Monthly Archives: December 2013

“Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris” by Edmund White— the Paris Years.

inside a pearlWhite, Edmund. “Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris”, Bloomsbury, 2014.

The Paris Years

Amos Lassen

For me, it is an occasion when Edmund White has a new book out. He is author that I never tire of reading and I anxiously await each book. The Paris years are part of White’s autobiography that began with “My Lives and “City Boy”. This new volume will be out in February and chronicles that period of White’s life from 1983 when he moved to Paris. He left the States (New York City) at a time that the gay community was plagued by the AIDS epidemic. He was then forty-three years old, could not speak French and actually only two people in Paris. But for him, as it is for so many who move to a new country, it was a time of anxiety and a chance to become part of and learn about a new country. By the time he returned to America some fifteen years later he was fluent in French. He had worked as a journalist and because of that he was lucky enough to get to know many people, including Yves Saint Laurent, Catherine Denueve and Michel Foucault (who I had once studied with). What allowed him to understand the French and French culture was the friendship he shared with Marie-Claude, an older woman.

As with White, his descriptions bring France to life. This was quite a change when compared to New York City. We sense the love he has for Paris and its culture and he became intellectually stimulated by it. He later became the biographer of Jean Genet and wrote studies of the lives of Marcel Proust and Arthur Rimbaud. He was rewarded by being a recipient of the French Order of Arts and Letters. This book is around his time in France and there is gossip along with a look at Paris and the pleasure that he got from that.

Since I have not yet seen the book, there is not much more than I can about it. The purpose of this article is just to let you know the book is coming soon. For those of you in the Boston area, Edmund White will be reading from this book on February 24, 2014 at the Brookline Booksmith.

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“Homophobia: The Ultimate Guide for How to Overcome Homophobic Thoughts Forever” by Caesar Lincoln— Overcoming Homophobia

homophobiaLincoln, Caesar. “Homophobia: The Ultimate Guide for How to Overcome Homophobic Thoughts Forever”, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2013.

Overcoming Homophobia

Amos Lassen

Caesar Lincoln brings a strategy to overcome homophobia. We know how widespread it is and the trouble that it causes in today’s world at a time when the LGBT community is enjoying a freedom it has never known before. It is so important in today’s world to be open-minded to everyone. Many know the dangers of homophobia but cannot change the situation because it is so ingrained in them.

What is needed is an effective strategy and an understanding of where these feelings come from and why they exist. Lincoln takes us to where it is, how it originates and then presents a step-by-step strategy that will free people from homophobia and thus give a way to take control of one’s life.

The following topics are covered here:

What Is Homophobia?

Causes of Homophobia

Getting Rid Of Homophobic Thoughts

Keeping Homophobic Thoughts Away

Once we understand these topics, we can sit down and figure out how to deal with them. This is a book for everyone and anyone involved in the LGBT community and its issues. It is an easy read and makes so much sense that people will be surprised that they never thought about is here before.

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“Peek: Inside the Private World of Public Sex” by Joseph Couture— Impersonal Sex

peekCouture, Joseph. “Peek: Inside the Private World of Public Sex”, Routledge, 2013.

Impersonal Sex

Amos Lassen

All of us know what impersonal sex, many of us have practiced it (or else know it perfectly) and we all love exploring it. Joseph Couture tells us all about it, the why, the how, the result and the when to have it (but this is no guidebook or manual—it is an explanation). When we think of the places for impersonal sex, we think bathhouses, gyms, parks, peep shows, swingers’ clubs, men’s rooms and the internet. Here we have interviews with all kinds of men who openly discuss their sexual habits and experiences. If you are fascinated by this kind of sex, this is the book for you.

One reviewer had these words to describe, “Peek”–“Passionate, Political, Fun, Courageous, Wild. It flows and rocks”. The book is concise and it was written for those who are interested in knowing about gay promiscuity. The author passes no judgment and provides sociological observations. He is also candid as one must be when dealing with this kind of sex. Couture treats his subject with frankness and his discussions about morality and sexuality are to the point. But perhaps the best thing about this book is people speak for themselves.

