Friday, January 23, 2009


Editors Meriwether & Wharton were too busy panting and depantsing in their preface/afterword to Men of Mystery to have said much about their editorial principles, but from their practice we may infer that they constituted their anthology of fictionalized "sexcrimes" from what was recent and at hand. That at any rate would explain how they managed to omit the finest specimen of this genre, Aaron Travis' "The Hit," which first appeared twenty-three years ago in Stroke and was later expanded to the novella Kip. The novella remains out of print (two copies as part of Big Shots selling through Amazon at $121.23 and up!). The original short story, however, is included in Susie Bright's The Best American Erotica 2003 since it was rated the number one erotic story of the last ten years by that anthology's readers.


is Hawaiian for honky, as in "There were five haoles at the book club last night and none of them knew it."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"It Must Have Been The Spirits"

The publication of this unfinished poem by Cavafy in the latest issue of The New Yorker heralds Daniel Mendelsohn's new "complete" translation (with Greek en face) to be published in two months by Knopf (624 pages). A couple of years ago Oxford World's Classics published a bilingual edition by Evangelos Sachperoglou of the published poems. Now with Mendelsohn's version of early, unpublished, and unfinished we must have reached an end (though I'm neither believing that nor complaining). BookMen may recognize the Knopf translator as the author of The Elusive Embrace which we read nine years ago (see below). Anyhow, all this bibliography aside, click on the link above and enjoy another one of CPC's "sensitive pleasure-bent youth[s]".

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Brideshead Re-Revisited

Referring to the movie, not the series (so I suppose I should have an extra "Re-" in the title). Disappointing, as advertised—or rather, as widely reviewed. More open about Sebastian's sexual interest in Charles, but damnably less so about Charles' in Sebastian. Indeed, Julia accompanies the two to Venice and it is Charles' interest in her there that dips Sebastian into despondent "dipsomania" — whereas, of course, in the novel Charles arguably turns to Julia much later only because Sebastian is no longer available. Still, in Morocco, Sebastian is striking in his PWA look, and there is one brilliant scene of little more than half a minute and half a dozen shots where we and Charles complicitly peer through mirrors on a canonic incestuous confessional, Sebasatian "childishly" crying in shame and humiliation as Lady Marchmain marmoreally withdraws her hand of love. "Name not the god, thou boy of tears" indeed!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mississippi Vi-SISSY-tudes

Happy New Year, Fellow Bookmen!

The five of us present last evening (including one new member; welcome!) took part in a lively discussion of Kevin Sessums' 2007 memoir, Mississippi Sissy. We all enjoyed the book and recommend it, though the first half--which recalls the trials and tribulations of the young Kevinator/Arlene as he comes to terms with his sexuality, the loss of family members, and his early awareness that the only way he can fit into his environment would be to sacrifice his essence--is overly drawn out and cluttered with details. (I did not feel this nearly as strongly as did my colleagues, I should note.) But we all found the second half, where Kevin comes into his own (so to speak) both as a character and memoirist, compelling and masterful, and wished it could have been even longer.

Questions of authenticity and truthfulness arose, as they always will in the consideration of memoirs, and here opinion was more divided. My own upbringing in Shreveport, Louisiana (a bit bigger than Jackson, Misssissippi, but all too similar), where I was born about five years after Sessums, was, mercifully, far less Southern Gothic than his, but observation after observation, and character and character, in the account rang true for me. However, others were less persuaded, and Sessum's use of reconstructed dialogue (which he acknowledges in his preface), in particular, seemed to be a sticking point. That is a valid criticism, but I still tend to subscribe to the "If that's not what they said, then it's what they SHOULD have" school in situations like that.

A final observation: I recall commenting to the group when we discussed Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors a few years ago that while the events he recounts may well have happened, I didn't believe it--and more crucially, I didn't believe Burroughs. I feel exactly the opposite about this memoir, and I warmly commend it to you all. Thanks to whoever recommended it. Cheers, Steve