Monthly Archives: May 2017

“Trunky: Transgender Junky” by Samuel Peterson— A Tragic Comedy

Peterson, Samuel. “Trunky: Transgender Junky”, Transgress Press, 2016

A Tragic-Comedy

Amos Lassen

Samuel Peterson’s ‘Trunky” is a modern day tragic-comedy about the struggle of human addiction and recovery. After a decade of sobriety and relentless devotion to becoming a writer, Trunky finds himself on the brink of success but then he spirals down into depression and begins using heroin again. This relapse is different from those that came before and Trunky ends up institutionalized in a recovery center in the south among a other dopers who are thugs, criminals, white supremacists, professional athletes and business men who are all looking for something they’re terrified of finding. As Trunky navigates his struggle from addition to recovery and from female to manhood, he finds himself on an unexpected journey into the human soul where he discovers that those fundamental flaws and the redemption we experience requires courage.

This is an look at addiction and recovery without self-pity. Peterson’s honesty about what leads to addiction is relatable and moving. His account of the added problem of being trans in an institutional setting, and the lack of transitional housing when it was time to leave, is very disturbing and an important addition to public discourse on addiction treatment.

Through his use of detail, Peterson captures the anguish of addiction and provides insight into his struggle for redemption and visibility as a man. We begin to understand the devastation of addiction, the struggle for gender authenticity and the culture within a Federal Bureau of Prisons Residential Drug Abuse Program.

Big topics are covered here including trauma, the body, gender, addiction and Peterson writes about them honestly and with wit and style self-deprecation. Peterson is aware of the ways in which we create narratives and personae that then allow us to find a place in the world. At the same time, he shows how us these narratives can set us apart from others and hurt our ability to know who we really want or need to be. By exploring his experiences of addiction, recovery, and relapse as well as dysmorphia and transition, Peterson is able to say that it is through persistent critique of our own personal narratives and engagement with those of others, that we can get better and become better.

It is Peterson’s honesty about what kind of thought leads to addiction that allow us to relate to what he has to say. His is fresh and he shares many ideas with us.

“The Only Language They Understand” by Nathan Thrall—Can the Status Quo in the Israel/Palestine Conflict Be Changed?

Thrall, Nathan. “The Only Language They Understand”, Metropolitan, 2017.

Can the Status Quo in the Israel/Palestine Conflict Be Changed?

Amos Lassen

Nathan Thrall is considered to be one of the best informed, most insightful, and least polemical analysts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His conclusion about the present conflict is the title of his new book, “The Only Language They Understand”, and it is that the status quo will remain in place indefinitely unless the two sides are forced to change it. No one is prepared to exert such force.

It’s been tried in the past but not since the 1990s. It was then that President Jimmy Carter confronted Israel repeatedly and unrelentingly, threatening at one point to terminate U.S. military assistance. There were accusations that he was “selling Israel out,” and the ultimate outcome was the Camp David Accords of September, 1978. In 1991 James Baker, George H. W. Bush’s Secretary of State, withheld a $10 billion loan guarantee and brought Israel to the negotiating table in Madrid.

Without pressure, however, neither Israel nor Palestine have much of an incentive to upset the existing conditions, according to Thrall sees it. Israel’s position has only strengthened since the Oslo Accords of the mid-1990s. She has greater control of more of the West Bank and this includes an extensive security barrier, some of which it would have to give up in a peace agreement. Palestinian Authority leaders understand that foreign aid, and their own jobs, would be at risk if there were a comprehensive peace deal. They also realize that their relation to Israel has profoundly changed— “transformed from a protector against an occupying army into an agglomeration of self-interested businessmen securing exclusive contracts from it.” There are world leaders who maintain that time is short, but as Thrall reminds us that that peace is within grasp but overstated as warnings that the perpetually closing window for a two-state solution has nearly shut, or that the occupation of the West Bank “will make Israel an international pariah.” Meanwhile, Israel has become a regional power and cordially works with Egypt and Jordan, and quietly with Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the Emirates.

Thrall also updates several important pieces which first appeared in periodicals. He deconstructs Ari Shavit’s “My Promised Land” and documents the shortcomings of Shavit’s history of Israel and the flaws in his reasoning. He also takes a hard look at the Shavit’s book and how it was so ecstatically received by American Jews.

