Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Canonical and Forgotten

Two books have recently been published with lists of books we all should have read or we all shouldn't have forgotten about. I haven't looked closely at either and both appear to have been rather informally collected—but particularly as we get ready for another list, people may find a perusal of these lists worthwhile.

The first list is Richard Canning's 50 Gay and Lesbian Books Everybody Must Read:

Yahweh  Samuel 1 & 2
Tablets  Gilgamesh
Sappho  Poems
Plato  The Symposium
Horace Walpole  Letters
Herman Melville  Moby Dick
Walt Whitman  Leaves of Grass
Arthur Rimbaud  A Season in Hell
Henry James  The Bostonians
A.E. Housman  A Shropshire Lad
Oscar Wilde  De Profundis
Colette  Claudine at School
Thomas Mann  Death in Venice
Ronald Firbank  The Flower Beneath the Foot
Virginia Woolf  Mrs. Dalloway
Marcel Proust  Time Regained
Ivy Compton-Burnett  More Women than Men
Constantine Cavafy  Poems
Djuna Barnes  Nightwood
Vita Sackville-West  Letters to Virginia Woolf
Evelyn Waugh  Brideshead Revisited
Marguerite Yourcenar  Memoirs of Hadrian
Patricia Highsmith  The Price of Salt
G.F. Green  In the Making
Yukio Mishima  Forbidden Colors
Allen Ginsberg  Howl and Other Poems
James Baldwin  Giovanni's Room
Harold Brodkey  First Love and Other Sorrows
Shelagh Delaney  A Taste of Honey
Christopher Isherwood  A Single Man
José Lezama Lima  Paradiso
James Purdy  Eustace Chisholm and the Works
J.R. Ackerley  My Father and Myself
Mañuel Puig  Betrayed by Rita Hayworth
William Burroughs  The Wild Boys
Mary Renault  The Persian Boy
Coleman Dowell  Too Much Flesh and Jabez
Andrew Holleran  Dancer from the Dance
Audre Lorde  The Cancer Journals
Alice Walker  The Color Purple
Edmund White  A Boy's Own Story
Jeanette Winterson  Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Hervé Guibert  To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life
Rebecca Brown  The Terrible Girls
Tom Spanbauer  The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon
John Foster  Take Me to Paris, Johnny
Gore Vidal  Palimpset
Matthew Stadler  Allan Stein
Douglas Wright  Ghost Dance
Susan Smith  Burning Dreams

The second, covering recent gay fiction now out of print, is The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered:

Glenway Wescott  The Apple of the Eye
Roger Peyrefitte  The Exile of Capri
Donald Windham  Two Peple
George Baxt  A Queer Kind of Death
Kyle Onstott & Lance Horner  Child of the Sun
John Donovan  I'll Get There. It Better Be Worth the Trip
Daniel Curzon  Something You Do in the Dark
Lynn Hall  Stick and Stones
Richard Hall  Couplings
Charles Nelson  The Boy Who Picked the Bullets Up
Paul Rogers  Saul's Book
Agustin Gomez-Arcoz  The Carnivorous Lamb
Robert Ferro  The Blue Star
George Whitmore  Nebraska
Paul Reed  Longing
John Gilgun  Music I Never Dreamed Of
Allen Barnett  The Body and Its Dangers
Neil Bartlett  Ready to Catch him Should He Fall
Patrick Roscoe  Birthmarks
Melvin Dixon  Vanishing Rooms
Michael Grumley  Life Drawing
James McCourt  Time Remaining
Bruce Benderson  User
Mark Merlis  American Studies
Douglas Sandowick  Sacred Lips of the Bronx
J.S. Marcus  The Captain's Fire
Rabih Almaddine  The Perv: Stories

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


One of the things I like about our group is that we waste no time (no meeting time) debating/arguing/deciding about what to read. I've belonged to groups—I'm sure we all have—where a good quarter of every hour was engaged in that activity, and although the liveliest, it could also be the most vituperative and aggrieved as well. It was early recognized that an open and public book group such as ours could not function along the lines of private and closed ones. In those, typically, the members—limited and known—vote at some meeting what book(s) they will read in the future. We have had as many as a hundred "members" on our mailing list: some regular, some irregular, some never seen. How, where, and when would we get together and vote?

What we have done instead is publish a list of proposals and ask people, all and sundry, to designate the books they'd like to read. But it should be understood that those "votes" are entirely advisory. The Facilitator, otherwise known as the "benevolent despot," takes the information from those "votes" and tries to come up with a balanced list that will please most of people who attend or might attend. If he fails, he facilitates an empty room.

