Monthly Archives: April 2011

Uncensored “Picture of Dorian Gray” Published

Uncensored “Picture of Dorian Gray” published

Over 120 years after it was condemned as ‘vulgar’ and ‘unclean’, an uncensored version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is published by Harvard University Press

 

Alison Flood

    Oscar Wilde

    ‘Objectionable’ material cut from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray has finally been restored in a new uncensored version. Photograph: Corbis

    Revised after it was condemned in the British press over 130 years ago as “vulgar”, “unclean”, “poisonous” and “discreditable”, an uncensored version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray has finally been published.

    Wilde’s editor JM Stoddart had already deleted a host of “objectionable” text from the novel before it made its first appearance in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in June 1890, cutting out material which made more explicit the homoerotic nature of artist Basil Hallward’s feelings for Dorian Gray and which accentuated elements of homosexuality in Gray himself.

    Deciding that the novel as it stood contained “a number of things which an innocent woman would make an exception to”, and assuring his employer Craige Lippincott that he would make the book “acceptable to the most fastidious taste”, Stoddart also removed references to Gray’s female lovers as his “mistresses”. He went on to cut “many passages that smacked of decadence more generally,” said Nicholas Frankel, editor of the new edition, for Harvard University Press.

    The public outcry which followed the novel’s appearance – “it is a tale spawned from the leprous literature of the French Decadents – a poisonous book, the atmosphere of which is heavy with the mephitic odours of moral and spiritual putrefaction,” wrote the Daily Chronicle – forced Wilde to revise the novel still further before it appeared in book form in 1891.

    “It is quite true I have worshipped you with far more romance of feeling than a man should ever give to a friend. Somehow I have never loved a woman,” Hallward tells Dorian, in one passage which was changed. The censored version read: “From the moment I met you, your personality had the most extraordinary influence over me”.

    Frankel, associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University said “the time is ripe for the publication of Wilde’s novel in its uncensored form … It is the version of the novel that Wilde, I believe, would want us to be reading in the 21st century … I’m bringing it out of the closet a little more.”

    Harvard University Press said the differences between Wilde’s original text and the published version of the novel “have until now been evident to only the handful of scholars who have examined Wilde’s typescript”.

    Among other restored passages, Hallward describes the feelings which had driven his portrait of Gray. “There was love in every line, and in every touch there was passion”. Another restored line describes Gray walking the street at night; “A man with curious eyes had suddenly peered into his face, and then dogged him with stealthy footsteps, passing and repassing him many times.” Gray also reflects on Hallward’s feelings for him. “There was something infinitely tragic in a romance that was at once so passionate and sterile”.

    In another instance, the question; “Is Sybil Vane your mistress ?” was altered to “What are your relations with Sibyl Vane ?” – one of three references to Gray’s “mistresses” that were cut by the editor.

    But critics and academics in the US have not been universal in their praise of the uncensored version. Reviewing the new edition, author and columnist Brooke Allen wrote on the Barnes and Noble website that “whether the original text is actually ‘better’ than the book version published in 1891 is a moot point”.

    “Some of Wilde’s original material may have been lost in the latter … but much was gained, too,” she wrote. “This annotated version, though a treasure for scholars and for anyone with a serious interest in Wilde, the 1890s, and Aestheticism, should serve as a supplement to the standard text rather than a replacement.”

“Finding Sanctuary” by DC Juris– Confronting Fears

Juris, DC. “Finding Sanctuary”, Fanny Press, 2010.

Confronting Fears

Amos Lassen

Vincent is a regular guy—nothing special; he is the kind of a guy you see walking down the street to whom you pay no attention. He has a good job, leads a respectable life, has a nice girlfriend, a nice house, etc. Materially he is set but something is happening in his head. He begins to realize that his best friend, Eric, is the object of his lust and affection, Suddenly Eric invites Vincent to join him at a BDSM playhouse and it there that Vincent comes face to face with his fears and will have to test himself as to how far he can and will go. Eric has needs that conflict with Vincent’s needs and they will have to find a way to come to terms.
I am absolutely amazed at the way this book affected me and I have been thinking about it since I closed the covers. I always enjoy finding a new writer that pulls me and that is exactly what DC Juris did. I have never been really interested in the BDSM subculture and have not read much about it. Now I want to read more. Juris gives us larger than life characters that are exciting to read about. I totally enjoyed Vincent and reading about him coming to terms with himself was a real pleasure for me. The plot never sags and the writing is excellent. Now I have to go back and have a look at Juris’s other books. From the bio I read, he sounds fascinating.