Then there is Thrall’s very strong critique of John Kerry’s diplomatic ministrations and calls them “faith-based diplomacy”. —is also required reading. “Kerry found a formula to launch new negotiations: he made inconsistent promises to each side.” He also gives us a look at the failures of the Obama Administration’s approach and states that these did not attain anything whatever.

In several other essays, Thrall looks at the intifadas and other Palestinian protests; the increasing Israeli dominance of East Jerusalem; Hamas; and the skepticism about the “two-state solution.” Everything he says is documented, hugely informative and argued. What we get here is a clear understanding of

the dynamics of Israeli-Palestinian relations as well as an essential guide to the history, personalities, and ideas behind the conflict.

“Once@9:53am: Terror in Buenos Aires” by Ilan Stavans— Terror in Argentina

Stavans, Ilan. “Once@9:53am: Terror in Buenos Aires”, Penn State University Press, 2016.

Terror in Argentina

Amos Lassen

March 17, 1992 was the date of the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that destroyed not only the embassy, but also a Catholic church and a nearby school. Twenty-five people were killed of which the vast majority were Argentine civilians—only four of the victims were Israelis and 242 people were injured. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentina’s history until two years later a similar attack on the AMIA, the Jewish Federation building, killed 85 and injured over 300 people.

The latter attack occurred in the neighborhood of Once at 9:53 AM (the title of this novella in photos or fotonovela, written by Ilan Stavans with photographs by Marcelo Brodsky). The Spanish term “fotonovela” describes a comic book with photographs instead of illustrations. In English, the it has a bit of a different meaning as you will see when you read this.

It is surprising that the Mexican-born academic Stavans and Argentine photographer and artist Brodsky use this format to tackle such a traumatic historical event such as the terrorist attack on the AMIA building but it works and works well. “Once@9:53am” is a fictionalized account of the hours prior to the bombing. It is an intimate homage to the Buenos Aires’ historic immigrant neighborhood which is something like New York’s Lower East Side, and its communities. The story we get here is a countdown to the moment when the catastrophe changed the face of the area forever.

The original Spanish edition of the book was published in Argentina in 2011. Penn State University Press now brings us this fascinating book. The expanded edition contains a new essay by Stavans that looks at not only Argentina’s complicated history of attempts at coming to terms with the terrorist attacks, but also puts the narrative in the wider context of Latin American Jewish identity. This essay alone makes it an excellent and important read. This is a must-read for those interested in the Jewish culture of Latin America and an excellent for those who just want to read a fascinating book.

“TOM OF FINLAND”— Art and Pornography

“Tom of Finland”

Art and Pornography

Amos Lassen

Dome Karukowski’s “Tom of Finland”, a biographical Finnish drama that will cause a sensation. Artist Touko Laaksonen (Pekka Strang) who is better known to most as Tom of Finland, gradually begins to break taboos, asserting a gay identity in his life and art and like the main character, Karukowski goes toward the subversive. We see a duality of representation that’s central to an appreciation of Laaksonen’s work as both art and pornography.

Karukowski liberates his film from convention in much the same way Laaksonen was able to free himself from his sexual anxieties through his art, and images of sexualized “Tom’s men” make it off the page and become a part of Laaksonen’s physical life.

In the early scenes we see the threat of intolerance that follows Laaksonen, as a gay man, at a time in his country when homosexuality was criminalized in Finland. This struggle connects the film to a modern context with the president of Chechnya who has very recently called for the “elimination” of his country’s gay population. There is a sense of paranoia in the way Karukowski films late-night cruising and covert a Cold War thriller substituting one form of repression for another).

The film is part of a movement to document crucial parts of the history of the growth of the LGBT community. Touko Laaksonen was a middle-class Finnish Army Officer who had a great deal of difficulty adjusting back into civilian life after World War II in a culture where homosexuality was illegal and could exposure could ruin one’s live.

During the day, he was a successful advertising agency artist in Helsinki, but at night when he wasn’t in the gay cruising areas looking for sexual partners, he was at home developing his own art as a way of dealing with the rampant homophobia in a very conservative Finnish society. He drew private fantasies based on stylized versions of the soldiers, farmers, lumberjacks and leather-clad bikers that he lusted after and they are nothing like the norm of his reality.  When he went to Berlin to sell some of these his visit goes horribly wrong, but Laakesonen knows by the reactions of the closeted gay men who have viewed his work, that he is on to something that is quite extraordinary.

