“A parking ticket in the morning always feels portentous. Is this going to be a ‘bad day?’ or, since itâs Monday, a bad week? As if there were such a thing. I eat good food, I hang out with friends. But a parking ticket is the ďŹash of a hex.”
âThe Banal and the Profaneâ is a monthlyÂ Lambda LiteraryÂ column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life andÂ the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.
This monthâs âBanal and Profaneâ column comes to us from writer Conner Habib. (more…)
Acclaimed actor Ben Gazzara died two years ago this month. Magnus Books editor Don Weise recalls working with Gazzara on his memoirs and reflects onÂ the actor’s substantialÂ legacy.
âDarling, stop being a cocktease and send me your goddamn edits.â No, this wasnât Truman Capote phoning. It was movie tough-guy Ben Gazzara eager to get started on the rewrite of his memoirs, In the MomentÂ (Carroll & Graf). Of all the projects Iâve been involved with, this one was my happiest and most memorable. On first glance (even the second and third) I might have seemed an odd match for a macho, free-wheeling character like Ben. I was known for publishing LGBT titles, a lot of it fiction. Yet here was an actor writing about his storied fifty-plus-year career on stage and screen, best-known for playing he-man roles: an abusive husband, a heroin addict, strip club owner, a porn producer, assorted gangsters, Charles Bukowski, a sadistic closet case, and a homophobic father whose gay son is dying of AIDS. Not exactly guys from my neck of the woods, still I love each of these performances. One of Benâs gifts as an actor was being able to humanize difficult and sometimes violent men. Did that appeal to me as a gay man? I donât know, but I felt certain that any actor capable of delivering one mesmerizing performance after the next was capable of delivering a knock out memoir.
A Raisin in the Sun is one of the most enduring plays in modern American literature. “The play that changed American theater forever,” wrote the New York Times. The author, Lorraine Hansberry, was only 29 when it debuted on Broadway on March 11, 1959. A Raisin in the Sun was the first play written by an African-American woman to reach Broadway. There it won the New York Drama Criticâs Circle Award for best drama. Hansberry was only the fifth woman to win the award as well as the youngest playwright and first black to win it. (more…)
Since the 2004 release of my book Alice Walker: A LifeÂ (W. W. Norton & Company), Iâve frequently been asked if Iâll write another biography. I find merit in the adage ânever say never.â Still, itâs not likely that I (now pushing 60) will ever again take on the task of researching and writing a full-scale biography.
JanusÂ is the ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions; he looks to the past and to the future. Janus is usually depicted with two faces. Iâd like to re-appropriate this ancient archetype as the god of transitioning genders for the first book I will review by L.A. Witt that was just reissued in January. Then I will use this same archetype to discuss authorial collaboration–two heads are better than one–in the romance genre in a new release from L.A. Witt and Cat Grant. Finally, I will look at a recent release by Cat Grant that masterfully uses parallelism to illustrate the choices that the characters must make between self-hate and love. (more…)
Last year I wrote about the âgay imposition,â the cultural forces that demand writers to be gay writers, and which mediate the writing process. The demand is readerly; audiences, both real and imagined, function as external forces that pressure a writer to conform to a universal stereotype, or write âas aâ lesbian, or gay man, or bisexual, or trans* gendered person. This is the basis of Edward Albeeâs refusal to identify as a âgay writerâ: â[a] writer who happens to be gay or lesbian must be able to transcend self. I am not a gay writer. I am a writer who happens to be gayâŚ. Any definition which limits us is deplorable.â (more…)
Do you have problems with your love life? Hate your job? Your social life lacking that certain zing? All questions can be answered through literatureâor maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here atÂ TheÂ Lambda Literary ReviewÂ have started our very own advice column called âReader Meet Author.â Think of the column as sort of a âDearÂ AbbyâÂ for the LGBTQ literary set. You can send âReader Meet Authorâ questions for publication toÂ ReaderMeetAuthor@lambdaliterary.org.
Every month readers can submit questions to a chosen LGBTQÂ authorÂ about love, work, and life, and theÂ authorÂ will answer them to the best of their ability.
This monthâs column is handled by poet Adam Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald is the author ofÂ The Late Parade, his debut collection of poetry from W. W. Nortonâs historic Liveright imprint. A 2005 graduate of Boston College, in 2008 he received his Masters in Editorial Studies from Boston Universityâs Editorial Institute. In 2010, he received his MFA from Columbia Universityâs School of the Arts. His poems, essays and interviews have appeared inÂ A Public Space,Â Boston Review,Â Conjunctions,Â Poetry, and elsewhere. He is the founding editor of the poetry journalÂ MaggyÂ and contributing editor forÂ The American Reader.
I think my friend is addicted to Facebook. He posts something new on his page every five minutes. I meanÂ everyÂ five minutes! If we are hanging out, he is glued to his smart phone, constantly changing and checking his status updates. I find it rude and hard to take when he canât even be present and join an actual conversation because he is so immersed in a virtual one. Any tips to get him to step away, even momentarily, from the âbook of facesâ?