(An example of this balancing might be instructive. When I was facilitator, I offered people the option of voting "NO". This was something of a veto, particularly coming from members who attended regularly. Of course if many members, especially frequently attending members, voted "Yes", they could override a veto. Once, I got a "vote" from someone on the mailing list who had never attended a meeting. It was sprinkled with NO's. I of course ignored it.)

All of this is a somewhat long-winded way of saying that the voting list is for the benefit of the facilitator. If he can use a Ouija board to divine what people might like to read, well and good. The voting list has tended to be long and cumbersome—one reason for votes to be seldom and for lists to be long. But a consensus is forming I think for shorter lists and along with that should be other means for the facilitator to be informed of what members—present, past, and future—might like to read. I'm unsure what those other means might be (informal consultation?). Whatever they are should obviously be useful and agreeable to the presiding facilitator. This is something for us think about.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The rest is NOT silence

(Yet to be published is a birthday mesostic in which Cage pays tribute to Cunningham's cock and ass!)

—from Alex Ross' "Searching for Silence" in the 10/4/10 issue of The New Yorker … John Cage and Merce Cunningham, being one of history's most notable homo pairings.

[a "mesostic," I mention, having been ignorant of it myself until now, being an acrostic in the middle, as (quoting from the article):

Much of our
of borEdom
Toward talks in
it misled Him
diplOmatic skill to
place to place but Does it look
at present Most
fivE Iranian fishermen
cuTbacks would not

… hmm, and then again, maybe I can wait]

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bookmen DC reading list and other thoughts


I have been giving some thought recently to Bookmen DC. I want to share my suggestions and ideas with you, in order to stimulate an open exchange of ideas about the future direction of our group.  I am concerned that some may take my ideas, suggestions, or thoughts personally.  This is not my intention.  Bookmen DC has evolved over time incorporating the suggestions of members. My ideas are made in the spirit of continually improving and evolving the group.  The goal is to attract new members. As a potential AARP member, I really believe that we also can learn from the perspectives of new, younger members who might want to join our groupThe challenge is how to attract different age groups to join our group.  Younger readers are more comfortable materials that are available online, including periodicals, journals and blogs. The advantage of these online reading materials is that they are often available at no cost.  

Steve have been doing a wonderful job facilitating.  I, myself, remember the early growing pains of our group: the difficulty  of trying to please everyone and yet still make sure the list included a variety of books.  Over the past few years, your dedication and persistence is extraordinary.  I am constantly amazed that a group with no formal structure or by-laws has managed to last do so long.  I am concerned, though, about the declining attendance at our meetings.  At many meetings the same 4 or 5 people show up on a regular basis.

We have been considering ways to attract new members.  We started using Facebook as an additional venue to attract new members.  The recent technical difficulties with facebook interrupted this process, but the Bookmen DC Facebook Group is up and running again.  In an attempt to attract new members, I have made the upcoming  Bookmen DC Facebook events “public” so that non Bookmen DC members will be able to see them and might attend meetings.  I hope this will catch the attention some potential members who might bring the perspective of a younger generation.  It is possible to make the Facebook Bookmen DC Group an “open” group, but I am not totally comfortable with this yet and welcome the views of others on this topic.

I have also set up a test Group in order to experiment with the features of the “New Facebook Groups”(I posted a blog on our website discussion the pros and cons).  I welcome any members who may want to join the test group to see how it works.  The new Facebook groups have many features that enhance  the group experience.  I have seen some flaws and I have sent suggested to facebook to try to modify or improve them.  I hope is that the new members will bring the perspective of a younger generation.  There is a possibly for making the Facebook Bookmen DC Group an “open” group, but I am not totally comfortable with this yet.

I like Steve’s idea of having guest facilitators, i.e., the one who actually recommended a book – of course guest facilitator must commit to actually show up.  This might help to vary the format of the discussion.   Our group has never been static.  Bookmen DC has evolved over time, and we have all learned from the opinions of old and new members

I think at our last meeting we briefly discussed the next reading list and how long it should run.  My preference is that 6 months should be the maximum. My reasons are as follows:

1.      The length of the list  may discourage people considering joining the group.  They may feel that they have no opportunity to contribute to a reading list that runs for many months.

2.      Having a more frequent selection process may give old and new members a greater sense of inclusion in the selection process, even though their choices may not be selected.

3.      We would be able to select more topical books if our list ran for a shorter period.

4.      It would be interesting to add reading suggestions from younger prospective members for us to hear the perspective of younger readers, which views are rather lacking in our current meetings.