He meets and falls in love with a young dancer Veli (Lauri Tilkanen), and it is Veli who encourages Laakesonen to develop his work even more delving into the ultra-masculine world of biker and leathermen and their sub culture. In order to avoid his drawings being traced back to him and risk trouble with the law, he stops using his real name and just signs them ‘Tom’. Bob Mizer, the editor of the American magazine “Physique Pictoral” that ‘Tom’ sends his work too in 1953 added the ‘of Finland’ to create his famous nom-de-plume.

This was the era of ‘beefcake’ art and photography in the days before homosexuality was fully decriminalized and gay pornography was legal in the U.S.  The Tom of Finland books and artworks encouraged gay men emerging to come out from the and take on this whole ultra-macho role which no-one had publicly identified as a homosexual trait.  Whilst his work was still a secret back home in Finland, ‘Tom’ quickly became a major cult figure in the more liberated environs of places like California and N.Y.

The film shows “Tom’s” success and his personal life and is compelling viewing. Tom comes across as a charming and affable man and they don’t hide the fact that he participated in a sexual liberation that he helped create. His profound relationship with Vila, the one real love of his life, ended with his untimely death from cancer is a very definite and unexpected tear-jerking moment.

“Tom of Finland” avoids the obvious mention of the link between Nazism and BDSM which we now know was a source of fascination for Laakesonen. Rather, the film it focuses on the profound importance of his portfolio of work, which over the course of forty years consisted of d some 3500 illustrations that became being an iconic contribution to the LGBT culture.

Tom of Finland spent much of his life hiding who he truly was and he was only recognized and admired by those in the gay community. We never really get close to this withdrawn, private and pensive man and the only times that we really learn about his personality is when he is relationships. The last portion of the film shows the rise in AIDS and anti-homosexual attitudes in the USA, something of which Tom’s drawings is the blame for.

The film is almost two hours long with the first half of the film beautifully setting Tom up; the second half of the film is about his American success and downfall. The script, written by Karukowski and Aleksi Bardy, is ambitious. It starts with the Second World War and ending at the 1980’s AIDS epidemic. The film is beautifully shot and styled. It is a beautifully crafted and important story of one of Finland’s major icons.

The film succeeds in depicting the struggle of an unprecedented artist who had to live so many years in the shadows because of his homosexuality and the strong repression against the gay communities. However, it does slow down in the second half when Tom comes to America. The cast is excellent and every gay man should add this film to their must-see list.

“The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered” by Benjamin Taylor— A Memoir of a Year

Taylor, Benjamin. “The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered”, Penguin, 2017.

A Memoir of a Year

Amos Lassen

A few months ago I posted that we would soon be having a new book from one of my favorite authors and I am very happy to tell you that “The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered” is now out. It is a memoir of one year of Taylor’s life and is quite a read. That year includes November 22, 1963 when eleven-year-old Benjamin Taylor and his mother waited to get a chance shake hands with President John F. Kennedy at the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth. Just a few hours after that, Taylor’s teacher called the class in from recess and told he students that the president had been killed. It is from this starting point that Taylor traces his life. He looks back at the tension that had come into his family and his childhood friendships, summer camp, family trips, he shares the influence that the story of America had on his life and himself.

What I have always loved about Taylor is his beautiful prose and he once again charms with his words and lyricism. While this is the memoir of just one year, we see that it represents a lot more and what we might thing is unique to a specific year is actually part of other years because of the implications that are part of it. He says, “Any year I chose would show the same mettle, the same frailties stamping me at eleven and twelve.”

I want to believe that he shares everything with us—the ups and the downs and he doe so with almost brutal clarity and incredible nostalgia. He uses humor to keep us grinning on the outside as we digest and think about that year and as we do we try to remember similarities in our own lives. If you read Taylor’s book on Proust, you are quite aware of the influences on Taylor’s writing.

Taylor was able to shake Kennedy’s hand that November morning and it was quite the experience for him. Since Kennedy was his hero, the president’s death affected him profoundly (as it did to most of us who were alive and remember that day). His writing takes the form close to a universal elegy of a hero taken from us and it took years to recover from it. One reviewer remarked that this book is part of the “literature of loss” that is both “classical and impassioned”. This is the story of a gay Jewish boy who comes into his own with the shadow of the assassination hanging over him. There was other experiences that hold significance in his life but what really grips the reader is the emotion and wisdom with which this book was written. As soon as I finished reading this book, I wanted more so I sit down and read it again… and, again. I did not want to miss a single word.