“The Gay State” by Garrett Graham– Something to Think About


Graham, Garrett. “The Gay State: The Quest for an Independent Gay Nation-State and What It Means to Conservatives and the World’s Religions”, iUniverse, 2010.

Something to Think About

Amos Lassen

It has become a rarity these days to find a book dealing with GLBT issues that gives the reader something to think about. Garrett Graham punctures that void with “The Gay State” and while his ideas may seem to be a bit radical at first, they make a great deal of sense. His thesis is that we have reached that point in history that we consider the creation of a gay state where the majority of residents are gay and where they are free and in their own place and equal to all other nations. While this idea may seem preposterous, I beg you to look at history and see that the very reasons for creating such a place are very much the same as those for which Israel joined the nations of the world. Persecution only reinforces the fact that one need not suffer because of who they are and if the nations of the world want to find a way to eradicate said persecution, the best answer is to provide a haven for those who do suffer. I may have many people come down on me when I state that the creation of the State of Israel is a direct result of what happened to Jewry because of the Holocaust. Can we afford another Holocaust in the world today simply because people are different? I am sure that you will agree that the answer is no. In Graham’s words, “The Gay State is a proclamation that the world of tomorrow can be far better than the world we have today”. Overt homophobia may have lessened but it still exists, especially in less enlightened areas of our world just as it is for anti-Semitism. With this book, Garrett Graham has brought about a movement that will bring oppression and suffering to an end. The time has come to make sure that all who seek freedom are able to find it. It is time that all rights given to everyone else now are accessible to the GLBT populace as well.

Toleration is not acceptance and I have grown to hate the word. I do not want to be tolerated; I want to be regarded just as everyone else is. Toleration does not satisfy me. To me it is the same as saying that I tolerate mashed potatoes but I do not like them and I will not eat them. However, if you want to have them, go right ahead. Here in America, GLBT people pay taxes like everyone else yet they do not receive the same protections that others do. What about the rest of the world where gays are jailed and executed when their only crime is loving someone of the same sex. The freedoms that we do have in many cases are little more than token freedoms. Hate crimes are still a part of our lives and even with legislation against them, they continue to exist.

Homosexuals have been around since the beginning of time and for the last 3000 years we have suffered abuse and in many cases this abuse is dealt to us in the name of religion. Yet we are a country that prides itself on the separation of church and state. In today’s modern world there are some eighty counties that consider us to be outlaws and all this comes about because of the majority that is non gay. Is it fair to give a death sentence because of loving someone? We are attacked by gangs and we are psychologically beaten down because we do not represent what the majority feels is “normal”.
Along with a preface and a foreword, Graham outlines for us not only the origins of the gay state but the problems facing our community. He looks at the diversity of the GLBT population and discusses the contributions that GLBT people have made to our world. He also looks at the discriminatory laws that have existed and that still exist.

Whether you agree with the premise or not, this is a book that must be read if for no other reason than to make you aware of how we stand in the eyes of many. I find this to be an invaluable resource that gives us the full picture and frankly, I find it alarming.

Graham closes his book with a chapter entitled “The Conclusion of the Gay State and How We Will Move Forward” and a list of sources that are useful for furthering the Gay State Movement as well as a petition for a Gay State, a request for asylum and citizenship in the Gay State and the “Virtues, Sins and Philosophical Steps to Good Citizenship”. I recommend this as highly as I can and charge you to add this book to your reading list. You will not be sorry and you learn something and I can think of nothing better to say about any book.

“BEHIND THE XXX”– Making Porn

“Behind the XXX”

Making Porn

Amos Lassen

Now that pornography is almost mainstream, there have been several movies made about what goes on behind the scenes. This is the fourth of this kind that I have reviewed. There is something about the lure of pornography that pulls us in and I suspect it has to do with the performers. Here we get to look behind the scenes. This DVD is made up of interviews with some of the most popular professional porn stars as well as with nine amateurs.

