Welcome, the littlest Theban, my son (above) born via a surrogate. I'm taking the summer off. Check back after Labor Day to see if the blog will resume.
July Philip Hensher, The Emperor Waltz
July 29 Amy Bloom, Lucky Us: A Novel
July 31 Eve Fowler, Kevin Killian, Eve Fowler: Hustlers
Aug 1 Hoang Tan Nguyen, A View from the Bottom: Masculinity & Sexual Representation
Aug 10 Andre Gide, The Vatican Cellars (new translation)
Aug 10 Amin Ghaziani, There Goes the Gayborhood? (Princeton Cultural Sociology)
Sept 2 Victor Minichiello, Male Sex Work and Society
Sept 16 Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests
Jump in. Retailers are already selling next month's best gay photobook, My Buddy: World War II Laid Bare, in which still more vintage military meat is seen engaging in "innocent" homoerotic horseplay, often nude. It's from Taschen's Dian Hanson, the free-spirited editrix who brought you the definitive art books on Tom of Finland, big dicks, and Bob Mizer. For size-minded readers: this one is twice as long as Evan Bachner's Men of World War II: Fighting Men at Ease.
Rock Hudson, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Anthony Perkins, Farley Granger, Tab Hunter: Was any heartthrob movie star straight in the straitlaced 1950s? Hunter and Perkins dated each other for several years while the press reported phony stories that Hunter was involved with Debbie Reynolds or Natalie Wood. Born Arthur Kelm, he eventually made more than 50 movies after being rechristened "Tab Hunter" by his agent Henry Willson, a gay man who also handled Rock Hudson, Troy Donahue, Robert Wagner, and loads of others; read Willson's disturbing biography. Hunter's triumphs were Damn Yankees, Lafayette Escadrille, and That Kind of Woman. He recorded a pop song, Young Love, which was the #1 hit in the U.S. for a month in 1957, and made many subsequent albums. He had a short-lived television show and a famous flop on Broadway, co-starring with Tallulah Bankhead in Tennessee Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, which closed after five performances. Smaller movies followed. In the 1980s he had a comeback, starring twice with Divine, first in Polyester, then in Lust in the Dust, which he co-produced with Allan Glaser. Hunter did not come out until September 2003, when at 72, he sold a book proposal for a memoir that would discuss his life candidly. Tab Hunter Confidential [Kindle] appeared in 2005 and revealed he and his producer Allan Glaser have been romantic partners for twenty-nine years. They live in Montecito. Here's a recent photo of Hunter, Glaser, and John Waters.
Russo For ten years, from 1972 to 1982, Vito Russo toured the country giving what would later be a PowerPoint presentation about the portrayal of lesbians and gay men in the media. His devastating book on the subject, The Celluloid Closet, published in 1981 and revised in 1987, was years ahead of its time and remains essential reading today. The book was made into a documentary in 1996, six years after his death from aids. Russo’s sharp critique of the industry led him to co-found the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). It is hard to imagine the principled visionary connected to today’s GLAAD, which endorsed such overblown caricature-fests as Boat Trip and praised I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry despite
the movie’s parade of stereotypes. Finally, Russo has been given the biography he deserves in Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo [Kindle] and in the documentary Vito.
White Crane released two new volumes of Vito's uncollected writings Out Spoken: A Vito Russo Reader - Reel One [Kindle], which covers his film essays, including reams of reviews and great, early interviews with Almodovar, Almendros, Anger, Bette, Debbie, Lily, Rhoda, Gandalf, and Tennessee among others, while Out Spoken: Reel Two [Kindle] covers politics and aids.
Years before Joyce's, Woolf's, and Faulkner’s novels, contemporary with Braque, Gris, and Picasso’s cubist paintings, and with Einstein’s shattering theories of physics, Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust created a work of art whose central concern is time. Published over fourteen years, the seven volumes of his epic A la recherche du temps perdu radically reshape conventional narrative to recreate the sensation of memory, the past co-existing in thought simultaneous with the present, as each moment of the present becomes the past. Many, many critics, including Graham Greene and Somerset Maugham, consider the work as a whole to be the greatest novel of the century or of all-time. It is also a landmark in gay literature. Volume Four is titled Sodom and Gomorrah and contains lengthy essays on homosexuality (often seen as a rebuttal to Andre Gide's recent Corydon), but every volume encompasses gay characters, observations, and experiences. One rationale for his somewhat dark view is that Proust had co-opted his own happy memories of gay love in trying to imagine heterosexual love for his characters, leaving him only bitter reminiscences when he wrote about aspects of gay life. Another theory is that he was uncomfortable with his sexuality, which manifested itself always with the lower classes and especially with his own servants. His deepest relationship was with his chauffeur, Alfred Agostinelli, who lived with his wife in Proust’s townhouse. Proust also had an affair with his secretary, Albert Nahmias, the namesake for the novel’s love interest, Albertine. When he went to sex clubs, Proust liked to be whipped and humiliated. Very, very rich from an inheritance, he typically slept during the day and wrote at night, both while lying in his blue bed, in his bedroom cork-lined for silence, now in the Musée Carnavalet.