It was from the moment that Taylor heard that the President was dead that he began his search within himself, hoping to learn who he really is. We see that his youthful years were very important to the shaping of the man he is today and it is wonderful that he is willing to share what he learns. Through his elegant and stylish prose, Benjamin Taylor introduces us to him and we feel that we have gained a new friend.



“The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life “ by Karin Roffman— The First 28 Years

Roffman, Karin. “The Songs We Know Best: John Ashbery’s Early Life “, Farrar Strauss and Giroux, 2017.

The First 28 Years

Amos Lassen

John Ashbery has won every major American literary award yet his early years have remained a mystery to us… until now. Karin Roffman has written the first biography of Ashbery concentrating on the first twenty-eight years of his life. Ashbery has used his early years as a source for his poetry and it is that period of his life that brought such originality and unpredictability to his writing. Roffman went to the poet himself to learn about that his youth and there were more than 100 hours of interviews along with his unpublished letters and childhood journals that are the basis for this beautiful book. She maintains that it was those first twenty-eight years that brought him to Ashbery’s debut collection “Some Trees” in 1955 which W.H. Auden’s selected him for that year’s Yale Younger Poets Prize.

We see here that Ashbery’s poetry is a product of what he learned on his family’s farm and his experiences in New York City in the 1950s when he lived “a bohemian existence that teemed with artistic fervor and radical innovations inspired by Dada and surrealism as well as lifelong friendships with painters and writers such as Frank O’Hara, Jane Freilicher, Nell Blaine, Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, and Willem de Kooning”.

It seems that Ashbery has been something of a mystery man to many and this can be seen in his elusiveness and for many this makes him all the more interesting. I feel in love with this book on the first page but I would have been surprised if I had not since I love Ashbery’s poetry so much. I would not say that his life is as fascinating as his poetry but it is very interesting and there is a lot to be learned here. Karin Roffman has done a wonderful job of bring the poet to all of us.

Ashbery is on every page and the preface tells us that he was interested in this book being written that he introduced Roffman to four of his close friends. In his diaries, Roffman found that the poet’s voice was already there and she found humor and patience, impatience and experiences in them. Even in the earliest of his writings, we find Ashbery being drawn to moments that transform understanding and we see that he his early poems about loneliness also deal with how people think. I have heard others refer to Ashbery as a poet’s poet and that he is along with being a gentleman scholar.




“Since I Laid My Burden Down” by Brontez Purcell— Who Deserves to Be Loved

Purnell, Brontez. “Since I Laid My Burden Down”, Amethyst Editions, 2017.

Who Deserves to Be Loved

Amos Lassen

Brontez Purnell looks at what it means to be “black, male, queer; a son, an uncle, a lover; Southern, punk, and human” and as he does he tells a story that we have way too few of.

DeShawn has been living in San Francisco in a life style that he could never had in his hometown in Alabama. He is called home to attend his uncle’s funeral and once there his mind fills with memories and reminders of what it was like to grow up in such a place that is so different from where he lives now. He begins to ponder the very serious question of who is deserving of love. He understands that what he is doing is trying to see how his early sexual experiences have caused him to be who he has become.


“Concentration Camps: A Short History” by Dan Stone— A Global History

Stone, Dan. “Concentration Camps: A Short History”, Oxford University Press, 2017.

A Global History

Amos Lassen

Writer Dan Stone tells us that concentration camps are a somewhat new invention and a recurring feature of twentieth century warfare. As such, they are important to the modern global consciousness and identity. Although the most famous concentration camps are those built and used by Nazi Party, the use of concentration camps originated several decades before the Third Reich, in the Philippines and in the Boer War, and they were used in numerous locations and more recently during the genocides in Bosnia. Concentration camps have become defining symbols of humankind’s lowest point and basest and most horrible acts.

Dan Stone gives us a global history of concentration camps, and we see that it is not only “mad dictators” who set up camps, “but instead all varieties of states, including liberal democracies, that have made use of them”. If we set concentration camps against the longer history of incarceration, we see how the ability of the modern state to control populations led to their creation. Their emergence and that they are spread around the world, Stone maintains that concentration camps serve the purpose, from the point of view of the state in crisis, of removal of a “section of the population that is perceived to be threatening, traitorous, or diseased”. Stone draws his conclusions from contemporary accounts of camps, as well as from the philosophical literature surrounding them tell about the nature of the modern world as well as about specific regimes.

