Issue Categories Archives: Book Review

Women on the Verge

THIS NOVEL by Patricia A. Smith explores fictional events in Bradley, Massachusetts, following the abduction and murder of a ten-year-old boy. Leo Rivera has been lured into a car by a “much older” friend, Mickey, who knows the boy wants a new bike, calls to him from a car window, and invites him to go see one downtown. Leo gets into the car and discovers that Mickey is not alone.

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Babylon on the Thames

Sins of the Cities presents the first history of a male prostitute as told from his own viewpoint—and without apology. Its main character is Jack Saul, whose life is written up from “his rough notes” commissioned by a certain “Mr Cambon.” The two men first meet in November 1880, when Cambon cruises Saul in Leicester Square, being attracted by the “extraordinary” size of the “lump in his trousers.” He is equally struck by Saul’s expertise at oral sex and asks for an account of how he arrived at such proficiency. Saul agrees to provide a narration of his life, with the understanding that he will be paid for his efforts. Saul is thus frequently cited as the “author” of the resulting book. If so, he must share the title with Cambon. The latter’s introduction takes up seven-and-a-half pages in the Valancourt edition. His voice returns for eight pages at the end of the book in three essays apparently designed as filler to reach the requisite length.

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A Novelist Gets Personal

  Black Wave by Michelle Tea The Feminist Press at CUNY 320 pages, $18.95   MICHELLE TEA’S new novel—for lack of a more precise label—is a work of meta-fiction, a narrative about a writer trying to write while also trying to survive the 1990s, when the world was expected to end with the millennium. Michelle, […]

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You’ve Never Heard of Denton Welch?

DENTON WELCH (1915–1948) was a writer’s writer and, in particular, a gay writer’s writer. He isn’t as well known as other queer authors of the early 20th century, but the list of writers who have admired and championed his work includes Edith Sitwell, Vita Sackville-West, E. M. Forster, W. H. Auden, John Updike, William Burroughs, John Waters, and Edmund White.

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In a Lonely Place, Watching

Enigma Variations is a novel about a man who remains unknowable. Paul is an outsider in many ways. He’s an Italian living in America; he forms emotional attachments to women yet lusts after men; he longs for understanding but keeps people at a distance.

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Who Were Called ‘Macaroni’?

Dominic Janes beautifully demonstrates, long before the Wilde brouhaha, homoerotic expression in the form of dandyism and æstheticism—“camping,” we might call it today—was conspicuous, and often accurately understood, in British society.

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A Steamy Novel from ‘the Amazon’

In Women Lovers, Barney writes explicitly and unflinchingly about sex (really hot sex) and gender role-play between women, which was extremely courageous for the period. As her biographer Suzanne Rodriguez observes, this kind of unabashed honesty about lesbian sexuality was shocking back then. When writing of her own vulnerability in love, however, Barney exposes an utterly different side of her character: a woman who is wanting, woeful, and wounded—far from the mythical Amazon persona.

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Antinous in Minnesota

The Troubleseeker combines history and mythology from several cultures to tell the story of Antinio, a gay Cuban man, as he searches for freedom and love in the face of oppression and disease. It is narrated by Hadrian, the brilliant emperor of ancient Roman whose male lover Antinous died by drowning at age nineteen, whereupon Hadrian made him a god and had statues of Antinous erected all over the Empire. Hadrian, now a disembodied demi-god with limited supernatural powers, takes an interest in Antinio, actively saving his life on several occasions.

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Whither Women’s Spaces?

  The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture by Bonnie J. Morris SUNY. 256 pages, $22.95   IN THE DISAPPEARING L, Bonnie J. Morris writes about a current cultural reality: the potential extinction of lesbian spaces that threatens to take 20th-century radical feminist history down with it. She asks the question: “How do […]

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An Art Era to Remember

Before Pictures primarily focuses on art and life in the formative decade prior to 1977. Back then, he was convinced that art critics were the arbiters of what was “historically significant.” Reflecting back upon these early years, he reconsiders: “Coming to the understanding that my knowledge of art can never be anything but partial has been liberating. It has allowed me to write about what attracts me, challenges me, or simply gives me pleasure without having to make a grand historical claim for it.”

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