I Can Give You Anything But Love

indiana-garyGary Indiana had an unusual career, as a writer, filmmaker, visual artist, actor and playwright. He briefly studied at UC Berkeley but dropped out to help a friend make pornographic films. After soaking up the sunshine noir and punk scene of 1970s Los Angeles, he moved to New York City and settled into a cheap East Village apartment — the same one he lives in today. Since 1987, Indiana has published novels, nonfiction, plays, short stories — all with an unmistakable, sardonic voice embedded in the text, and all experimenting with the traditions of form.

The title of his latest memoir, I Can Give You Anything but Love is “really about disconnection between sexual desire and love, in my life,” Indiana says. A graphic and funny memoir, it finds the author reinventing yet another genre — this time using his own personal narrative. He becomes the connective tissue that binds together a diaspora of subcultures: the beatnik-era experimental writing and happenings of downtown New York, the 1960s co-opted counterculture gone awry, the punk movement that followed, and the art and intellectual circles of the Reagan ’80s, when the AIDs crisis was wiping out a generation of young gay men like him.

(revised from the introduction to an interview with Indiana by J.C. Gabel in the L. A. Times.)

Continue reading

City of Night

RechyJohn Rechy’s highly autobiographical first novel, City of Night, might also be considered the first openly revealing novel to explore what we now consider LBGT life in America.

It’s interesting to recall the controversy that this book caused back in the ’60s and to recognize that today we even have gay marriage. Let’s take off our hats to the late Barney Rossit who almost single-handedly used the alternative voice of Grove Press to bring us such exciting and thought provoking literature.

I found that you cant always tell a score by his age or appearance: There are the young and the goodlooking ones—the ones about whom you wonder why they prefer to pay someone (who will most likely at least not indicate desiring them back) when there exists—much, much vaster than the hustling world—the world of unpaid, mutually desiring males —the easy pickups. . . . But often the scores are near-middle-aged or older men. And they are mostly uneffeminate. And so you learn to identify them by their method of approaching you (a means of identification which becomes instinctively surer and easier as you hang around longer). They will make one of the standard oriented remarks; they will offer a cigarette, a cup of coffee, a drink in a bar: anything to give them time in which to decide whether to trust you during those interludes in which there is always a suggestion of violence (although, for some, I would learn later, this is one of the proclaimed appeals—that steady hint of violence); time in which to find out if you’ll fit their particular sexfantasy.

Continue reading

XFX: High Camp and Fairy Tales

Let’s consider an author that is not included in many “must read” lists:  Ronald Firbank (1886-1926)

[From the cover material on the New Directions volume titled Five Novels by Ronald Firbank.]

“A person who dislikes Ronald Firbank,” quipped W. H. Auden, “may, for all I know, possess some admirable quality, but I do not wish ever to see him again.” Edmund Wilson pronounced him “one of the finest writers of his period.”

Firbank lived a life of exquisite, if lonely, leisure. He composed all his novels on postcards in his countless hotel rooms, always lavish with flowers. His moves were impulsive—”Tomorrow I go to Haytil They say the President is a Perfect Dear!” ran on telegram to a surprised friend. At a dinner party given in his honor, the pathologically shy author refused to consume anything more than a single pea.

His no less eccentric creations, Parvula de Panzoust and her guest Eulalia Thoroughfare of Valmouth, dine of “salmis of cockscombs saignant with Béchamel sauce.” In The Artificial Princess, a queen with a passion for motoring roars about her real for hours with her crown on. The Flower Beneath the Foot, Prancing Nigger, and Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli are also included in the volume [with an introduction by Osbert Sitwell].

Continue reading

The Sanctity of Marriage

When public officials, religious leaders, and general zealots insist on the sanctity of marriage being supported and even included in the law of the land, they are exposed as uninformed hypocrites by the reality of the world and the history of marriage itself.

Sanctity of marriage implies some moral, religious basis for the institution. Well, in some religions it is a sacrament so marriage is considered very important. Of course this doesn’t really address the fact that a couple can be legally married totally independent from the church simply by going to a Judge, a Justice of the Peace, or the Captain of the cruise ship. Is marriage a sacrament or a legal concept? If it is a legal concept, then the State may recognize the religious marriage as if it had performed the ceremony itself. But let’s face it, the ceremony is just decoration, the signatures on a legal contract are what constitutes a marriage.

Historically, religious and civil laws have been far less separated than they are today. Marriage, as an institution, was given the sanctity of the church and the control of the civil authorities fundamentally to assure the continuance of the wealth of powerful families. If there was no strict way to tie a woman to a man, then there may be offspring that could challenge the normal inheritance path. After all, remember that marriage was fully developed in a time when women were chattel—uneducated, without any legal rights of their own.

I ran across a comment in Parade’s End that seems apropos, if a little dated:

… if it came to marriage, ninety per cent of the inhabitants of the world regarded the marriage of almost everybody else as invalid.

Continue reading