Neil Tennant is 60. Tonight PSB play Serbia.
Nice day for Ryan Murphy (hatted) whose programs earned at least 34 Primetime Emmy nominations this morning. American Horror Story: Coven scored 17, Glee got 1, and his adaptation of The Normal Heart for HBO earned 16 noms for best tv movie, directing, writing, editing, casting, cinematography, costumes, hair, makeup, prosthetic makeup, lead actor, supporting actress, and a fourway among supporting actors (openly gay Matt Bomer, openly gay Jim Parsons, openly gay Joe Mantello, and Alfred Molina).
For its fifth season, Modern Family earned another 10 Emmy nominations. It won best comedy series in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Last year's big gay HBO movie Behind the Candelabra attracted a lot more viewers and one fewer Emmy nominations at 15.
I suppose there are people who don't salivate each year for the announcement of the Jan Michalski longlist, but I wouldn't want to party with them. Among this year's selections are Mark Gevisser's compelling gay memoir Lost and Found in Johannesburg [and Kindle] and Pulitzer winner Paul Harding's death-of-a-child novel Enon. The ten other titles include Second Childhood and The Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe.
Don’t let his placid English face fool you: David Hockney's art has been one revolution after another. However beautiful, most of what he’s done upends convention or expectation. As early as 1959-60 and 1961, with Erection and the Whitman-titled We Two Boys Together Clinging, he was boldly painting gay love. Once he saw southern California, he began to use color in more startling ways. He painted gay couples, such as Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy, exactly as he depicted straight couples, in 1968, when the rest of the world certainly didn't see them that way. His photomontages, or “joiners” primarily from 1970-1986, virtually reinvented how one could use a polaroid. He created wild stage sets for the Royal Court Theatre, Glyndebourne, La Scala, and the Met. And, in 2001, he proposed a shattering theory that the Old Masters did not paint freehand so much as follow images projected onto their canvas via camera obscura techniques. (This might solve the mystery of why details at the edges of their paintings are inexplicably blurry or out of focus.) Thirty years after his iconic A Bigger Splash, Hockney created A Bigger Grand Canyon, a series of 60 rectangular paintings fitted together to form one giant picture. Even more recent work has included painted installations illuminated with black light, as at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Jack Hazan’s documentary captures every angle of Hockney's intense romance with Peter Schlesinger, who appears nude in his most famous pool pictures. To celebrate his 70th birthday in 2007, Hockney showed his recent paintings of his native Yorskhire, like the one above, at the Tate Britain in London. A newer passion is the Brushes app on iPad, with which he has drawn three covers for The New Yorker. Now we have Christopher Simon Sykes' David Hockney: The Biography [Kindle] to complement Lawrence Weschler's True to Life: Twenty-Five Years of Conversations with David Hockney [Kindle].
From Buddenbrooks to Growth of the Soil to One Hundred Years of Solitude to Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, my all-time favorite novels are family stories, so it follows that the best book I've read so far this year is the queer family reissue Cassandra at the Wedding [and Kindle]. Bright, musical twin sisters from Berkeley -- charming, erratic, lesbian Cassandra and the steadier, hetero Judith -- join their academic father and doting grandmother at their ranch in the Sierras. They all still mourn the girls' brilliant mother ('who was more like a little brother") but it's supposed to be a happy weekend with Judith getting married to a nice doctor from Connecticut... until, well, things happen. The To The Lighthouse structure of the first and third sections bracketing a shorter, more actiony middle is nearly as elegant as the timeless prose. It was written in 1962 by Dorothy Baker whose two other novels are the jazzy Young Man with a Horn, which became the Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, Doris Day movie, and the "difficult" Trio, which Hollywood wouldn't touch because it's so very queer.
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 and 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.
If you like to read, you owe the magnificent Richard Labonté a big thank you. A co-founder and eventual manager of the A Different Light bookstores, he for many years wrote the essential column Books To Watch Out For. A brilliant, nonstop reader with exquisite taste, his annual best of the year choices are mandatory for the rest of us. For several years he outperformed Hercules coordinating the judging of the Lambda Literary Awards -- three or four judges in each of 24 categories. He is himself a multiple Lammy winner for some of the thirty anthologies he has edited or co-edited, most recently Studs: Gay Erotic Fiction, out next month from Cleis;. Read this interview with him conducted by mystery writer John Morgan Wilson.
