Tuesday, February 14, 2017

More 19th-century love stories for your reading pleasure (and/or pleasure reading...:-)

If the item I just posted about Walt Whitman tickled your fancy, I invite you to check out two books our group read in 2006 and 2007, respectively:
Love Stories Between Men Before Homosexuality  by Jonathan Katz and
Graham Robb's Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century.

I found those, by the way, by scrolling down the list of "Books We Have Read" at the bottom of this blog, which the diligent Tim Walton regularly updates as our blogmaster.  If I counted correctly, we're now up to 266 titles—pretty good for slightly less than 18 years of existence!

Happy Valentine's Day from Walt Whitman!

The Metro section of today's Washington Post features a lovely story: "History's love letters provide heartfelt glimpses of the 'devoted' and 'besotted.' Among the examples cited is this one:

During the Civil War, Walt Whitman moved to Washington, where he met Peter Doyle, a former Confederate soldier. Whitman’s letters, including those to Doyle, were recently put online by the Library of Congress.

“They met one stormy night in 1865 when Whitman was the last passenger on Doyle’s car,” according to the Library Congress exhibit. “To Pete, the poet looked ‘like an old sea-captain.’ We were familiar at once. I put my hand on his knee — we understood from that time on we were the biggest sort of friends.”

“They said it was love at first sight,” said Barbara Bair, literature and cultural specialist. They took long walks. Whitman read Shakespeare to him. Doyle read limericks. In love letters, Whitman referred to Doyle as comrade, son and darling.

Their relationship changed, Bair said, when Whitman suffered a nearly fatal stroke while working late in the Treasury building. He moved to Camden, N.J., to live with his brother and recuperate.

In a letter dated June 20, 1877, Whitman wrote:


Dear, dear boy Pete I’m stopping here now for a week or two in the house I believe I have mentioned to you before, and where I wanted you to come and see me and still want you if you have a chance. But I spend most of my time down at an old farm down in New Jersey where I have a fine secluded wood and Creek and springs, where I pass my time alone, and yet not lonesome at all (often think of you Pete and put my arm around you and hug you up close, and give you a good buss often.)

“Your Old Walt.”

The profound portrayal of “longing” caused by the distance between the two lovers makes the letter compelling, Bair said.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

now what?

For those of you unfortunates (myself included) who have finished What Belongs to You and want more, Garth Greenwell has a wonderful homepage with links to other Bulgarian stories and to anecdotes about the composition, revision, publishing etc of his novel. There are also worthwhile non-fiction pieces, such as his Buzzfeed article on "How I Fell in Love with the Beautiful Art of Cruising."

Update: Greenwell had a fairly successful career as a poet before he ventured to Bulgaria and prose. The Beloit Poetry Journal published several of his poems. "Portrait with Hood and Bindings" is particularly striking.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Bookmen DC and a "Moonlight" connection...

Last June we discussed Tarell Alvin McCraney's 2015 play, Choir Boy, which most attendees agreed was powerful and moving.  (If you weren't with us for that discussion, I encourage you to check out the book for yourself.)

This year's Oscar nominations were just announced and "Moonlight," directed and adapted by Barry Jenkins from another McCraney play (that has never been staged, alas), is up for eight Oscars, including best picture, director and supporting actor and supporting actress.  The film is still playing in area theaters, and I can't recommend it highly enough!

Friday, January 20, 2017

"Our Caribbean" is still worth a visit...:-)

We wrapped up our yearlong exploration of Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles (Thomas Glave, editor), one of our three third-Wednesday anthologies from 2016, this past Wednesday.

I want to thank Keith Cohen for his expert facilitation of those discussions, and encourage those of you who were unable to attend those sessions to consider reading the book, or at least dipping into it.  Like most anthologies, it is uneven, both in the writing and coverage; but, on balance, I think I speak for those of us who read it when I say it was worth the time we invested.

Because the book is somewhat expensive (though used copies are available and affordable), I would be happy to lend my copy to anyone who wants to take a look before committing to a  purchase.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"Falsettos" Re-Viewed


The scene, acted with beautiful simplicity … affected me as no other in the theater this year….

Thursday, December 29, 2016

On the Move

The title of the Oliver Sacks' memoir we'll be discussing next Wednesday, but also that of the first poem in Thom Gunn's second book, The Sense of Movement (1957). Highly regarded in general, this poem, and not just by Sacks. Here's a link. The last three lines are quite quotable on their own:

At worst, one is in motion; and at best,
Reaching no absolute, in which to rest,
One is always nearer by not keeping still.

—and the last even more so (surely a poetic fiction but a good one).