-to-novel, The Great Cock Hunt. The series is co-written by the excellent Adam Baran who curates Queer/ Art/ Film with Ira Sachs.
Or find Where the Bears Are, an amusing romp as familiar types juggle jokes, tricks, and a mystery. They describe the show as The Golden Girls meets Murder, She Wrote. Season two starts next month.