However, I must note that this film deals only with female porn stars and although we see everything of them, there is no male frontal nudity. The women we see here are Jada Fire, Trina Michaels and Raquel Devine. Is this not porn as well? I suppose you can say that but it is a step up from just porn as it shows us what really goes on behind the scenes.

“Purple Grass” by Denny Hamann– On Being Different


Hamann, Denny. “Purple Grass”, CreateSpace, 2010.

On Being Different

Amos Lassen

It is a lot harder being different than it is being like everyone else and I am sure most gay men have gone through a period of feeling that being different meant that we don’t belong. We were like lost sheep eating in a pasture with other who were all the same.

In “Purple Grass”, we have a little lamb and in his flock everyone eats green grass. No one is to like, must less eat, purple grass. In fact, it was considered a sin to like purple grass. Our little lamb is an outcast and when he gets lost, he finds himself in darkness. Hamann shows we are all like that little lamb. However the lamb and gay men share something—they both know who they are and even though neither of us is accepted, we find a way to come to terms. We must both agree, though, that being different is very hard. We have to fight for what should be ours and have a hard time understanding why it is not.

The world seems to be at odds with us and we question if we fit somewhere and we fight the same battle over and over again. Acceptance (and I do not mean tolerance) is something that is a prized possession and we know we have to fight to gain it. There are times when it does not seem worth it but like that little lamb sees, the world can be a very lonely place.

Denny Hamann has taken a very simple idea and made it very relevant and by using the lamb to represent us, he gives us a story for all ages and all people. I could only wonder why no one has come up with this idea before. Then again, even if someone had, I doubt they could have given us the story that Hamann has and it is obvious that he wrote this from his heart. Every word is just right and every situation hits home.

When I first read this, I thought to myself that this is an “Animal Farm” for gay people and by using animals to tell his story; it is that much more effective.

Yes, I am praising this book—not just for what it says but also for how it says it. When an author writes from the heart, he pulls us in and we share his pain and his joys. Looking back at the book now, I realize that the idea could have been summed up very tersely but Hamann went a step further and created situations for the lamb that parallel our own lives.

If you read nothing else this year, make sure you do read “Purple Grass”. You won’t be reading about a little lost lamb—in most cases, you will be reading about yourself. I had never read Denny Hamann before and in fact had never heard of him. Get ready because I think we will be hearing a great deal more from him. He is headed for a top spot in the genre of gay literature.

“BIRTHDAY PIE” by Arthur Wooten– Looking at Relationships

Wooten, Arthur. “Birthday Pie: A Novel”,iUniverse,2011.

Looking at Relationships

Amos Lassen

 

I first became aware of Arthur Wooten through his books “On Eating Fruit” and “Fruit Cocktail” and he is a terrific story teller. I often wondered why I had not seen anything new from in a while and to my surprise, I received an email about his new book, “Birthday Pie”. I am glad to say that he continues being a terrific storyteller. Not only does he tell a good story but he creates unforgettable characters.

Lex Martindale is a writer in New York City who travels to his family home for two reasons—his birthday and to say goodbye to his father who is dying. He is carrying a secret about himself that he cannot decide whether to share it with his family. We learn about the history of Lex’s family and that there were love stories and hopes that were never met. This reunion could change everything and as the family comes together a lot of anger and hard feelings come to the fore. But there is also healing so while they are changed, it is for the better. A sense of family is recreated and anger turns to love.

What I love about Arthur Wooten is his sense of humor. He has the ability to make situations comic that might otherwise be something entirely different. His characters are very real, so much so that I felt as if I knew them and if I looked up from the book I would see them. Wooten has the ability to both touch us and make us laugh at the same time and this is perhaps his greatest gift. It is hard to stop reading once you begin and then when you are finished you still want more. Not many writers are able to do that.

Something else that Wooten does is to take issues that are close to us—in this case relationships and family—and then write about them in a way that is very true to life.

I am so glad that Wooten is back and writing. He dares to say what so many of us think but dare not utter and the way he says it is a real treat.

