Gay Lives: Homosexual Autobiography from John Addington Symonds to Paul Monette

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9780226721804: Gay Lives: Homosexual Autobiography from John Addington Symonds to Paul Monette

In his autobiography, John Addington Symonds relates a glorious night of passion, in which he and his lover "lay covered from the cold in bed, tasting the honey of softly spoken words and the blossoms of lips pressed on lips." Christopher Isherwood's first autobiography, on the other hand, was far less direct; he wrote a second autobiography in part because the first was "not truly autobiographical" in that "the author conceals important facts about himself." These contradictions, evasions, and explicit sexual details of the life stories of fourteen men form Gay Lives, a revealing account of homosexual autobiography.

Paul Robinson reads the memoirs of French, British, and American gay authors—André Gide, Quentin Crisp, and Martin Duberman, among others—through the prism of sexual identity, asking fascinating questions about homosexuality and its relation to literary form. How did these authors discover their sexual identity? Did they embrace it or reject it? How did they express often conflicted desires in their words, which ranged from defiant and brutally frank to ambiguous and abstract? Robinson considers the choices each made—as a man and an author—to accommodate himself to society's homophobia or live in protest against his oppression.

Despite the threads that connect these stories, Gay Lives refutes the notion that there is a typical homosexual "career" by showing that gay men have led wildly dissimilar lives—from the exuberant to the miserable—and that they have found no less dissimilar meanings in those lives.

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Review :

Paul Robinson's Gay Lives is a comprehensive study of how the gay male memoir evolved over the course of the 20th century. Focusing on writers from Great Britain, France, and the United States, Robinson creates a series of dialogues among his 14 subjects as he examines how each deals with issues such as what it means to be a "man," how to view oneself in relationship to a gay community, and how one deals with having, or claiming, an outsider identity. Quoting at length from writers such as John Addington Symonds (who can be viewed as the father of the modern gay memoir), André Gide, G. Lowes Dickinson (a close friend of E.M. Forster), and contemporary writers including the late Paul Monette and Martin Duberman, Gay Lives is not only a crash course on gay literary history but a meditation on how often gay men (in varying degrees of closetedness) have greatly influenced what we call "mainstream culture." It is perhaps here that Gay Lives is most startling; Robinson both explicitly and implicitly forces us to reexamine how ideas of the personal, the political, and truth shape all writing. Gay Lives is an important--and provocative--addition to the critical literature on life writing. --Michael Bronski

From Kirkus Reviews :

Cultural historian Robinson (Humanities/Stanford; Freud and His Critics, not reviewed, etc.) examines provocatively a centurys worth of authors whose homosexuality is a central subject of their autobiographical narratives. Covering 14 British, American, and French writers, most of them professional men of letters, Robinson focuses with sometimes claustrophobic reductiveness on what they did in bed, what they wanted to do, what they didnt want to do. The lives here and the way their authors represented them are remarkably various: The posthumous memoirs of 19th-century belletrist John Addington Symonds and Edwardian don G. Lowes Dickinson evidence lots of flowery Greek-inspired idealism but precious little sexual success in a society that was not so much repressive as willfully oblivious. In 1951 Stephen Spender disparaged his gay past through elaborate avoidances, while Christopher Isherwoods post-Stonewall Christopher and His Kind recreated much of the same milieu without Spenders backpedaling. J.R. Ackerley found lasting (nonsexual) love only with his dog; the flamboyantly effeminate Quentin Crisp flatly disdained sex. The French indulged in philosophical contortions: Andr Gide wrote that his physical desires had nothing to do with emotion; Jean Genet claimed that his homosexuality was, like his criminal career, a deliberate choice to remove himself from conventional society; Julian Green couldnt reconcile his sexuality with his Roman Catholic faith. The diarists Jeb Anderson and Donald Vining both endured the post-WWII crackdown on gay life in America, the former miserably and the latter with inexplicable perkiness. Memoirs by Andrew Tobias, Martin Duberman, and Paul Monette all center on emergence from the closet. In general, Robinson writes with crisp elegance, but he tends to dive for his subjects genitals with unseemly relish. And though he is often shrewd in assessing literary strategies as psychological evasions, he just as often ends up berating writers unfairly for lack of candor, self-knowledge, or 1990s political savvy. Nevertheless, Robinson covers an impressive amount of previously unsurveyed ground. (15 photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Description du livre The University of Chicago Press, United States, 1999. Hardback. État : New. New.. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In his autobiography, John Addington Symonds relates a glorious night of passion, in which he and his lover lay covered from the cold in bed, tasting the honey of softly spoken words and the blossoms of lips pressed on lips . Christopher Isherwood s first autobiography, on the other hand, was far less direct; he wrote a second autobiography in part because the first was not truly autobiographical in that the author conceals important facts about himself . These contradictions, evasions, and explicit sexual details of the life stories of 14 men form Gay Lives , an account of homosexual autobiography. Paul Robinson reads the memoirs of French, British, and American gay authors - Andre Gide, Quentin Crisp, and Martin Duberman, among others - through the prism of sexual identity, asking questions about homosexuality and its relation to literary form. How did these authors discover their sexual identity? Did they embrace it or reject it? How did they express often conflicted desires in their words, which ranged from defiant and brutally frank to ambiguous and abstract? Robinson considers the choices each made - as a man and an author - to accommodate himself to society s homophobia or live in protest against his oppression. Despite the threads that connect these stories, Gay Lives refutes the notion that there is a typical homosexual career by showing that gay men have led wildly dissimilar lives - from the exuberant to the miserable - and that they have found no less dissimilar meanings in those lives. N° de réf. du libraire BTE9780226721804

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