As a bonus we get helpful tips and dos and don’ts for having sex in public places. Steven Bereznai, who wrote “Gay and Single….Forever?”, says that Couture teaches us how to be “a public perv without being a creep, or becoming jaded”.  The book brings visibility to a form of sexual pleasure that is eschewed by many. Here the silence about impersonal and public sex is broken and Couture does that with great style.

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“Things My Mother Should Have Told Me Before I Had My Manhood Removed…” by Rachel Love— Transformation

things my motherLove, Rachel. “Things My Mother Should Have Told Me Before I Had My Manhood Removed…”, Skye Publishing, 2013.

Transformation

Amos Lassen

Here is a book of just 66 pages that attempts to answer the question, “Are women really treated that much different than men at work, home and in the bedroom”? This account of Rachel Love’s life as a transsexual is the unique approach here. Here is a firsthand account of experiences and perspectives by a person who has lived in both genders.

This is a witty memoir that is revealing and thought provoking about the transformation of someone who went from male to female. Love tells us early on that “everyone does not wake up on the other side of paradise.” She writes candidly and with compassion as she gives us the details of she survived gender reassignment. She tells it all and if she is a bit too graphic you can skip those parts. Most of us do not really understand sexual reassignment and gender change and we are probably too afraid to ask questions about it.

Because I have a transgender nephew, I found the details here to be interesting and I appreciate the timeline that Love gives us after she has had her final surgery and has recovered emotionally from the stress involved. We are eased into the story and it is great that the writing is good. What the book really is about is self-discovery and then self-acceptance. These two topics are what we will all go through regardless of gender. The story is moving and it is sensitively told. We all know that there will be never be understanding if there is no equality. There is a lot to be learned here but first you must let your preconceived notions rest and approach it with an open mind.

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“Gay for Pay?: Volume 1: George” by Richard Peters— Can Straight Men Turn Gay?

gay for payPeters, Richard. “Gay for Pay?: Volume 1:  George”, Richard Peters Books, 2013.

Can Straight Men Turn Gay?

Amos Lassen

The question that is the title of this review is, of course, rhetorical. Most of us know “straight” men who enjoy gay sex and/or men who are gay for pay. Peters maintains that “Gay for Pay” is a psychological exploration of sexuality. It is also quite pornographic in which the main character’s sexuality is tested. The question seems to be whether sexuality is fixed or is it possible for a straight man to turn gay. Further we might ask that if the circumstances are right, can indeed a straight man become gay. Personally, I think the question is worded incorrectly and should be whether a straight man will turn gay but whether a straight man will have gay sex. Therefore we might ask if someone has gay sex, is he gay?

It turns out that this is a novel so we will not even come close to finding an answer. Not only is this a novel but it is a triple X novel. If you are offended by reading graphic gay sex scenes, then this book is definitely not for you. We meet George, a strikingly handsome straight male who examines his own sexual psychology as a psychology graduate tests him. George is  forced to face his own homoerotic nature and his homosexual side. Everything gets mixed up in the novel and it is not about sex as much as it is about sexuality.

The novel is set in the 1960s, the age of hippies and free love. This was also the age of the sexual revolution when sexual definitions did not always hold true. When George is asked to participate in a psychological study for which he will be paid, he finds himself freely answering questions and then begins to explore his own sexuality and self-image. As we read of the tests he goes through, we get some very sexy writing. George was inexperienced when he began the study but something happens between him and the handsome graduate student. Since George was being paid to do what was asked of him, we do not know if it was the money or the enjoyment that kept him involved.

We get no conclusion simply because the author, Richard Peters, has titled this as volume one of a series and so there is more coming. I read on a blurb that “Richard Peters’ works, while containing explicit, gay, erotic porn descriptions never fail to move his readers emotionally”. I believe that someone is trying to say that there is some redeeming social value in the book. I call it smut and why it was even written or published I will never know. I see no intention here of finding how if someone can indeed be gay for pay and I do see the author’s intention of trying to pawn off smut to be a social commentary. It is actually listed in Amazon’s sexuality section and not in erotica where it belongs (if it even belongs anywhere).

