Archive for category gay non-fiction

“Gone to the Movies”– How Could I Have Missed these Flicks”?

 

HvH, “Gone to the Movies”, Bruno Gmunder, 2008.

How Could I Have Missed These Flicks?

Amos Lassen

It has been said that they don’t make movies like they used to and they obviously do not make movie posters like the ones in “Gone to the Movies”, a parody of movie posters. HvH has taken classic movie posters and redesigned them so that they are extremely homoerotic.

This is a wonderful collection of drawings that is great dun. HvH changes the names of films and stars to give us a whole new way of looking at Hollywood. I found it very hard to pick a favorite as each is so ingenious. I do, however, lean toward “Cockapatra” starring Lickbeth Gaylor, Dick Burbon and Sex Garrison presented by 69th Century-Foxy. And of course there is “Bareback Mountain” starring Hot Leader, Jack Gimmeall, Mark Thatstheway and Michael Willing and “Gigantic”—“the cruise lines that gave new meaning to cruising…” with a cast led by Jamie Wood and Sucking Smiths (will Amazon post this?).

It’s all tongue in cheek and all great fun. I thought I recognized HvH’s work but it wasn’t until I read the introduction by Eric Arvin that I realized that I had actually read about the author on Eric’s website and realized that he had done the covers of Eric’s books. Like Arvin says “there is intimacy in his (HvH’s) art, even at its most epic…he inspires us…he entertains us, he makes us think”. The artist’s work is filled with passionate color and skillful use of shadow and his eroticism is in no way cheap or offensive. He is touching and unique and I look forward to seeing more from him.

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“Gay Conservatives: Group Consciousness and Assimilation”– 25 Percent

 

Cimino, Kenneth W. “Gay Conservatives: Group Consciousness and Assimilation”, The Haworth Press, 2007.

25 Percent

Amos Lassen

Most GLBT people consider themselves to be liberal yet nearly 25% of us voted for George W. Bush in 2004. Who are these people and why in the world did they vote the way they did? “Gay Conservatives” looks why conservative GLBT people join political groups and also support political candidates that do not support much less favor the policies that benefit our community and in many cases they are our adversaries. This book looks at how the impact of group consciousness on conservative GLBTs and how political power is affected by it.

I did not think that this book had much to say to me when I first began reading but the more I read the more engrossed I became. I learned a great deal about politics and was amazed at the sophistication research that went into the writing of this work. It tries very hard to answer the mystery of how some of us could vote Republican and for a party that seems to treat us with such disdain. Like many others I was stunned to learn that members of the gay community had embraced a political stance that is the opposite of its own best interests. What I learned and what I should have realized and understood is that we are just like everybody else and that is not only sexuality that contributes to political standards. We must also take into account religious, economic and ethnic factors and see how they contribute to how someone aligns himself with conservatism. It seems that those who come from backgrounds in which they have been oppressed to a degree take that above sexual orientation into account and they are more likely to advocate for change. They understand that by doing so that they must also accept and embrace as well as expose their sexual lives.

This little book shows how the mind of the conservative works and what is responsible for that working. Before reading this I found the gay conservative to be a traitor but now I understand just a little more than I did before. It will be even more interesting to see how all of this plays out in the long run.

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“Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn, and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age”– Addicted to the Web?

Weiss, Robert and Schneider, Jennifer, “Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn, and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age”, Alyson Books, 2006.

Addicted to the Web?

Amos Lassen

We all know how important the internet has become in the lives of the GLBT community. Just as it can be helpful, it can also have devastating results but the way that it affects relationships, family, career, health, self-esteem and intimacy. We are all aware of how addictive the web can be and Robert Weiss and Jennifer Schneider examine the internet phenomenon in their book “Untangling the Web”. For some people the surfing the net can be no more than a pleasant way to pass time and for others it can be addictive that it can destroy an existing way of life. The authors maintain that before spending a lot of time on the net, the user should consider several questions:

1.) Am I looking for just a good time or am I addicted to pornography?

2.) If I have chats of a sexual nature or engage in cyber sex, am I cheating on my partner?

3.) Is it possible to fall in love with a fantasy and how can I present myself from doing so?

4.) How can children be protected from the pornography available at the hit of a button?

In an attempt to give us honest answers to there questions, the authors show us how to have a healthy relationship with the World Wide Web and how to avoid being sucked into it. Their nonjudgmental approach to understanding what the web entails and includes fir gay men is an insight worth considering. Weiss and Schneider also give us steps to heal any web addiction we may have acquired. This is a book of sound advice and is a valuable resource for anyone swept up into the internet. Easily readable, concise and to the point it presents both the benefits of the web and well as the disadvantages.