To quote the great Fran Lebowitz: âI have none of these machines which is what allows people to not be wherever they are, but since I donât have them and Iâm forced to be wherever I am all the time, itâs why I notice what other people are doing. Most people arenât noticing where they are because theyâre not really any place.â Even so, I plead guilty addicted as I am to my second-favorite appendage, my iPhone 5. That said, when youâre hanging out or at a dinner, having a conversation with a friend, etc.âbeÂ tyrannical. When youâre with me, youâre with me. Be loud and direct, steely and uncompromising. If the friendâs a good one, theyâll heed the rod.
I have a friend who I have known since I was in my twenties. She and I were college roommates. We came out together, partied together, and just had some great youthful hijinks. We are now in our thirties and our interests have changed, or mine have at least. She still wants to go out and party and talk about pop-culture related stuff that I no longer have interest in. When I bring up politics or social issues that concern me she basically ignores me and continues to talk about pop stars and other idle gossip. Just talking to her is draining, but she is always calling me to chat and hang out like old times. I donât have the time between work and my girlfriend to spend on a non-fulfilling friendship. I donât want to hurt her feelings, but how do you break up with an old friend? Is there a proper etiquette for this sort of thing?
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Dear Breaking Up,
When exiting a friendship, Life hath allotted two venerable, time-honored means: the Face-to-Face & the Ghost Out. The former is so 90s Real Worldâturgid, quite possibly operatic. The latter is our preferred, more brittle but not without its saving grace, corporate âphase out.â I donât think I need to instruct ye on how to perform the Ghost: it just means being less available over time until they get the hint. If you pick the former, I advise some ghosting as warm-up, and when/if you choose to have that fateful encounter, explain exactly why youâve been so distant and dissatisfied. You donât need to say itâs over, or use break-up language; thatâs only asking for a shit storm. Put the ball in their court. Friendship is about more than the memory of rapport, itâs about listening to the noise of current time, its changes, both partiesâ newest interests. If you feel like you have nothing more to say to this friend, or havenât in a while, chances are youâve already begun pulling away. Now itâs just about how surgically polite you want to be. It isnât always cowardice to disappear, to just fade awayâespecially if your friend through their prattling self-absorption already did a long time ago.
I am reader of a lot of heavy and dark sexual writing and movies (kinky BSDM and lots of porn-related materials). Although I enjoy the work, I find it increasingly hard to separate these fantasies from my ârealâ life. I worry that my deep immersion into these kinds of fictions are disrupting my attempts at real psychical intimacy. Lately, the intimate physical acts I have attempted are not as satisfying as the work I have read or watched. Is there anything you recommend to read (or do) as a mental palate cleanser?
Fantasy vs. RealityÂ
I once had a purportedly âstraightâ friend who I gave GenetâsÂ Thief JournalÂ to read. Soon after, he started trying to turn tricks at The Cock and urinate in public, one time getting so drunk he âmarkedâ out a friendâs kitchen cabinet while we were all asleep. When I confronted him about his third-rate psychotic behavior, he claimed it was my fault for giving him Genet, since after all âhis imagination is so susceptibleâ to whatever he was reading. The only censorship I trust, and advocate, is self-censorship. Which is to say, you have to honor the psychic configuration of what you ingestâif your fantasy life is causing you to shit on your waking life, your romantic or sexual encounters, because youâve become too trained to a different kind of fantasy, then you have two approaches: embrace this new perverse self or simply modify your diet. I advocate neither absolutely, but rather that Grecian ideal of measureâsome of both. Your reading list might be more de Sade lately, but itâs a common plague: spoon-fed the robotic, cosmetic fucking of Gay Porn. Iâm something of an expert myself in this department. But to each Sean Cody episode, Temperance hath provided a reprieve. Ever see those outtake, behind the scenes videos? Theyâre usually quite revealing: how banal, clumsy and accidental even an artificial sexual encounter in a tackily-lit Ikea porn studio can be. Take it from me, our fantasy life needs balance and rigor as much as our waistlines. Black-and-white bare shoulders can be as riveting to watch as frat house bukkake. Itâs not about being puritanical, but rather cosmopolitanâchallenge the insularity and narrowness of your erotic habits and high-carb masturbatory intake. But also allow yourself toÂ shareÂ your fantasy life with others. If you want to reenact Robert Mapplethorpeâs more balletic Polaroids, I promise youâll find plenty of receptive bull whips and blindfolds in this city, or any other.
Signing your very first book is a landmark moment for all writers. Itâs like your first crack at kissing or screwing or loving. Possibly, itâs a moment you recall in Technicolor. Or, maybe, itâs a sliver of time coated with murk and fuzz. No matter. Scrawling your name on your first published work is a triumph, a gift, and, above all, one lick of frosting found in the writerâs life. (more…)
An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin (University of Wisconsin Press, 2001)Â retells the unbelievable story of a boy who grew to adulthood in the very heart of Hitlerâs Germany. Yet the title is a bit of a misnomer. The leader of a wide network of Jewish resistance within the city, at the center of a vast web of international humanitarian efforts, Gad Beckâs (1923 â 2012)Â illegal life was very different from that we know best: the Franksâ. (more…)
History should always trump nostalgia because “nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.” Whoever first said these wordsâbaseball icon Yogi Berra, French actress Simone Signoret, or New Yorker magazine writer Peter De Vriesâthey apply to the history of AIDS activism. (more…)