“The Super Gay Book: Dating For Gay Girlfriends and Gay Boyfriends (Super Cute, Gay Boyfriend, Gay Girlfriend, Homosexual Relationship)” by Oliver Bird— How to Begin

the super gay book

Bird, Oliver. “The Super Gay Book: Dating For Gay Girlfriends and Gay Boyfriends (Super Cute, Gay Boyfriend, Gay Girlfriend, Homosexual Relationship)”, Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2014.

How to Begin 

Amos Lassen

Sometimes it is just hard to make the first move. If you are new to the gay dating scene and have no idea of how to begin or if you old and can’t remember how to date or if you are just jaded (like me) by the whole dating business, here is a book that helps you figure it all out. Oliver Bird gets into what the issues and problems are that can stand in your way to finding the perfect partner.

We get hints on where to look, how to approach someone and even how to “seal the deal”. There is advice on”

  • Where to find other gay people in your community
  • How to find out if someone you are interested in is gay
  • Fun date ideas
  • Extra things to make your date feel special
  • How to find the perfect super gay partner! 

This book is like the concordance to the Bible—it is full of ideas and tips for anyone who is already dating or is considering dating. It contains really practical and realistic tips. Here are some very helpful steps on meeting gays, finding the perfect partner and enhancing the dating process and making it easier and there are hints on how and what to find out if someone is gay and how and where to find this gay people in the community. 

“Why Gays are a Threat to Straight People” by Sassy Johns— Blank Pages

why gays are a threat

Johns, Sassy. “Why Gays are a Threat to Straight People”, CreateSpace, 2014.

Blank Pages

Amos Lassen

It took Sassy Johns a long time to research this book of one hundred blank pages. In those pages, there is a lot of information that is not written down anywhere. Here is all of “the available evidence to show why being gay is evil, why God hates gays, and why straight people should oppose gay marriage”. John even includes a section on all the known ways to ‘cure’ gayness. This is the definitive guide to all that is wrong about being gay. (Advisory: Contains 100 blank pages, because no actual evidence could be found as to why being gay is wrong).

This is a very clever idea and we can all hope that there will be more books with blank pages to show that many people have no idea of what they are talking about.

“The Thief Taker” by William Holden— Looking for a New Life

the thief taker

Holden, William. “The Thief Taker”, Bold Strokes Books 2014.

Looking for a New Life

Amos Lassen

Thomas Newton left London in hopes of finding a new life in Paris with Pierre Baptiste but almost as soon as he arrived, he realized that was not to be. People were speaking openly about Baptiste’s past as well as his present and he was arrested and even though on false charges, he was thrown into prison. Now Newton had to decide if he is to trust Baptiste who was helping him regain his freedom or let him sit in jail. There is an important issue regarding his freedom—it would mean that he would have to return to England.

Set in England of the 18th century, the story is based around The Society for the Reformation of Manners and the persecution it brought upon those who practiced sodomy. The beginning of the book is set in prison where Newton was sent.  There are some erotic sex scenes there but we are more concerned with Newton’s angst. But hen he manages to leave the prison once Baptiste was able to get him out and the two men went back to London together. They were anxious to find out who was responsible for Newton’s imprisonment. They soon find themselves up against the Society mentioned earlier and both men realize its power.

Holden creates quite a character in Newton in that we tend to sympathize with him even though we know that he has done some terrible things. By combining mystery, erotica and adventure, writer Holden gives us quite a read here. This is a well-written look at the past and the ways that sodomy was once punished. One note—this is the second book in a sequence and even though reading the first is not necessary, it helps with understanding what happens here.

“The HIV-Negative Gay Man: Developing Strategies for Survival and Emotional Well-Being” edited by Steven Ball— The Most Recent Information

the HIV negative gay man

Ball, Steven (editor). “The HIV-Negative Gay Man: Developing Strategies for Survival and Emotional Well-Being”, Routledge, 2014.

The Most Recent information

Amos Lassen

We read and hear so much about men who are HIV-Positive that those who have remained HIV-Negative do not seem important. However staying negative is something that we must also have a look at and this book contains some of the most recent information on the market today about remaining HIV-negative as well as a look at  the psychosocial and psychosexual needs of HIV-negative gay men. In fact, this is actually a way to stay and maintain a life of meaning in the face of HIV/AIDS.