5.      I propose adding topical, gay-themed articles from quality journals, articles, and blogs by prominent GLTB authors, perhaps as a “wild-card” selection on some kind of periodic basis.


I hope this will stimulate a civil discussion on the future direction of out group.  As for myself, I always seen the group as an opportunity to read books I would never have read on my own, and to meet people with similar interests to mine.  Some readings I like and sometimes not.  I look forward to seeing you at future meetings.



Saturday, October 9, 2010

Facebook: "New" Groups vs. "Old" Groups, etc

Facebook Groups and Facebook Pages:


Facebook has rolled out a new Groups design. “Bookmen DC” is currently an "old" group on Facebook. Right now "old" groups can't be converted into a "new" group. More info is available at the link  .  The new groups feature seems to be tailored to those people with hundreds of facebook friends, who want more control over their interaction with sub-groups of their friends (e.g., “real” friends and family members).  I think Facebook is trying to become the new Google.  Facebook seems to be in constant flux with regard to features and functionality, so I suspect that they will be adjusting the groups features as they get feedback about the feature of “new groups”.  I have already submitted a few suggestions.  Over the past few months, the privacy settings for Facebook have become more robust and easier to use.


I have created a test “new group” (“BookmenDC” [no space between “Bookmen” and “DC”]) and have been tinkering with the features of the new Facebook Groups:


·         New groups only allows invites to people who have been “friended”.  Old groups allows invites to all other facebook members using email accounts.

·         New groups does not allow more than one “admin” per group.

·         New groups allows documents posting and sharing using a shared notepad.

·         New groups does not have discussion topics boards.

·         New groups allows online group chats with other group members.

·         New groups allows a group email address ( for my test group)



Facebook Pages is only an option for more formal organizations than ours .


Bookmen DC Events on Facebook:


We have been experimenting with Facebook as an online venue for Bookmen DC.  I have posted our group’s upcoming meetings as “public” events.  This will allow non-group members to see the details of the meetings on Facebook and perhaps attract some new members to our meetings.



Friday, October 8, 2010

Petronius' "filthy pleasure"

Ben Jonson's translation

Doing, a filthy pleasure is, and short;
And done, we straight repent us of the sport:
Let us not then rush blindly on unto it,
Like lustfull beasts, that onely know to doe it:
For lust will languish, and that heat decay,
But thus, thus, keeping endlesse Holy-day,
Let us together closely lie, and kisse,
There is no labour, nor no shame in this;
This hath pleas'd, doth please, and long will please; never
Can this decay, but is beginning ever.

of Petronius'

Foeda est in coitu et brevis voluptas,
et taedet Veneris statim peractae.
Non ergo ut pecudes libidinosae
caeci protinus irruamus illuc;
(nam languescit amor peritque flamma);
sed sic sic sine fine feriati
et tecum jaceamus osculantes.
Hic nullus labor est ruborque nullus:
hoc juvit, juvat, et diu juvabit;
hoc non deficit, incipitque semper.

Anyone with any Latin will see how literal Jonson's translation is. But onto Petronius' fastidious Epicureanism there is an overlay of Judeo-Christian shame and guilt (rubor needn't mean more than blushing nor taedet more than being wearied). Both of course have the same strategy, that of never finishing something to be free from distasteful consequence. And neither could have anticipated our lucky escape from the Heat-Death of the Universe (law of entropy) to a continuing Big Bang or Inflationary Epoch. We who together closely lie and kiss come as close as mortals can to the happy figures on the Grecian Urn.

Petronius' hendecasyllables are quite artful but to a startlingly regular iambic line Jonson has added rhyme—rhyme which in the last couplet highlights the binary of finishing and beginning ("never"/"ever"). He also has a "kisse" that explodes into the aural experience of the poem and continues to live and last in the next (and last) three lines of the poem with its resounding echo "this".

As I said at our last meeting, to call anything the greatest out of such a large field is to be rhetorically provocative. What I wish to provoke with this evaluation is the deep musical satisfaction of a poem without "deep" image, indeed virtually without image of any sort whatsoever ("like lustfull beasts"). This is high heresy to all poetics since 1798 ("Lyrical Ballads"). This is all Goatfoot and Milktongue—Twinbird has flown the coop! And what would be a numbing metrical regularity (only disturbed at the outset by the trochee "Doing") is transcended by a flexibility of phrasing that spills over these feet as a high wave over rocks.

a filthy pleasure is
and short
and done
we straight repent us of the sport

Rather than re-lineate the whole poem this way I offer a challenge … or an exercise, a challenging exercise. Set your metronome at 40 bpm and read the poem. I take 30 beats. (Note: not every line has three beats, and key words often occur off beat.)