There is a lot of information spread out on 158 pages in this “comprehensive analytical survey that tracks the concentration camp brilliantly across the many diversities of time and place, without either flattening the concept or lessening its Third Reich connotations.”

Response to HIV/AIDS Crisis in NYC Examines How Artists and Activists Reshaped Ideas of Family and Domestic Life

AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism

at the Museum of the City of New York

 Groundbreaking Exhibition Sheds New Light on

Response to HIV/AIDS Crisis in NYC Examines How Artists and Activists Reshaped

Ideas of Family and Domestic Life


Susan Kuklin, “Kachin and Michael in Michael’s Apartment,” 1987. © Susan Kuklin.

 ON VIEW: Tuesday, May 23 – Sunday, October 2

 The Museum of the City of New York presents AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism, a compelling examination of how artists and activists have expanded the idea of caretaking and family while navigating the political stakes of domestic life in the face of the HIV/AIDS crisis from the early 1980s to the present. From the earliest diagnoses, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has spurred New Yorkers to create new forms of social support, identify new legal battles, and express themselves in new artistic terrain. The exhibition places paintings, photography, and film alongside archival objects from activist groups and support programs to uncover the private stories of HIV and AIDS and reconsider caretaking, community building, and making art as acts of resistance.

AIDS at Home humanizes a dark chapter in the city’s history by shedding light on the emotional bonds forged in times of crisis, as well as the activist and creative responses born of necessity,” said Whitney Donhauser, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York. “New York has always demonstrated resiliency in the face of adversity and this exhibition puts that defining characteristic on display in deeply personal terms.”

Scientists first identified AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) in 1981 among a group of young gay men in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, who were all diagnosed with pneumonia or Kaposi sarcoma, a rare skin cancer. The underlying cause of AIDS—the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV—was discovered two years later, and knowledge about prevention, testing, and treatment slowly expanded. Nevertheless, between 1981 and 1996, over 67,000 people in New York City alone died from medical complications related to AIDS, with the highest impact among gay men and poor communities of color. Social stigma around same-sex sexuality, drug use, poverty, and illness itself only worsened the effects of the virus. People living with HIV/AIDS were often isolated, and medical costs, job loss, insurance restrictions, and rent regulations frequently prevented access to sufficient care and stable housing.

“HIV/AIDS and the responses to it, past and present, have fundamentally reshaped the way New Yorkers and Americans think about domestic life and family. Many histories of the AIDS crisis in NYC emphasize public activism and medical innovation, but an enormous part of this history has unfolded outside of public view, in people’s own homes,” said Curator Stephen Vider. “Looking at HIV/AIDS through the lens of home reveals a largely untold story and changes our understanding of the epidemic; both who is impacted and what counts as activism. The exhibition showcases the unique creativity and ingenuity of New Yorkers working to support people living with HIV/AIDS, and speaks to ongoing challenges and debates around healthcare and housing as it plays out in the city.”

Divided into three thematic sections, as well as a coda looking at responses to HIV/AIDS in the present, and featuring over 50 works of art, AIDS at Home takes visitors on a journey tracing the first two decades of the epidemic through the continuing impact of HIV/AIDS today on everyday life in New York City today. Works on display – ranging from paintings, drawings, and photographs to sculpture, installations, and textile art, as well as posters, fliers, and films – include items from Fales Library at New York University, the Lesbian Herstory Archives, the New York Public Library, as well as private art galleries and artists. The exhibition also features a documentary, A Place in the City: Three Stories about AIDS at Home, produced by the Museum of the City of New York, looking at experiences of HIV/AIDS today through portraits of three activists and artists.

Section I. Caretaking

One of the earliest responses to the epidemic was the creation of caretaking networks to address the immediate material and emotional needs of people living with AIDS. Often friends and lovers provided care, but as more and more people died, many people living with AIDS were left isolated and without financial support. This section examines caretaking efforts, including Gay Men’s Health Crisis’s pioneering “buddy” program, God’s Love We Deliver, as well as works of sculpture, painting, and photography.

Section 2: Housing and Homelessness

The AIDS epidemic also led to a spike in homelessness as people living with AIDS lost or were pushed out of their apartments through evictions after the death of partners, job loss, poverty stemming from medical bills, and gentrification. A 1989 report, titled AIDS: The Cutting Edge of Homelessness estimated that there were at that time 5,000 to 8,000 people with AIDS who were homeless at the time and expected as many as 15,000 to 25,000 more in the following three to five years. This section looks at the variety of organizations that emerged in response including Housing Works, an advocacy group which emerged out of ACT UP. Other works of art in the section reflect on gentrification and conditions within city-funded supportive housing.