The HIV-Negative Gay Man goes to the front lines of HIV prevention to help us understand the most beneficial and dependable ways of preserving the value of life and living it to the fullest.  These new and updated approaches radically reshape and make more human traditional HIV prevention efforts giving us many individual strategies for survival in a world in which the link between sex and survival has been changed forever. The following topics are discussed here: what peer groups can do when creating and experimenting with new identities and roles, how the HIV-negative gay man’s complex emotional reactions change, when group work needs to be short-term or long-term, why a sex life vocabulary needs to be built and  where Latino Men can learn critical thinking about internalized homophobia and transgression survival mechanisms

What we have here is  a result of the development of protease inhibitors and new drug therapies in HIV prevention. The road to survival is a long one but a road that can be traveled and enjoyed when and if the right strategies are used. This book, therefore,  is a “road map” for survival. We hear and learn from many brave professionals who are currently fighting on the front lines of HIV prevention and coming forward to share their own personal stories of survival.

The contributors point to HIV-negative men who feel guilty about seeing people die and “surviving the epidemic.” This fear, and sometimes obsession, is making some men think that by becoming positive, they will be able to stop worrying and enjoy life more and if we really thing about it we se how unsound this is. This kind of thought can result in the loss of lives. The contributors here state that HIV-negative men need the space to describe their trepidations. Until there is a cure, prevention is the key and counseling these men is a great prevention strategy.

I am not sure that this is book for everyone even though we get some good information. The personal narratives in the beginning are excellent but the what we see is for therapists to talk to other therapists.. It also seems pointed at specific populations.

The authors are mostly from AIDS epicenters like NYC and SF. Most of them worked in AIDS organizations for years, especially in the first decade of the epidemic. At a time, when statistics say a huge number of gay men don’t know they are positive and many don’t know any person with full blown AIDS, the concerns expressed in this book cannot possibly be deemed widespread. Thus, only a certain type of reader would enjoy or relate to this book.

“Manhood Acts: Gender and the Practices of Domination” by Michael Schwalbe— Manhood and Domination

manhood acts

Schwalbe, Michael. “Manhood Acts: Gender and the Practices of Domination”, Paradigm Publishers, 2014.

Manhood and Domination

Amos Lassen

There are definite practices used by men to keep women and other men in unequal categories, to claim identities and men and to compete for status as men. The study of men and masculinity seems to have come to a full stop because the feminist roots are no longer there and we live in a world where it is possible to have multiple masculinities. One of the first concepts to die was that of the gay man being a sissy. Now straight men are running to the gym to build up their bodies just as gay men have done for so long. Notice also how the straight world has begun to copy the gay world in so many ways.

Michael Schwalbe tries to reclaim radical feminism’s ideas that gender is a field of domination and not just a field of play. Manhood is therefore basically about exerting and resisting control. He also “examines the intersection of capitalism and manhood, showing how manhood and economic exploitation are co-emergent and mutually sustaining”. Schwalbe reaches the conclusion that doing away with gender, as a means of oppression, needs more than transgressive self-presentation. To end the damage caused by manhood acts and by competition for manhood status, it will be necessary to end the exploitive economic relationships that necessitate manhood itself”. We see here a sociological analysis of masculinity and manhood. Using critical gender theory Schwalbe deconstructs masculinity and its destructive outcomes. He takes issue with the current focus in men s studies on multiple masculinities and argues, “masculinity, as part of the hierarchical gender order, is based on domination of women and less-valued men”. He then calls for what radical; feminists have wanted— a call for a gender-free society.

 This is a brave and compelling theory of manhood in all its manifestations, from relations between women and men to the dynamics of global capitalism. Schwalbe presents an indispensable guide both to understanding patriarchy in its present form and how to envision change that is meaningful. He does this with great clarity that will cause many men to step back and recognize something of themselves. If this makes us uncomfortable, it is because he has deeply analyzed the situation and makes it clear that the future is dependent upon “transcending

the pathological values of patriarchy”.  By linking masculinity to other forms of domination, we see that attention to gender is a matter of survival and not of identity politics.

“Fairyland” by Summer Locke Elliott— The Life of Seaton Daly

fairyland

Elliott, Summer Locke. “Fairyland”, (Text Classics), Text Publishing, 2013.

The Life of Seaton Daly

Amos Lassen

“Fairyland” is Elliott Summer Locke’s last book and his most autobiographical. It is heavily based on his own coming to terms with his homosexuality as an aspiring writer. He lived in Sydney, Australia at a time (1930s-40s) when the atmosphere of the town was repressed, especially in the inner city where he lived. Seaton Daly was lonely and depressed and dreamt of coming to the United States. This is an intimate look at a lifelong search for love and it is affecting and sometimes harrowing. This is Locke’s coming-out novel and was published for the first time in 1990. Locke died a year later. This new edition contains an introduction by Australian gay scholar, Dennis Altman.