In 1999 unseeded 19 year old Amélie Mauresmo beat the world's #1 female tennis player and became only the third Frenchwoman to make it to the finals of a Grand Slam event. That's also when Amélie came out, and within five years she was herself ranked #1 in the world, yet she still hadn't won a Grand Slam. No one questioned her talent but they noticed her nerves; often she would lead in a championship match only to sputter and lose. At the Athens Olympics in 2004, she fell in the finals to Justine Henin and settled for a silver medal. In January 2006, at 26, she finally won the Australian Open. Six months later, she won Wimbledon, the first Frenchwoman to do so since Suzanne Lenglen in 1925 and the first out lesbian since Martina's ninth win in 1990. Here's how tennis has changed in the past two decades: Martina had 158 career titles (including 18 Grand Slam singles titles) and earned $21 million in prize money (not endorsements); Amélie had 25 career titles (2 Grand Slams) and earned $15 million in prize purses. Amélie retired at 30 in December 2009.
He published his first volume of poetry at nineteen, with thirty more volumes throughout his life. He published seven novels (the best of which is his fifth, Les Enfants Terribles. He wrote twenty-four plays (his twentieth, Le bel indifférent, was created for Edith Piaf and became a towering success). He wrote eleven ballets (his second, Parade, was produced by Diaghilev and designed by Picasso). He wrote six operas. He was a graphic designer, a clothes designer, and an interior designer. He painted. He drew. He photographed. He managed a professional boxer, who became the sport's first Hispanic world champion. He was an actor. And he made six feature films, two of which happen to be among the most lauded in the history of cinema, La belle et la bête and Orphée, both of which star his boyfriend, superstar idol Jean Marais. God only knows where Jean Cocteau found the inspiration, or the time. He also dated Edouard Dermit, whom he adopted, the boxer “Panama” Al Brown, whom he managed, a few women including Natalie Paley, whom he impregnated, and the fifteen-year-old writing prodigy Raymond Radiguet, who may or may not have been something of an opportunist when it came to dating. Cocteau died in 1963 from complications of a heart attack, at seventy-four, an hour after learning of Edith Piaf’s death. The Cocteau Museum finally opened in 2011 in the south of France.
Celebrate your freedom by reading a "not despicable" banned book recommended by Stephen Fry. Angus Stewart's novel Sandel [and Kindle] charts the budding gay romance between an Oxford student, David Rogers, and a funny, bold choirboy named Antony Sandel who demands the best brand of shorts to show off his legs. Trouble is, David is nineteen and Antony is thirteen. More trouble: David becomes his tutor. Not everyone is supportive. Ditto the reaction when the novel was published forty years ago, although it did get some sympathetic reviews: The New Statesman called it, "a controlled and beautifully written love story . . . this is a superb stylistic feat," and the Sunday Telegraph said, "Mr Stewart has really succeeded with this young character, and in depicting a love which truly exists and is not despicable." Even the Times said, "'The writing is always intelligent, its sensual quality surprisingly beautiful."
Out of print for many years, used copies fetched astronomical sums on eBay. Last year Glenn Chandler's stage adaptation [photo] debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe and the paperback was reissued in this new edition. Watch a scene after the jump.
Tennessee Williams called it "my favorite book" and Truman Capote called it "a modern legend." Since 1943, Jane Bowles' only novel Two Serious Ladies has been wowing readers with its oddball characters and highly original style. Now Ecco has reissued this quirky masterpiece about the devil-may-care thrillseekers Miss Goering (who, as a child, "had been very much disliked by other children") and the more-than-meets-the-eye married matron, Mrs Copperfield. The former, an heiress, leaves her splendid mansion for a seedy dive and its semi-squalid denizens, while the latter, on a trip to Panama, abandons her husband to live in a brothel with a fading prostitute named Pacifica. Obviously, the humor is not for everyone but it's been a queer favorite for 70 years.
Donald Windham's many books include the lovely short novel Two People about a middle-aged American man's romance with a moody 17 year-old Italian lad; a too-brief fiction called Tanaquil about a tomboy girl and an artistic boy modeled on George Platt Lynes; his impressive debut The Dog Star [and Kindle] praised by Mann and Gide alike; his great Lost Friendships: A Memoir of Truman Capote Tennessee Williams and Others, as well as the collection Tennessee Williams' Letters to Donald Windham.
Born in Atlanta in 1920, he moved to New York City when he was 19, with his artist boyfriend Fred Melton. Within four years, Windham, who never went to college, was dating a Princeton undergrad named Sandy Campbell. Through the ups and downs of friendships with a large gay circle including Truman Capote, Lincoln Kirstein, Pavel Tchelitchew, Paul Cadmus, and Tennesse Williams, they stayed together 45 years until Campbell's death in 1988. Windham lived on until 2010, leaving the bulk of their estate to fund writing awards of $1 million annually administered by Yale and named for the gay couple. The second Windham-Campbell Awards were announced this year.
Karl Bissinger's photo from 1949 shows Windham, second from left, with the ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq, the artist Buffie Johnson, Tennessee Williams, and Gore Vidal.