Archive for March, 2018

Wonderlands: Good Gay Travel Writing by Raphael Kadushin

WsHighly disparate pieces, some fiction, most not, with the feel of places, rather than mere descriptions of them. It all looks rather like some project done for the sake of it, though there are some gems e.g. Toibin’s and the one about the Isle of Lewis.

Mack Friedman’s recall of summer vac jobs with salmon almost evokes the smell of fish. The workers’ camp, the backdrop of an Alaskan fish factory, is as male-bonded a world as any Marine Corp barracks and it underscores the poetic first love that is the work’s more authentic refrain, and that becomes all the more moving for its lack of realization. His first novel was about a Jewish gay teenager, who goes to work in a fish factory – so there’s a(n autobiographgical?) connection. I had to look up ‘ulna ‘ =  long bone found in the forearm that stretches from the elbow to the smallest finger,

Brian Bouldrey’s piece was very boring, with all the stuff about languages and continual ‘Moo moo’.
Mitch Cullin has some interesting observations about travel and Japan, Hiroshima in particular.
Edward Field drinks tea with Paul Bowles – an occasion for name-dropping.
Rigoberto González – with him I share the energising feeling of being in a strange city
Raphael Kadushin settles into the ethereal sun of a Dutch spring.
Wayne Koestenbaum’s Vienna is both a city of high low culture, and as I don’t relate to operas I didn’t relate to his piece.
Michael Lowenthal remembers a jarring encounter in the Scottish Highland
Alistair McCartney writes airmail letters to his long-distance lover Tim Miller, who tallies the 1001 beds he has slept in all over the world as an air steward.
David Masello laments modernizing cities e.g. a church being demolished to make way for a car park.
Robert Tewdwr Moss tracks through the back roads of Syria and his own version of Arabian nights. I also had to look up ‘corniche ‘ = a road on the side of a cliff or mountain. It was becoming more liberal in 1998.
Bruce Shenitz also wrote The Man I Might Become: Gay Men Write About Their Fathers. Here, he explores a Dutch island – nicely enigmatic.
Colm Tóibín discovers a Spanish Brigadoon. Post Franco, the people are allowed in to ceremonies but there’s a dig at the officials who observe while drinking champagne.

Philip Gambone’s poignant “Do You Join in Singing the Same Bigness?” details his stays in China and a life-altering trip to Vietnam. Asia becomes a place of second chances.

Edmund White’s beautifully muted “Death in the Desert” elucidates the impact of AIDS with haunting clarity during a stay in the Middle East and recounts his harrowing drive through the Sahara with a man he loved.

Matthew Link’s “No Man’s Land” depicts his trip to the literal ends of the earth—Antarctica—in terms befitting Amundsen or Darwin.

Boyer Rickel’s paean to Italy, “Reading the Body”; observes male body language.

J.S. Marcus’s “Everywhere” deals with botched archaeological excavations.

Not all of the collection has overtly queer themes, and few pieces are truly sexual; there are no tours of gay Amsterdam, the Berlin homostrasses or the bath houses of the tropics. Rather, Kadushin has gathered highly disparate pieces, some fiction, most not, about the character of travelling, the subtleties and nuance that attend gay men together (or alone, but seeking companionship) in foreign climes and the feel of places, rather than mere descriptions of them,  learning about a place teaches about one’s self.

 

Overall, the world seems more hostile now.

Quotations:

Soon, I realized, Japan would seem no more real to me than my vivid dream of the crows, and I’d again find myself surviving on my own in the desert. And yet, for a while at least, I was content with the sudden realization that we are born alone, that we die alone, and that living provides us with the rare opportunity to truly love and to be loved; that, I suspect, is the only thing I know for certain.

Then, while sipping my coffee at the Excelsior Cafe and reading a short story by Haruki Murakami, my eyes stopped on a single sen­tence: “No matter how far you travel, you can never get away from yourself” Shimao said. How true, I found myself thinking. How per­fectly true. And so I shut the book, preferring instead to gaze out­side, mindful of the crows that were beyond the window and which were just now sorting through the debris of the storm’s widespread havoc—their long, curved beaks pecking at the messes created by both man and nature. Sitting there, my coffee growing cold, I could have stared at them all morning.

“Ever wondered what traveling and returning home have in common? In his introduction to “Wonderlands,” Raphael Kadushin writes, “We’re always leaving home because we’re partly looking from something else. And usually what we find, in the end, is a gift, a small wonderland that we may only recognize years later, when we’re back home, safe again.”

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At Your Own Risk: A Saint’s Testament – Derek Jarman

AYOR2(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

The title must be a reference to the frequent admonition about cruising grounds and such like in the former Spartacus International Gay guide.

Jarman was an arty-man to whom I couldn’t relate but this diary shows how normally human he was.