I also understand that Peters has written many short stories and novels and his favorite themes deal with straight men being seduced by other straight men (Did I really use the word straight?) That is like saying Dolly Parton’s hair is hers because she bought it. Anyone can get published these days (especially if you form your own press like this man did). At least, we cannot be forced to read what he writes. There is porn, erotica and there is smut. This is trash. I found this quote: “Gay for Pay?” is a satisfying and stimulating read, on both the homoerotic and emotional levels, in a way that is rarely found in gay erotic fiction.  Why would anyone want to find it is beyond me.

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“How To Bottom Like A Porn Star. The Ultimate Guide To Gay Sex” by Woody Miller— Bottoming for Fun and Pleasure

how to bottomMiller, Woody. “How To Bottom Like A Porn Star. The Ultimate Guide To Gay Sex”, Woodpecker Media, 2013.

Bottoming for Fun and Pleasure

Amos Lassen

If you have ever wondered about how to enjoy anal sex then this is the book for you. The secrets of bottoms that love it are related to us here. We might even subtitle the book as anal sex with no pain. If you follow what is here then you will have a pleasurable sex life. Woody Miller is a sex advice writer who has joined with a team of urologists and colon rectal specialists to give us the lowdown on anal sex and there are also some innovative techniques that can be used. A team of researchers was sent out to interview gay men who work in the sex trade—cameramen, scouts, producers, directors and performers. The book then is a compendium about bottoming without pain and no mess. Below are the sections of the book:

1: What You Can Learn From Porn Star Bottoms.
A fascinating view of bottoming in the porn industry—how gay erotica performers prepare for a shoot, how they can take huge tops without any pain (even if it’s their first time) and how they stay loose despite day-long shoots. If you ever had a question about how the porn industry works, this is the place to find answers—from how much money porn stars make to what percent are heterosexual (shocking!) to their favorite brand of douches.

2: Free Your Mind, Your Butt Will Follow.
How To Bottom Like A Porn Star: The Ultimate Guide To Gay Sex is part porn exposé, part how-to from the latest gay sex research. In this chapter, we’ll look at how “Anticipatory pain” and a perceived loss of masculinity can put your butt in a headlock. We’ll show you how to resolve the emotional blocks that stop you from trying or enjoying anal sex with other gay men.

3: Why It Feels Like You’re Being Impaled By A Fence Post.
From our urologist and colon-rectal experts who specialize in gay male sex: It isn’t just your sphincter causing all that pain; it’s your “S-curve” as well as involuntary puborectal contractions. Learn your anatomical structure so you can make the tips in this book work better.

4: How Porn Star Bottoms Relax Their Sphincters.
Not all do it, or need to, but the gay men in the sex industry that do swear by it. Find out whether you should use their controversial method.

5: The Porn Star Method Of Eliminating Pain.
Find out the shocking things gay male erotica stars do to eliminate pain. Some cannot be recommended, but others can and we’ve combined them with a technique that blends systematic desensitization, pattern breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and sexual imagery to completely eliminate pain and heighten pleasure.

6: How Porn Star Bottoms Handle The Ick Factor.
Find out their secrets to getting your butt cleaner than a Brady Bunch rerun.

7: A Device That’s Better Than A Douche Or An Enema.
Enemas and douches are a bad idea (despite the porn industry’s reliance on them). Find out why and what product doctors recommend that will get you as clean as a douche without any of the harmful side effects.

8: How To Bottom Without Pain For The First Time.
Here you’ll learn how to combine the best position with the best angle of entry. Missionary? Doggie-style? Straight in? Angled up? When it comes to gay sex, it matters.

9: A Guided Tour Of A Pain-Free Bottoming Session Between Adam And Steve.
A beginner’s real-time, step-by-step guide to bottoming—porn style!– that will light you up like an all-night liquor store.

As you can see by the above, the book is witty as well as a helpful guide about being the receiver of anal sex. While the book claims to be for those who are afraid to bottom or else have tried it but found it painful. It is so much more than that though and is educative even for those who are pro bottoms.

Miller dispels some of the stigmas associated with bottoming and we see why so many enjoy it. We even learn about using poppers and the side-effects of using recreational drugs.