 

 

“LET ME DIE QUIETLY”– Sex, Betrayal, Murder

“Let Me Die Quietly”

Seduction, Betrayal and Murder

Amos Lassen

 

“Let Me Die Quietly” is a haunting film that pushes you into your seat and keeps you there. Mario is a world weary guy who suffers from visions of murder and of late he has been haunted by a murder in Hell’s Kitchen He tries to help the police as they investigate and then he meets another psychic (he has psychic abilities) and with Gabrielle they begin a journey. They both have to deal with their nightmares as they tortured by deception and sexual obsession. Mario is cynical, Gabrielle is mysterious and together they are quite a team. This is a movie with little physical action but lots of mental activity.

Charles Casillo is Mario and he plays him with all of his lethargy and ennui with the world. Therefore it comes as no surprise when he begins to work with the police. The pervading theme of the movie deals with death and how both Mario and Gabrielle have the ability to know the last few moments of a person before death.

What we do not expect is the character study we get here of Mario. As he moves through twists and turns we get to know more and more about him which is actually not very much. It is Casillo’s blank expressions that say so much. He enters a dark world and takes Gabrielle with him.

I found myself glued to my chair and trying to figure out what was going on to no avail. Yet it is impossible not to enjoy the experience of the film even without total comprehension.

Movies to Watch For, Coming from Strand Releasing

Movies to Watch for–coming from Strand Releasing

STRAND RELEASING 2011 LINE UP AS OF JANUARY 13, 2011

A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN. (Comedy) Directed by Hans Petter Moland.  Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgard) is a somewhat gentle man, as far as gangsters go. Reluctantly back on the streets following a stint in prison, Ulrik’s boss greets him with open arms and a plan to settle an old score. With a demented sense of professional pride, Ulrik’s boss sets in motion a plan to right the wrong done to his star employee. The problem is Ulrik would rather go about his own business, however mundane, than get involved with his ragtag colleagues again. This dark feel-good comedy delivers laughs and gasps in equal measure. Winner at Chicago Film Festival, Silver Hugo Award. Winner at Fantastic Film Festival, Best Actor to Stellan Skarsgard. Winner at Les Arcs European Film Festival, Crystal Arrow Award. Official Selection of the Berlin Film Festival. Opens in New York on Friday, January 14, 2011 at the IFC Theatre.  Opens in Los Angeles on Friday, January 28, 2011 at the Nuart Theater.

CARANCHO. (Thriller) Directed by Pablo Trapero.  Sosa (Ricardo Darín, The Secret in Their Eyes) is an ambulance-chasing personal injury attorney with questionable ethics.  Lujan (Martina Gusman, Lion’s Den) is a young, idealistic country doctor new to the city.  After Lujan and Sosa’s paths repeatedly cross, the two form an unlikely romance that is threatened by Sosa’s turbulent past.  With traffic accidents as the number one cause of death in Argentina, bodies are currency and a black market strives to get rich from the personal tragedies that literally litter the streets.   Starring Ricardo Darín, Martina Gusman, Carlos Weber, Jose Luis Arias, Fabio Ronzano. Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival.  Argentina’s Official Selection for Best Foreign Language Film for the 84th Annual Academy Awards.

UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES. (Drama/ Fantasy) Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Syndromes And A Century, Tropical Malady, Blissfully Yours).  Suffering from acute kidney failure, Uncle Boonmee has chosen to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. Surprisingly, the ghost of his deceased wife appears to care for him, and his long lost son returns home in a non-human form.  Contemplating the reasons for his illness, Boonmee treks through the jungle with his family to a mysterious hilltop cave – the birthplace of his first life…  In his signature cinematic style, the acclaimed Thai filmmaker delivers a strange and mystical world of visionary beauty.  Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Thailand’s Official Selection for Best Foreign Language Film for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. Nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2011 Spirit Awards.