Saint? Well he was in ironic way in which the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence use the term

It’s not true that the Wolfenden Committee didn’t consult homosexuals.

He writes about being a boy and having innocent, unknowing attractions to other boys, and of being confused when the adults reacted with horror and censure to innocent boyhood flirtations. He writes of going to school and having no role models to help him understand what he was feeling, of having no idea that there were even others like him, that there was, in fact, a whole underground social structure of men with the same desires and feelings as him. “I was desperate to avoid being the sissy of my father’s criticism,” he writes, “terrified of being the Queer in the dormitory.” Later, he writes of discovering gay role models in art (Genet, Burroughs, Cocteau, Ginsberg) and truly awakening to his own sexuality during a trip to America in the 1960s.

At Your Own Risk is a very angry book because he was writing in the last years of his life, as he entered the advanced stages of AIDS-related illness, starting to go blind as many of his friends died from the same disease that he knew would soon enough claim him as well. Moreover, he was writing from within a culture that had, throughout his life, consistently restricted and tormented homosexuals, legislating their behaviour and, with the onset of HIV/AIDS, all but ignoring the problem until it dawned on everyone that heterosexuals were being affected too. Jarman’s book is structured by decades, from the 1940s to the then-nascent 1990s (the book was written in 1992, two years before Jarman’s death), and in each decade-spanning chapter, Jarman chronicles how gays were treated by society and how his own dawning understanding of his sexual identity developed.

This is also a very hopeful book, though, despite its righteous anger and outrage. Jarman is looking back here, examining a life lived within the restrictive boundaries of what he calls “Heterosoc” (a society-wide conformity that rejects all possibility of other ways to live and love), but he’s also looking forward, imagining a future in which young gay men won’t face all of the same problems that he’s faced. He ends the book with a movingly optimistic address to future generations: “I had to write of a sad time as a witness—not to cloud your smiles—please read the cares of the world that I have locked in these pages; and after, put this book aside and love. May you of a better future, love without a care and remember we loved too. As the shadows closed in, the stars came out.”

Basically each chapter is a decade and each decade is made clear with a montage of articles, states or minds in that time and his own look and experience on it. What I really loved about his writing style (and try to do the same in my stuff) was the blatancy and rawness but at the same time keep the mood light or not too overwhelming, no matter how outrageous and offensive it may seem.

AYOR1940’s – mostly articles about the gays in the Military and how they would be handled etc. And how some of them would be rent boys

1950’s – Alan Turing, who decoded the Enigma Code, was gay. The powers that be turned a blind eye at first, then , maybe they used and abused him.

1960’s – his first visit to a queer pub.  Laws changed and it felt like it was ok to be gay in the open but the police started giving them drama by raiding clubs and all sorts. Now Jarman keeps talking about the Heath, how the firemen would have a locking and invite gay folks in their pool after the gays had finished clubbing.

1970’s – founding of the Gay Liberation Front, gay politics, manifestos, the gay manual, the drugs, baths, saunas. Media making it worse with stupidity and spreading the wrong awareness about AIDS. Calling it the gay cancer. The circle of death as more and more known gay folks were dying of AIDS. Pasolini, Wilde, etc.

1980’s – New AIDS acronym – Arse Injected Death Syndrome. (rivals = Another Idiot Discovered Sex; All Interested Die Soon) More misleading quotations from the media. Doctors were making it even worse because if they knew their patient was gay they’d tell the patient he already was HIV+ so as to stop them from ‘funking around’. So many more deaths of Derek’s friends it’s like he never knew when he’d see them next. So he has a little Lamentation section in memory of quite a few of his friends, the memories he shared of them and a kind word or two… or not. The Sun whipped up the most flames with the most ignorant headlines and articles which were so far away from the truth. And so many pages were dedicated to such articles and headlines. And how Derek finds out he’s infected too how the kiss or death was his kiss of life. Living the life of an AIDS infected gay man, interviews on the subject and the like.

1990’s – Derek is canonised by the gay order of nuns (the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence) for his films and books as Saint Derek of Dungeness of the Order of Celluloid Knights.

An Appendix – which was basically information sent to him by his friends who were involved in the struggle for civil rights. Stuff about Hetero Hero (Magic Johnson) admitting he has AIDS and turned into all-American Hero by the president. While Freddie Mercury dies 24 hours after his public statement and how the tabloids heave into action. Statistics of criminal injustice even though being gay was not a crime anymore. Queer Policing. Tax money issues. Something that looks like a constitution, laws, rights, demands and bills for people with HIV..