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“Out in the Army: My Life as a Gay Soldier” by James Wharton— Life in the British Army

out in the armyWharton, James. “Out in the Army: My Life as a Gay Soldier”, Biteback Publishing, 2014.

Life in the British Army

Amos Lassen

James Wharton joined the British army as a way to leave the countryside of Wales. He had a secret and he needed to find a way to tell his fellow soldiers that he was gay. This is his story from youth to adult and a memoir of his life in the Royal Army.

Wharton trained to become a cavalry trooper in the Blues and Royals, the men that escort and guard the reigning monarch and who become the object of tourists with cameras. The Blues and the Royals are also deployed like everyone else in the British military. Wharton was sent to Iraq and while there he was able to summon the courage to come out. The consequences of this were both good and shocking and he writes of them here with total honesty. The result is one of the most satisfying books that I have recently read and I laughed and I wept as I read. This is a tale that reflects changing times as well as an accurate account of attacks by rockets, unbelievable heat and dangerous scorpions. While this is a story of modern times and how they have changed there are also things here that could have been written hundreds of years ago. It is also a coming-out story, a look at a gay wedding and a read about a boyfriend who runs off with a vegan. We feel Wharton’s love for his queen and for his country and, of course, for himself. He tells us of his husband and his family as well. Here we see a boy become a boy and read of peace and war. This book could not have been written had we not had the changes of the way we now view the LGBT community and Wharton is a shining example of a man and a hero. We also see how the British army has kept up with the changing times.

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“For Today I Am a Boy” by Kim Fu— A House of Secrets

for today I am a boyFu, Kim. “For Today I Am a Boy”,  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.

A House of Secrets

Amos Lassen

Peter Huang and his three sisters were raised in a house of secrets in a small town in Ontario. When he was born, he was given the Chinese name of Juan Chaun which translates as powerful king. He was the only son and was expected to be an example of masculinity and power. However, his is not how Peter saw himself for he was certain that he was a girl. In this coming-of-age story that shows us how much it costs for one to follow the path that was planned by others and not his own heart. This is the story of struggles with gender and with finding a place in society.

Peter lives in the shadow of domineering father and was a boy among boys at school. When he gets his first job late, he has to deal with a tough boss in a restaurant. He moves into his own place and almost divorcing himself from contacts with his family aside from his sisters. As he explores who he is, he has intimate relations with females.

Peter’s parents were always remote—not only did he not know his parents’ names, he did even know where they had come from until late. At home, English was the spoken language. Peter begins to move toward a feminine personality when he begins to work and is out of the family home. He had never really been much of a son and his father abused him verbally and his peers did so physically because of his feminine ways. He had a rough childhood as a gender non-conforming child in a home and a society that stifled him. He stayed in the closet well into his adult years and he internalized the hate he felt. He knew that he was the only person like him. Because of the way that the author treats the subject, we feel Peter’s pain and his humiliation. He suffers being marginalized and different. He had been forced to accept himself as male but he knows that he is really female. He knows that he is a girl in a boy’s body.

It was not just Peter who wanted himself to be a female. His three sisters did so as well. His father was determined to impose masculinity upon him and this had severe effects on Peter both emotionally and psychologically. He naturally experiences violence at school. When he was an adult he moved to Montreal and began to watch how others related and began to experiment with cross-dressing and explored the possibilities of a sexual and emotional life that had been denied to him. Only after his father’s death do the other members of his family begin to explore the alternatives to the kind of lives that are defined by traditional Chinese social and gender roles.

There is no denying that this is a didactic narrative as we always feel that the story is as much about the tyranny of traditional patriarchy as it is about gender. We certainly become aware of the misguided assumptions patriarchal societies impose on developing children, about the narrow and destructive limits on behavior and expression, even thought, imposed by societies. Peter did not allow himself to be limited by those who want to force masculinity or by those who understand and want to help him find self-identification. In fact, this reads more like a study than as a novel. Unfortunately, everything is predictable but it is still valuable to those who are experiencing or have experienced what Peter did. I just wanted the book to say more than it did and there is nothing new here—I have read it all before, several times. By making it a story of an Asian perhaps the author felt that she was going somewhere new but it is the same old story retold.