RAGE (RABIA). (Thriller) Directed by Sebastián Cordero.  Based on a novel by Sergio Bizzio, Rage (Rabia) tells the suspenseful story of a pair of Latin American immigrants who fall in love.  José María, a hot-headed builder, and Rosa, a housekeeper, embark in a passionate relationship.  When a violent confrontation with José María’s foreman results in the other man’s death, José María flees to the mansion where Rosa works, telling no one.   Hidden even from her, he watches Rosa be mistreated by her boss as he yearns for the day they can be together.  Winner of the Tokyo International Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize.  Winner of Malaga Spanish Film Festival’s Best Film.  Official Selection of the Toronto International Film Festival.

TO DIE LIKE A MAN (Drama) Directed by João Pedro Rodrigues. Tonia is a large-than-life drag icon of Lisbon’s night life in the late 1980s.  At the peak of her career, she meets and falls in love with Rosario, a young soldier who’s gone AWOL.  Under pressure from Rosario, Tonia begins a series of operations to become a woman but the final step proves much harder than she could have guessed.  Torn between her love for Rosario and her deeply-rooted religious convictions, Tonia looks for distraction in a trip to the countryside with Rosario.  Lost along the way, the couple find themselves in an enchanted forest where everything they think they know about life and love is proven wrong. Part melodrama, part phantasmagorical fairy tale, To Die Like A Man is visual extravaganza. Official Selection at Cannes Film Festival. Portugal’s Official Selection for Best Foreign Language Film for the 84th Annual Academy Awards

THE ARBOR. (Documentary) Directed by Clio Barnard.  Andrea Dunbar was described as ‘a genius straight from the slums.’  The unflinchingly honest playwright wrote about her distressing upbringing on the  Arbor, the notorious Buttershaw Estate in Bradford, UK.   When she died tragically in 1990 at the age of 29, Andrea left behind her plays and three children by three different men.  Although Lorraine, Andrea’s oldest daughter, acquired a knack for writing, she was unable to avoid a grim fate of her own.  This documentary follows Lorraine and her other siblings on a powerful journey of reflection and self-discovery as they begin to understand the struggles their mother faced.  Comprised of  personal letters; interviews with Andrea’s family and friends; and a reading of her most celebrated play; The Arbor is as innovative in its construction and execution as it is heartbreakingly compelling. Winner of the Tribeca Film Festival’s Best New Documentary Filmmaker.

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CAMERAMAN: THE LIFE AND WORK OF JACK CARDIFF. (Documentary) Directed by Craig McCall.  Jack Cardiff’s career spanned an incredible nine of moving picture’s first ten decades and his work behind the camera altered the look of films forever through his use of Technicolor photography.  Craig McCall’s passionate film about the legendary cinematographer reveals a unique figure in British and international cinema.  Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival Classics and the New York Film Festival.

LEAP YEAR (AÑO BISIESTO). (Drama) Directed by Michael Rowe.  Laura is 25 years old.  She’s a journalist, she’s single and lives in a small apartment in Mexico City.  After a series of short-lived affairs, Laura meets Arturo.  After the first time they make love, she is left deeply unsettled.  They embark on an intense and passionate sexual relationship, in which pleasure, pain and love merge.  As days go by which Laura conscientiously crosses out in a calendar, her secret past resurfaces, pushing Arturo to the limit.  Winner of the “Camera d’Or” Prize for Best First Film at the Cannes Film Festival.  Official Selection of the Moscow International Film Festival, Ale Kino World Cinema International Film Festival, and Haifa International Film Festival

“PRESENTING GILDA LILY: MY YEARS IN HOLLYWOOD”– Another New Film from David Leddick


“Presenting Gilda Lily: My Years in Hollywood”

Another New Film from David Leddick

Amos Lassen

 

Until I saw the three films by David Leddick I always only thought of him as a writer but now I see he is so much more. In “Presenting Gilda Lily”, he gives us the story of an imaginary movie queen who lets us know about her years in Hollywood and she tells it like it was. Leddick is Gilda Lily who immediately lets us know that there are a million reasons why we should hear about her life. As a child star, she was a strong rival of both Grace Kelly (was she ever a child star?) and Shirley Temple. She was hosted a very strange cooking show and she became the spokeswoman for a product that I am not naming here. She maintains that she is responsible for the glamour of Hollywood and when she dies, it will die with her.

There are thirteen musical numbers in the show that Leddick also wrote and this is a show that you have to see to believe. It is quite simply great fun.