The novel is about growing up gay in Sydney, on the eve of WW II is this Elliott’s ninth novel that is at times tender and at other times filled with satire. Seaton Daly is the son of an aloof mother who idolized his dead hero father and he is orphaned at a young age. After being seduced by another schoolboy, Seaton moves from unsuccessful affair to unsuccessful affair. The novel focuses on the men for whom Seaton yearns: “Byron the narcissistic actor; baby-faced Milly Dick in a pink apron, offering to share his horsey wife; the authoritarian Captain Smollett and the nameless tough guy who lures gays only to brutalize them.

Seaton created a juvenile radio program series called “Fairyfish”. He was able to come to America as a playwright— we see him as “a character fixed at a level of naive sensitivity in a gay world delineated as treacherous and transient”.

Seaton observes life passively and he allows others to use and manipulate him. We share no sympathy for him since he is a product of his own making. Elliott’s last novel was also his most courageous in that he freed himself of explorations on his troubled childhood and expressed himself as a gay adult, sketching a variety of obstacles that realization led to. As he stumbles through various sexual encounters, which lead to no love whatsoever, Daly’s optimism is gradually grated away. “Critics and reviewers often misconstrue where this well-trodden gay pathway leads, for Seaton’s destination is awkward, it is sudden, but, in its time and place, is devastatingly credible”. The writing is wonderful and the story is a reflection of other times.

“THE FILMS OF JAMES BROUGHTON: COMPLETE— 1948-1988

films of james broughton

 “The Films of James Broughton: Complete”

1948-1988

Amos Lassen

James Broughton was a poet, an author and a filmmaker and was referred to as the “great and wise master of the American avant-garde” by critic Amos Vogel He attempted to use cinema as kind of poetic statement. Broughton used love, sex, the human body, and dream imagery as his subject matter and he presented it with playfulness and often with an erotic touch. This is a three disc sets that organizes 17 of Broughton’s films from three different time periods and this is way to become aware of the evolution of the man and his themes.

Disc 1 is named the “THE EARLY YEARS” and contains
Broughton’s first films focused on the themes of romantic love and human behavior. A highlight in this collection includes The Pleasure Garden, which was named Best Fantastic-Poetic Film at the Cannes Film Festival. This group of black and white shorts includes: Mother’s Day (1948), Loony Tom (1951), Four in the Afternoon (1951), and The Pleasure Garden (1953).

Disc 2— A MIDDLE PERIOD—
During the 1960s and 1970s, Broughton’s imagery became more erotic while his subject matter explored the landscape of dream and the mysteries of Zen poetry. A highlight in this collection is Testament, a self-portrait that depicts Broughton’s life as a pageant of personal imagery. This group of color films include: The Bed (1968), The Golden Positions (1970), This Is It (1971), Dreamwood (1972), High Kukus (1973), Testament (1974), The Water Circle (1975), and Progeny (1976)

Disc 3: FINALE: THE FILMS WITH JOEL SINGER–
In the last era of his life and career, Broughton teamed with partner Joel Singer to produce a series of films on the nature of intimacy and personal relationships. Films include: Songs of the Godbody (1977), Hermes Bird (1979), The Gardner of Eden (1981), Devotions (1983), and Scatteret Remains (1988), a portrait of Broughton by Singer in which the artist acts out his poetry.

”Peter Hujar: Love & Lust” by Vince Aletti and Stephen Koch— The Tender and the Taboo

peter hujar

Aletti, Vince and Stephen Koch. ”Peter Hujar: Love & Lust”, Fraenkel Gallery, 2014.

The Tender and the Taboo

Amos Lassen

The work of photographer Peter Hujar has been something of a secret. His photographs taken between 1969 and 1986 define a time in New York City and today they are considered to be his most radical and his finest work. Hujar viewed the human body uninhibitedly and without compromise as he explored sexuality and desire. The photographs show us a universal humanity. Looking at the photos is something akin to inhabiting them.

This book is published as a monograph in conjunction with an exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco and it is the “first to deal specifically with Hujar’s photographs of love and lust”. They are in black and white and give us a view of human relationships that include both “the tender and the taboo”. The book also contains an interview with Fran Lebowitz from 1989 and new essays by Vince Aletti and Stephen Koch.