Any of us that spend a lot of time online are aware of how addictive it can be. We all know people that will sit in front of their computers for days on end, hiding behind a screen and pretending to be whom they are not. Likewise the same is done to them. This fantasy world can indeed have an effect on the real world and it can be become a very unhealthy exercise. With chapters on such subjects as “pornography: Fantasy or Obsession”, “Pleasure Seeker or Porn Addict” and “The Reality of Romance Online”, we have a good deep look into the internet. This is a valuable book for all of us who use the internet and a welcome addition to the field of gay literature.

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“Gay Art: A Historic Collection”– Artistically Speaking

Falkon, Felix Leon and Waugh, Thomas, “Gay Art; A Historic Collection”. Arsenal Pulp Press. 2006.

Artistically Speaking

Amos Lassen

One of the nicest gifts I received this holiday season came from Arsenal Pulp Press. It is a revised edition of the classic 1972 “Gay Art: A Historic Collection”. What a beautiful book of erotica!

The original book came into being during the heyday of the gay liberation movement and that time erotica was one of the ways we had to express ourselves and even though some of you may find some of the art to be quite shocking, it was one way for us to say that we are ere and not going away. The sexuality of the art contained in this book is bold and, yes, sometimes, raw but that it is how it hade to be. We had a political statement to make and it was done through the artists of the time.

Included are erotic drawings and other artwork dating back to the ancient world to America of the 1970s. Much of the work is anonymous but there are names we all recognize as well—Tom of Finland, Etienne and Beardsley. The artwork is explained in narrative that gives us the historical context which explains the dissemination f the work as well as the production. Included as well is a wonderful introduction by one of the men who edited the original edition of the book, Earl Kemp. He tells what it was like to bring out a book like this at a time when it was somewhat dangerous to do so. Gay sexuality was then spoken about only in whispers and our political clout was not much more than nil. Likewise there is a discussion of how much times have changed.

Of course with a book like this, we must decide how to define erotic and the issue of censorship. Much of the art depicted here was only available “under the table” and through secret clandestine meetings. Yet even with that, this art remains an important part of our history and especially the history of gay liberation.

In the 1970s, porn was considered to be dangerous and it was not openly discussed. However, it is obvious from the body of work included in this volume that someone was thinking a bout it. Many of the pieces included are still somewhat brazen and the sado-maschochistic subculture is heavily represented by the artists.

The vale to examining this aspect of art is to show not only how far we have come but how suppressed we were. Art has always shown the nature and the mood of the people and the morals of society. Creative art tells us as much about the society that it portrays as it does about the morals of that community. Obviously, from what is presented here, there was an undercurrent of gay life from the beginning of time (as we are well aware of now). Te art here contains portrayals of human sexuality in all of its forms. There have been portrayals of homosexual art since the beginning of time and through art was one of the only ways we could show who we are. Some may find this art offensive but art again is interpreted by the eye of the beholder and it is important that we be allowed to make the decision for ourselves. Gay art has always been suppressed—perhaps because of its eroticism. “Gay Art” is important because it gives an insight into the history of art. We have always contributed to the artistic movement and it is due time that our contributions be recognized.

The book, above everything else it provides, gives us a chance to see art that was held secret for so long. We now have the chance to share in the emotions of the artists as we have a peek into the wide realm of gay art. It is the purpose of art to “edify and stimulate.” This wonderful book does both. Once the initial shock of seeing highly erotic wears off you will be glad that you have ad a chance to see what has been hidden for so long.

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“Eighty-sixed”–a moving yet funny book

 

Feinberg, David R. “Eighty-sixed”. Grove Press, 2002.

A Moving Yet Funny Book

Amos Lassen

“Eighty-sixed” by David Feinberg takes a look at the changes in gay lifestyle which were brought about because of the AIDS epidemic. It takes place between 1980 and 1986 at the height of the catastrophe and reads like a daily log of what went on. Feinberg looks at pre-AIDS 1980 and then post-AIDS 1986 and shows us what happened to our lives. Our main character, B.J. Rosenthal has one concern—finding the right boyfriend and he looks by going from one man to another until 1986 when he realizes that his friends are dying and that there is great anxiety over AIDS. Unlike other novels of the “plague” this one has a great deal of humor which Feinberg mixes with pathos and what comes across is a very honest novel with references to pop-culture.

Rosenthal is a wonderful character who suffers from Jewish guilt and tries very hard to avoid both haircuts and bad sex. When he realizes that his world has changed and that his friends and lovers are getting sick and dying, he begins to panic. This is a painful story of realization at a terrible time and is entertaining and frightening at the same time. It is frank and has a sarcastic wit and little sentimentality or self-pity.