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“Hindsight: An Autobiography” by Charlotte Wolff— Jewish and Gay in Weimar Germany and Elsewhere

hindsightWoolf, Charlotte. “Hindsight: An Autobiography”, Plunkett Lake Press, 2013).

Jewish and Gay in Weimar Germany and Elsewhere

Amos Lassen

We have had several memoirs from gay men who survived the Holocaust but not much from gay women. Charlotte Woolf helps to fill that gap. She was an outsider, a person without a country, a Jew and a gay woman. In fact, she tells us that she had been a lesbian for as long as she could remember. She also tells us that in her family this was a non-issue.

Woolf writes sensitively about her Jewish identity as well as history, medicine, psychotherapy and her sexuality. What she has to say about being a woman without a country was important to her and shows how it affected her psyche. She tells us of the women she loved from Danzig in the 1910s to the women she meet in Germany, France and England. She had been a party girl and a physician in Weimar Germany, was a friend of the Benjamins (Dora and Walter) and was deeply interested in the study of hands (chirology) and sexology. Woolf was attracted to friends who had glamorous lives– the fashion journalist Helen Hessel (Kathe of Jules and Jim) and Baladine Klossowska (mother of the painter Balthus) in Paris. She was in a wartime refugee colony in Sanary, France and she knew Quakers, the Manns (Thomas and Heinrich) and the Huxleys (Maria and Aldous).

In 1936 Woolf moved to London where her medical degree was not accepted so she read palms to finance herself. (She read Virginia Woolf, the Duchess of Windsor, and Sybille Bedford). Then she moved on to do research at London’s University College). In the 60s she began her entrance into same-sex groups and she published “Love Between Women” in 1971. She was invited to come back to Germany and she went and was wonderfully received. She died in 1986 and today people know little about her. She published “Hindsight” six years before her death.

Woolf had had quite a life. As a young woman she studies philosophy with Heidegger and Husserl. She published poetry but her love was medicine and she practiced as a doctor in Berlin of the 1920s. Her study of the hand gave her the chance to meet distinguished international artists, writers and she was even photographed by Man Ray.

As I said earlier, she had always known she was attracted to women and when she was an adult in the Berlin of the Weimar, she found the perfect place to experience and express erotic love. With the fall of the Weimar, she knew she had to flee Germany for Paris and ultimately settling in London where she lived until her death at the age of 88.

Because she had not been unable to practice as a doctor for so long, Woolf channeled her interests into hand reading and sexology. Her best friends were Quakers and Christians and even though Judaism did not influence her daily life, she lived life as a Jew. She regarded herself as an international Jew but she was also a person without a country. She did not care for religion as an institution but she tells that when she had to deal with anti-Semitism, she was stressed. She prayed at those times and by doing so she sent the problem on and freed herself. When she wrote poetry, she attributed the Biblical prophets; the Jews of Spain and Maimonides were her inspirations. Her life came full circle when she returned to Berlin in the late 70s and was honored by the new generations of German feminists and gay women. We do not often get reads like this and this is one to be treasured.

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“Take Nothing for Granted” by David Stansfield— Loss

take nothing for granted

Stansfield, David. “Take Nothing For Granted”, CreateSpace, 2013.

Loss

Amos Lassen

In 1947 in Jerusalem, a young Israeli girl lost her big sister and in Jaffa, Israel in 1948, a young Palestinian boy lost his two best friends. Moving ahead in time to 1963 in Dover, England we meet a man who falls in love with the Arabic language. Some forty years later in Malibu, California the lives of these three people come together. David Finkelstein, a real estate developer gets an invitation to a Jewish fundraiser which changes his life forever and he finds his way into two situations that can bring about the end of the Middle East. In struggling with these situations, David’s family is put into danger and his wife, Hannah, an Israeli becomes the target of a Palestinian terrorist. David finds himself between two peoples who are enemies yet very much alike. He is soon in the middle of the Israel-Palestine conflict and nothing can be taken for granted.

International espionage causes the world to become ruthless in which it is necessary to act humanely if survival is the goal. I can’t say much about the plot without spoiling the read but I can say that David loves both nations and the language of the Arab nations. Just as the title says, “Take Nothing for Granted”.

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