Nietzsche on Petronius

Terry has brought this section (28) from Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil to my attention:

What is most difficult to render from one language into another is the tempo of its style.... There are honestly meant translations that … are almost falsifications of the original, merely because its bold and merry tempo (which leaps over and obviates all dangers in things and words) could not be translated. A German is almost incapable of presto in his language … Petronius [is] untranslatable for him. … Who, finally, could venture on a German translation of Petronius, who … was a master of presto in invention, ideas, and words? What do the swamps of the sick, wicked world, even the "ancient world," matter in the end, when one has the feet of a wind as he did, the rush, the breath, the liberating scorn of a wind that makes everything healthy by making everything run!

—(Kaufman's translation). I'm still taking in that wonderful conception, whether it applies to Petronius or not, of "the liberating scorn of a wind that makes everything healthy by making everything run!" Nietzsche interestingly (and even more interestingly modest here in his silence) himself brought presto into the German language.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Latin Sexual Vocabulary

The book that I mentioned during tonight’s meeting is “The Latin Sexual Vocabulary” by J.N. Adams, Johns Hopkins University Press.  This is a wonderful book to browse through.


Quoting the back cover: “…collects for the first time evidence of Latin obscenities and sexual euphemisms drawn from both literary and nonliterary sources from the early Republic to about the 4th century A.D.”

transmission of the text of Petronius' Satyricon and textual criticism

The history of the transmission of the text of Petronius’ Satyricon is very complicated. All the details of this history are available in Konrad Muller’s 3rd edition “Petronius Satyrica, Schlemengeschichte”. In English a more concise history is given by M.D. Reeve in “Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics”. I have neither of these, but was able to put together a brief history of the transmission using “Scribes and Scholars: A Guide to the Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature”. This book also has a chapter on Textual Criticism, parts of which I summarize further down. For those interested in the historical development of textual criticism, I would recommend “Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an Age of Science, 1450 – 1800”.


Much manuscript copying occurred in the Abbeys of the Loire Valley during the 9th century. We know that copies of Petronius were circulating there during the 9th century. These manuscripts were probably used by those who compiled collections of quotations called florilegia. The Florileguim Gallicum is a source for parts of Petronius. The Abby of Fleury is particularly important for the history of the transmission of Petronius. It was sacked by the Huguenots in 1562. Fluery’s manuscripts were purchased by Pierre Daniel. One of the best Petronius manuscripts comes from his collection. Other important collections that included Petronius were acquired during the same time period by Pierre Pithou, Jacques Bongars, Joseph Scaliger, and Jacques Cujas. Quoting Scribes and Scholars: “the complicated history of the text of Petronius in the latter half of the sixteenth century epitomizes a group of French Scholars of this period… Its complexity is also an indication of the difficulty of piecing together the elaborate web formed by the interrelationship of men and manuscript in this period, even in the case of central texts...”

Poggio was a Papal Secretary during the early 15th century. He is very important in the history of the transmission of manuscript copies of ancient texts. He found the “exerpta vulgaria” in England, which he described as, “particula petronii”. All of the existing 15th century manuscripts of the exerpta descend from Poggio’s copy. In 1423 at Cologne he found the “Cena Trimalchonis”. The copy that he commissioned of the Cologne manuscript is our only source for it. This manuscript was lost for a while. It resurfaced in 1650. The Cena was first printed in Padua in 1664.

Textual Criticism:

1. Recension: attempted reconstruction of earliest recoverable form of text from surviving manuscripts.

a. Establish the relationship of existing manuscripts to each other.

b. Eliminate from consideration those that are derived exclusively from other existing manuscripts.

c. Use the established relationships of those that remain to reconstruct the lost manuscript[s] from which the surviving manuscripts descend.

2. Limits of Recension.

a. Assumes all reading and errors are transmitted “vertically” from one book to copies that are made of it.

b. Assumes all surviving manuscripts can be traced to a single archetype.

c. Does not always account for the possibility that ancient authors made corrections or additions to their works (for example Cicero).

3. Corruptions.

a. Mistakes induced by ancient or medieval handwriting.

b. Corruptions from changes in spelling or pronunciation.

c. Omissions by mistake.

d. Errors of addition: letters, glosses (interlinear notes), and marginalia.

e. Errors of transposition: letters, verses, and text word order.

f. Errors induced by context.

g. Errors induced by influence of Christian thoughts.

h. Deliberate action of scribe.

4. The relationship of age and merit in individual manuscripts.

5. Indirect transmission of texts through quotation in another ancient author or through collections of quotations.