B.J. tells us of his tricks, his visits to bath houses and his partying in discos and as he engaged in sexual liaisons, I found myself worrying about him and when he describes his world in 1986, it is hard to hold back the tears. It is a moving portrait of those early, terror-filled days of AIDS. AIDS invaded the lives of all of us, gay and straight, and B.J. with his sarcastic and caustic wit manages to keep his sanity as people die all around him but he feels that life will go on. With each laugh there is a spark of something inside all of us that we manage to get in touch with—a kind of joy that is merged with pain—remembering the good times about those we loved and lost to the plague. Even if you have not lost someone to the disease, you feel the pain for the characters in this book. In effect, in reading “Eighty-sixed”, the reader confronts his own experience with HIV if whatever way it affected him.

Feinberg gives us a capsular look at a time that was and we hope will never be again. He is master at writing down the fear and the angst of the period. He gets the stereotypes down pat and he paints a portrait of gay life which is not always flattering but honest. He names places that no longer exist and writes about men that are gone. It is a book we should all read and remember.

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“Stars in My Eyes”– Capturing Celebrities

Bachardy, Don. “Stars in My Eyes”, University of Wisconsin Press, 2011.

Capturing Celebrities

Amos Lassen

 

Don Bachardy is famous in his own right and deservedly so. He was lover to the late Christopher Isherwood but his artwork also hangs in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and it the London National Portrait Gallery. His new book is a compilation of 33 famous personalities and the drawings he did of them along with his own personal musings. His comments are laced with wit and candid and full of detail. We learn of his creative process but he excels when he tells us of the banter between artist and subject. The entries are from the 70’s and 80’s and the book combines art with anecdote.

For me the book is a guilty pleasure much like a banana split after an eleven course meal. I found reading the book was much like having a conversation with someone who knew “everyone” quite intimately. Aside from that, the art is spectacular. The book is both revealing and entertaining. His observations are keen and sharp like a dagger. Bachardy is as good a writer as an artist Some of the personalities we meet are Dame Maggie Smith, Bette Davis, Robert Mapplethorpe, Iris Murdoch, Aaron Copeland and Jerry Brown to name a few. Ginger Rogers has never been so beautiful and I wanted Ruby Keeler to break into dance. Jack Nicholson is, well, Jack Nicholson and Charlotte Rampling stole my heart once again.

The book is a treasure and not only a great read but a wonderful conversation piece.

 

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“Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriages”– Going to the Chapel

Gozemba, Patricia A. and Karen Kahn. “Courting Equality: A Documentary History of America’s First Legal Same-Sex Marriages”, Beacon Press, 2007.

“Going to the Chapel”

Amos Lassen

May 17, 2004 is an important date for us. On that day at midnight close to 10.000 people came together in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the lawn of the City Hall. They were waiting for history to be made. When the building opened, the first legal same-sex marriage licenses in the United States were issued and Susan Shepherd and Marcia Hams, who had been together for 27 years, were not officially granted the right to marry. From that day forward, thousands of gay and lesbian couples from across the state followed the lead. Meanwhile, other couples in other places are fighting for the same right.

“Courting Equality” follows the experience with wonderful text by Patricia A. Gozemba and Karen Kahn and extraordinary photographs (more than 100 in all). We are given a front row center seat to see the battle for same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. There entire story is here—the early efforts of activists and the celebrations that followed the decision and the protests following the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court in the case of “Goodridge vs. The Department of Public Health. What a joyous book this is.

The photographs illustrate the text beautifully and further demonstrate the dignity of the issue. The faces in the photographs are elated and proud and exemplify the importance of everything that went on in front of and behind the scenes. Some of the photographs are so touching that it is difficult to look at then with dry eyes. Others make you smile and grin with pride. They represent what the struggle for equality is all about and what it looks like. The text writers have documented an important part of American history and show the efforts to end discrimination and we read and see how our  own legislators and fellow citizens got to know us and our families and helped us gain the justice we so deserve.

Here is testimony to the power of commitment. The stories of the people involved are beautifully related and we see humanity at its finest hour. What makes this book important is that it is not only a chronicle the events that led up to Massachusetts allowing same-sex marriage but it shows how political support grew as we witnessed the reality of the demolition of prejudices against us. Most of all, I feel, it reinforces our worth and that we do, indeed, gain equal treatment under the laws of our country. The look at the way social change occurs is beautifully expressed in this beautiful coffee-table sized book. It is an album of our lives and a picture of freedom.

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