Hujar did not get the recognition he deserved while he lived but with this book and the exhibition that may change. His work is erotic and the photographs say it all. Male nudes are finally coming into their own and Hujar was there ahead of other such as Mapplethorpe. He dared and in it is what makes me great. He created “some really exceptional photography rescued from obscurity. It offers the reader/viewer a depth not often seen in the modern age of instant publishing”.

 “Peter Hujar (1934-1987) was born in Trenton, New Jersey and moved to Manhattan to work in the magazine, advertising and fashion industries. He documented the vibrant cultural scene of downtown New York throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1976, he published Portraits in Life and Death, with an introduction by Susan Sontag. Hujar died of AIDS in 1987”.

“ABSENCE OF LOVE”— “Love Does Not Begin and End the Way We Think it Does”

absence of love

“Absence of Love”

“Love Does Not Begin and End the Way We Think it Does”

Amos Lassen

James (Ernest Waddell) is an openly gay male who left home because of the way his family felt about his being gay. He now returns to go to the funeral of his prejudiced father. He now not only has to deal with his father’s death but also with his brother and love he once shared with Michael. Director Billy Gerard Franks packs a lot into just 20 minutes—the cinematography is brilliant as is everything else including the performances that are very, very real. The fact that the plot is familiar to so many makes this a strong film and even more so since this film is set in the African American community that puts so much emphasis on masculinity and manhood. We have “the turbulent relationship between James and his father; a former minister of a small Atlanta parish and a man whose homophobic views and aversion to the world of art and literature”. James left home moved to New York to live his life as an artist and where he found the love he was denied at home. In this film we see what James Baldwin once said so powerfully, “Love does not begin and end the way we think it does”.

absence1

There is a scene between James and his brother Samuel (Marc Damon Johnson) who has became a minister in which they have a long overdue conversation in which we learn of the past. This is a film about love. The brothers try to make amends while at the same time James and his boyfriend Michael are having a rough time.

This is a moving, character-driven piece that shows us what dedicated storytelling is all about. 

“God Told Me to Draw These” by John De Salvio— Supporting Who We Are

god told me

De Salvio, John. “God Told Me to Draw These”, CreateSpace, 2014.

Supporting Who We Are

Amos Lassen

John De Salvio is a former Benedictine monk and journalist who created this book on support of the LGBT community and it is wonderful. The LGBT community in the last few years has made wonderful progress and there are of course people who do not want this to happen and have tried in various ways to stop the freedoms that we now have. De Salvio has found and brought together over one hundred of his own political cartoons, newspaper columns on religion, politics and military, interviews, feature stories, etc. and then shows us the impact these have had on the LGBT community and its members. De Salvio was educated within the Catholic Church and went on to become a newspaper editor and a fine artist. He came out as a gay man and was at Stonewall so he saw history being made and is therefore in a place where he can share his past, enjoy the present and be ready for the future which will the culmination of those of us who spent our lives fighting for our rights in various ways. We were all affected once by homophobia and we really feel the relief today now that it is not so vocal. Who would have dreamt that a President of the United States would speak about our community in his inaugural address or that we had the power to bring down the head of a large Internet company?

Did you ever stop to wonder where the people who write political cartoons get their inspiration? Sometimes one picture can say more that miles of words and can be more to the point—that is what we see here with De Salvio’s cartoons. A cartoon has to look at the news and find a way to make it funny and in a very short amount of time—the cartoon must change the eye for a split second in order to be able to deliver its message. Di Salvio manages to give us serious reporting but in the guise of humor. We are able to see the foolishness in some of the reporting done by such characters as Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Bachmann who seem to busy themselves by their own statements.

All is not comedy here. De Salvio gives us interviews with LGBT activists such as Randy Shilts and articles about the new Pope, Pat Robertson and AIDS to name a few. He looks at the topics that we face everyday in the LGBT community—-“teen suicide, gay-positive school programs, international policy on gays in the military, the illogic of automatically associating same-sex orientation with child molestation, right-wing extremism, Bible literalism and distortion, landmarks in LGBT legislation, the myths of recruiting and homosexuality-as-choice, and the Vatican’s perplexing stance on the matter (it’s ok to be queer; it’s not ok to act on it)”.

Satire is one of the most difficult forms of literature to write because it must be based on something real. We all know that laughter is wonderful and it is even more wonderful when we can laugh at ourselves and at our society. Here you see just that and De Salvio has actually given us a bit of history through his writing and while it is, at times, tongue-in-cheek, it does represent who we are. The sections on the Bible  (“revised to Biblical proportions” are amazing). This is a book that can be looked again and again and always seems to say something new.