AYOR 3Quotations:

For the first twenty-five years of my life I lived as a criminal, and the next twenty-five were spent as a second-class citizen, deprived of equality and human rights. No right to adopt children – and if I had children, I could be declared an unfit parent; illegal in the military; an age of consent of twenty-one; no right of inheritance; no right of access to a loved one; no right to public affection; no right to an unbiased education; no legal sanc­tion of my relationships and no right to marry. These restrictions subtly deprived me of my freedom. It seemed unthinkable it could be any other way, so we all accepted this.

In ancient Rome, I could have married a boy; but in the way that ideals seem to become their shadows, love came only to be accepted within marriage. Since we could not be married, we could not fall in love. Since we could not fall in love, we were not loved.

The Heath no more belongs to the people of Hampstead than the Palace of Westminster belongs to the people of Westminster.

No man is an island, but each man created his own island to cope with the prejudice and censure. The time for politeness had to end.

Already the dormitory was divided into three groups: those who would report you – future guardians of morality; those who enjoyed themselves – myself; and the rest, frightened by their own come, and probably destined for the cloth.

James Lindesay writes: Heterosexuality (derived from the Greek `heteros’ meaning different, rather than the Latin `heitare’ meaning ‘to yawn’) is a condition in which the individual is sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex. It is becoming increasingly apparent that heterosexuals (or ‘drabs’ as they call themselves) do in fact make up a significant proportion of the community.

In his Symposium Plato recommends that only young men who love each other are fit for public office.

The modern Queer was invented by Tennessee Williams. Brando in blue jeans, sneakers, white T-shirt and leather jacket. When you saw that, you knew they were available.

Swinging London swung in the imagination rather than reality; however, there was a limitless horizon of optimism. What were these bars like? None of them would pass muster these days; apart from the lack of alcohol, sound systems were in their infancy so dance floors were an after­thought.

Part of the con was to steal the name Stonewall and turn our riot into their tea party. We are now to be integrated into the worst form of British hetero politic – the closed room, the gentlemen’s club – where decisions are made undemocratically for an ignorant population which enjoys its emasculation.

So they – Stonewall – won’t acknowledge this criticism. They’ll pretend there isn’t a debate. The only way that they can succeed in their politics is through the myth of homogeneity and the ‘gay community’. But our lives are plural. They always have been – sexuality is a diversity. Every orgasm brings its own liberty.

The slow-witted approach to the HIV epidemic was the result of a thousand years of Christian malpractice and the childlike approach of the church to sexuality. If any single man was responsible, it was Augustine of Hippo who murdered his way to a sainthood spouting on about the sins located in his genitals.

Those who thought otherwise, that sexuality was to be celebrated, were executed or pushed into the shadows. The battle goes on with Augustine’s pack hunting in the debased tabloids. Augustine was joined by other demented saints.

The passions in fact are dishonourable since the soul is more damaged and degraded by sins than the body is by illness… Real pleasure is only in accordance with nature. When God has abandoned someone every­thing is inverted, for I tell you that such people are even worse than murderers. The murderer only separates soul from body but these peo­ple destroy the soul within the body.

`Three years ago he was diagnosed HW+. His doctor, who knew he was gay, organised a test for him. When he went back two weeks later for the results, he was told he had the virus. The doctor was a born-again Christian and he said my friend should give up his homosexuality and become a Christian. He didn’t do that and we coped for three years. A month ago he was called up and asked to go and have further tests by the hospital. He was tested and then re-tested and called back to be told he had never had the virus. They had been investigating the doctor, who had been giving young men who he knew were gay false positive results.’

 The average police clear-up rate for the mainly consensual gay offences of buggery, procuring, and indecency is 97%, which is 28% higher than the average clear-up rate for rape and indecent assault on a woman. This extraordinarily high clear-up rate for victimles-s homosexual offences is suggestive of a police vendetta against the gay community.

Compared with men who have consenting sex with girls under 16, men who commit the consensual offence of ‘indecency between males’ with partners over 16 are five times more likely to be prosecuted, and three times less likely to get off with a caution.

Convictions for victimless homosexual indecency rose by 106% between 1985-’89. According to the Home Office this can be explained by the decision of some Chief Constables to ‘target’ these offences. Comparable heterosexual behaviour is rarely, if ever, targeted by the police.

As a result, the number of convictions for consenting homosexual indecency was nearly four times greater in 1989 that in 1966 – the year before the ostensible decriminalisation of male homosexuality.

Men who have consenting sex with 13 – 16 year old boys nearly always get charged with ‘indecent assault’ (despite the boys being willing partici­pants); whereas an ‘indecent assault’ charge is almost never brought against men who have consensual sex with girls in the same age range.

Prison sentences for consenting homosexual relations with men aged 16 – 21 are sometimes as long as for rape, and are often twice as long as the gaol terms for ‘unlawful sexual intercourse’ with a girl aged 13 – 16.

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