Thursday, June 18, 2009

Author, Author

Greetings, Colleagues--

We had the unexpected pleasure of a visit by Frank Muzzy, author of "Images of America: Gay and Lesbian Washington, D.C.," during our discussion of his book last night (6/17). We were a smaller group than usual (four) but that enabled us to have a relaxed, intimate discussion of the book. Frank detailed the origins of the project, explained his methodology, and cited a number of events/themes he wishes he'd had room to include (an updated version does not appear to be in the cards). He also gave us some inside scoop on his professional and personal relationships with several of the key contemporary figures depicted in the book, and answered various questions.

He also responded to a critique of the work that is posted on the Rainbow History Project Web site (thanks to Philip for alerting us to that), which you can check out by clicking on errata.

I believe copies of the book are still available at Lambda Rising if this posting piques anyone's curiosity.

Steve Honley
Bookmen DC

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Aciman and Obama

I was glad Ken brought Aciman's piece to our attention, even though it had nothing to do with Aciman's book that we read but rather with his much praised memoir of growing up in Egypt. Out of Egypt is to my way of thinking something of a slight of hand -- a relict of the rich multicultural society that existed in Alexandria for no more than fifty years, ken to the world that Cavafy occupied and loved. But it is not a memoir of Egyptians, because, as in Cavafy's writings, the Egyptians hardly exist -- except as housekeepers, drivers, gardeners, workers.

As he makes clear in his memoir, the Acimans were eccentric and amusing interlopers from outside, folk that had arrived sometime in the nineteenth century to make a fortune and then mesh with the West. They did well and took Italian nationality to improve their social standing. Almost all the Levantines did this. It brought solidarity with the other Europeans living off the fat of the land and brought them privileges and wealth that was not available to most Egyptians. Since he wrote that book, there have been four or five memoirs by Jews who grew up in Egypt, each vying for the best remembered nostalgia of days gone past. Apparently for them, nostalgia for Egypt is exquisite and memorable.

Therefore it is ironic that Aciman berates Obama for failing to mention in his Cairo speech the "second exodus" of the Jews -- prompted when the state of Israel was founded. Obama, he said, should have equated them with the thousands of Palestinians who also lost everything they owned, who were looted, to use Aciman's word for Egyptian Jews, by the incoming Jews. On the other hand, others criticized Obama for daring to equate the Palestinians with the Jews of the Holocaust which, we all know, is anathema.

I was bewildered and saddened by Aciman's column.

It is sad--to say the least--that people treat each other this way. Actions have consequences, and for the Acimans of the Middle East the decision to carve out of state in the middle of the Arab World meant that their own place in Arab countries was imperiled. Why should there not be a reaction? The West has owned up to the Holocaust. When is Israel going to own up to the Nakba and make restitution? By writing this article, does Aciman actually expect us not to hold Israel accountable? Or is there some other reason for him to go way out on a limb?


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Andre Aciman speaks...

Greetings, Colleagues--

Ken J. was kind enough to flag an op-ed that appeared in the June 8 New York Times by Andre Aciman, whose novel Call Me by Your Name we read last September. Although the piece, titled "The Exodus Obama Forgot to Mention," has no gay content (and his byline does not even reference the novel), it is nonetheless interesting. So I encourage you to check it out. Here is the link:

Cheers, Steve

Sunday, June 7, 2009

"in the fragrance of syringa"

Some interest was expressed in E.F. Benson's story "The Man Who Went Too Far" (which you can obtain or read in PDF by clicking on the link). My recommendation would be not to unless you're interested enough in H.P. Lovecraft to check out this story he is supposed to have praised. There is, however, this lovely sentence:

Frank and he saw each other across the bushes and garden-beds, and each quickening his step, they met suddenly face to face round an angle of the garden walk, in the fragrance of syringa.

But by way of disqualification it perhaps should be admitted that I attempted to watch the first episode of the 1985 TV series, "Mapp & Lucia" (our heroine's name oddly pronounced trochaically) and found Geraldine McEwan, an actress I've generally admired, so irritating as LUcha that I had to stop the instant she and Nigel Hawthorne (Georgino) started babby talking.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mapp & Lucia Glossary

Scholars, or the merely curious, will find this link useful

... though some passages' confusion seems to transcend idiom or reference (e.g. Georgie's hypnagogic musing "Sometime he would have bells put on all the shutters as he determined to do a month ago, and then no sort of noise would disturb him any more…." whilst being unwittingly burglarized in Chapter 8).