 Section 3: Family

The early AIDS epidemic in New York also provoked new conversations about the meanings and limits of “family.” This section looks back to important legal cases around housing to understand the significance of HIV/AIDS for the emergence of domestic partnership and same-sex marriage. At the same time LGBT activists and artists pushed for an expanded vision of family and kinship that could include gay and lesbian couples and broader friendship and community networks. 

Coda: HIV/AIDS at Home Today

This final section considers the ongoing experiences of people living with HIV/AIDS around housing, home, family, and everyday life, news forms of activism, and continued memorialization of people lost to HIV/AIDS. This section will include a short documentary, created by curator Stephen Vider with filmmaker Nate Lavey, looking at three activists and artists working today—Ted Kerr, from the caretaking collective What Would an HIV Doula Do?; Wanda Hernandez-Parks, from the Brooklyn-based community group VOCAL-NY; and photographer Kia LaBejia.

AIDS at Home includes work by more than 20 artists—well-known, emerging, and newly discovered—including David Wojnarowicz, Nan Goldin, Kia LaBeija, Hunter Reynolds, Hugh Steers, Luna Luis Ortiz, Lori Grinker, Avram Finkelstein, Susan Kuklin, L.J. Roberts, and Chloe Dzubilo, as well as many activist and support organizations.

AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism is made possible by a major gift from the Calamus Foundation, New York; with additional support provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Todd DeGarmo, Louis Wiley, Jr., Devashish Jain and Marc-Antoine Denechand, Dr. Andrew Solomon and Mr. John Habich Solomon, Mike Syers, Sarah Belin-Zerbib, Ralph Furlo, Peter Lease, Steven Stack, Joel Dooling, Alexis Unger, Jonathan Chan, Sari David, and Rosa C. Bautista. The Museum gratefully acknowledges the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s support of exhibition curator Dr. Stephen Vider’s fellowship. AIDS at Home was his capstone project.

 About the Museum of the City of New York

Founded in 1923 as a private, nonprofit corporation, the Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the city, educating the public about its distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation. The Museum connects the past, present, and future of New York City, and serves the people of the city as well as visitors from around the world through exhibitions, school and public programs, publications, and collections. To connect with the Museum on social media, follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @MuseumofCityNY and visit our Facebook page at For more information please visit


“Wicked Frat Boy Ways” by Todd Gregory— Love, Seduction and Emotions

Gregory, Todd. “Wicked Frat Boy Ways”, Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

Love, Seduction and Emotions

Amos Lassen

Todd Gregory is a name we associate with gay erotic writing and while we have not heard from him in quite a while, he is back with new novel. Set on the campus of Polk State, we meet seniors Brandon Benson and Phil Connor, fraternity brothers who play a game of seduction yet they do not think about the damage they cause and so not understand that they are playing with others’ emotions until it is too late. The sex scenes are graphic but I had a rough time remembering who was who because of the way the story is told and the number of characters that we meet. In fact, each chapter is the perspective of a different person.

I had the impression that held together the friendship between Phil and Brandon friendship was their daring each other. Something was missing about how they were so close. Phil is the president of his fraternity, and the two figured that this would allow for a lot of fun with the pledges and new members. What they did not understand was that sex is not a game and that could be consequences for their thoughtless actions. I found nothing in either of their personalities that made me feel anything positive about them but I suspect that is what the author wanted.

I also felt that setting gay erotica in a fraternity was a but if a stretch even though there are gay fraternity brothers even though sexuality in the house was acceptable and there were a few gay men who were members. Again, this could be deliberate as if to say that there are gay people everywhere. Having been a gay fraternity man myself, I remember well how difficult it was to be so but then it was at a different time in history.

It is always difficult to read about main characters that are despicable. Not only are they difficult to find ways to identify with them, they are responsible for dealing with others’ lives. Yet, for some reason I was fascinated by them and they certainly kept me reading. I was totally blindsided by the ending and so after I finished reading the book, I sat quietly for an hour letting what I had just finished sink in. As I wrote, I realized that the problems I had with the book were actually set ups so that we could get a different perspective of gay life even if it is one that does not please the average reader and I understood that this was the true genius of the writer’s work.