Wednesday, December 10, 2014

To Grandfather's House We Go...

Greetings, Colleagues—

Those of you who used the Exact Change edition of Denton Welch's In Youth Is Pleasure for our Dec. 3 discussion know that the book also includes an early piece, I Left My Grandfather's House (actually a fragment of Welch's journal). While we are not planning to discuss that work at a regular Bookmen meeting, I have now read it and commend it to anyone who enjoyed the novel. 

In particular, because I Left My Grandfather's House is told entirely in the first person, I wasn't distracted by the concerns about the author's voice or reliability I expressed during our discussion of the novel. I also found the shorter work held together well, though for me (as with In Youth Is Pleasure), the ending is problematic. Still, on balance, anyone who enjoyed the larger work will appreciate this one.

Cheers, Steve

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Calling All "Intelligent Homosexuals…"

Tony Kushner's "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures" is currently playing in town at Theater J (16th and Q St NW) and you won't want to miss it. The story line concerns an aging widowed Italian-American family patriarch who is threatening suicide on a pretext as he can not face some realities of not meeting life goals, and the reactions and interactions of three adult sons and a daughter and numerous partners/spouses/tricks/ex-hubby (currently with benefits) and sister, who all comprise a large cast of well-developed and all superbly acted characters. Kushner's writing is tighter and stronger (in my opinion) than his other noteworthy hits including both installments of "Angels in America" and "Caroline or Change" all of which I enjoyed. There is a special treat of eye-candy in the form of actor Jim Whalen in the first act, scene two, which is a post-coital nude scene hilariously acted.

The themes are numerous: Among them are: dealing with one's own aging and unrealized goals, a son or daughter attempting to distinguish one's own goals in life from those of a narcissistic parent, gay marriage and infidelity, straight marriage and sperm donation, key moments in mid to late 20th century labor history, recapturing a lost youth and good looks by employing an escort, dedication of one's life to a cause, or religion, or relationship that you loose faith in, and many more. There is no shortage of post-show contemplation of what you just witnessed.

The production is strong: sets costumes, directing, all tops. Several upcoming performances have post-show discussions with the cast, led by different types of experts, from the theater, labor movements, or gay politics, all open to the public. Friday December 5th is "The Washington Blade Night", which I imagine is to encourage more gay attendance. My performance last weekend already had an audience at about 50% gay. I look forward to discussing this show with anyone who has seen it following one of our upcoming Book Men meetings. This Theater J production has seen areas of re-writing by Kushner from its previous performances. I wonder what others think of the character "Eli" and the last scene?
—posted by: Ernie

Addition by Tim: I believe regular $45 tickets for the Friday December 5th "Blade Night" production are being discounted to $30 if you enter BLADENIGHT in the Coupon Code box. I also understand that there will be NO tickets sold at the door.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Thanks to Ernie for bringing in and reading Frank Bidart's recent poem in the November 10 issue of the New Yorker. If you like it and want more, vote for Metaphysical Dog on our current book list (deadline: 12/3).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"It does one good to see their balls dangling."

The Journal of Homosexuality is intended only for the very scholarly or the very rich. Access to the current issue for example—only online and only for thirty days—is $213! David Bergman in his introductory comments on our recent reading of Thoreau referenced Walter Harding's article "Thoreau's Sexuality" in the J(H)oH (1991). Thanks to the Kouroo Contexture (which I couldn't possibly begin to explain) this article is available in occasionally odd OCR. I recommend it to anyone who might be interested. I came away persuaded that Thoreau may never have had sex with anyone or thing but that his orientation was definitely toward men.

But—stop the presses!—I've just become aware of Schuyler Bishop's new novel Thoreau in Love which imagines the six months in 1840 that Henry David spent on Staten Island (his longest time away from home). I say "imagines" because although Thoreau began his journals three years earlier and continued them for the rest of his life, 250 pages are missing (i.e. ripped out)! You needn't imagine which six months in his 44 years they cover. Christopher Bram interviews Bishop about his book.

The heading of this post, by the way, is vegetable not animal: the "balls" referring to the tubers of the potato plant, what we ordinarily just call "potatoes."

Saturday, November 1, 2014

It's all in the timing...

Greetings, Colleagues—

Hope you all got lots of Halloween treats (and tricks if applicable) yesterday!  :-)

On a more sober note, I'd like to flag a story on the front page of the Style section in today's Washington Post (11/1/14): "Mourning in America: A New Internet Way of Remembering the Long Departed."   While well worth reading on its own merits, its timing is especially fitting for two reasons.

First, as most of you probably know, Halloween was originally called All Hallows' Eve--literally, the day before All Saints Day, a major feast in the Christian calendar. And that, along with the companion Nov. 2 observance of All Souls (perhaps better known to us as Mexico's "Day of the Dead"), is an occasion to reflect on loved ones we have lost (and, for believers, "the communion of the saints").

Second, and more pertinent to our group: The story is about a site launched just last month—The Recollectors: Remembering Parents Lost to AIDS—which was co-founded by Alysia Abbott, who wrote the memoir we're currently reading:  Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father. While the article is certainly no substitute for the memoir, it gives a good thumbnail sketch of why she wrote it (and, if you'll pardon my tooting my own horn, why I scheduled it for this particular week).

Hope to see you at the Tenleytown Library this Wednesday for that discussion.

Cheers, Steve

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Intriguing Sleuthing

Re the upcoming reading, Martin Murray has written a biography of Peter Doyle that required quite a bit of intriguing sleuthing.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review of a new biography of Tennessee Williams

Can only suffering — and alcohol — produce great literature?


The Outsider Art of Tennessee