A collection of Rich's essays on a number of important feminist and/or queer filmmakers, ranging from the classical era (Deren, Riefenstahl, Maedchen...moreA collection of Rich's essays on a number of important feminist and/or queer filmmakers, ranging from the classical era (Deren, Riefenstahl, Maedchen in Uniform) to luminaries of the 60's and 70's underground, avant-garde, and foreign cinemas (Akerman, Rainer, Schneemann, Michelle Citron, the still-sadly-obscure Sara Gomez, etc), many whom Rich played an active part in establishing critical reputations for in the US. But ostensibly functioning as introductions to the essays are Rich's remembrances and memories on the circumstances that led to these specific essays being written, which turn out to not only revealing peeks into important historical moments, but often veer into (generally good-natured) gossip, which makes for reading that is often as delightful as it is insightful--something which is not always a given with a book with the word "theories" in the title.(less)
Entertaining, informative, and endlessly readable, which compensates for a perhaps inevitable thinness. As a survey/overview it likely won't yield a w...moreEntertaining, informative, and endlessly readable, which compensates for a perhaps inevitable thinness. As a survey/overview it likely won't yield a whole lot--aside from the choice bits of tasteful gossip--to a reader already somewhat aware of the terrain it covers, which is perhaps is why I had more or less the opposite reaction of many here who thought it ran out of steam as it went along; I happen to be interested in and know more about the authors covered early in the book (Baldwin, Vidal, Capote), but not as much about more recent authors, so for me the latter half was more compelling. The highlight, I think, is Bram's astute analysis and defense of Christopher Isherwood's oeuvre, who still remains rather underrated despite a recent reignition of interest in his work (I for one was startled to find out how many of his novels I had never even heard of).
Bram's style is very approachable and lucid, and it's like listening to a literate and culturally knowledgeable friend hold forth on books, art, and history. I personally was hoping for something more along the lines of Sheri Benstock's magisterial Women of the Left Bank, a more dense undertaking that combines literary analysis with historical scholarship, but I don't hold my expectations against Bram. Because this is clearly intended to be accessible cultural scholarship, and on that level it overall succeeds admirably. And if it gets people, myself included, to pick up the work of more of these authors, well then, all the better. (less)
"Americans were introduced to the realities of homosexual life not by radio or TV, nor by The New York Times or the Mattachine Society, but by the pap...more"Americans were introduced to the realities of homosexual life not by radio or TV, nor by The New York Times or the Mattachine Society, but by the paperback revolutions that brought gay and lesbian books into every American town."
The above quote is the primary--and extremely convincing--thesis to Young's brief overview of the gay paperback publication industry and its quick evolution over the course of the 20th century (he generally eschews lesbian lit, which has, as he acknowledges, its own separate and complex history). A number of nice details and synopses are included, but the text is extremely cursory, so the real draw is the gorgeously reproduced images drawn from Young's own collection of over 1,200 paperback titles (most of which are now housed in a rare books collection at the University of Toronto, which itself says a lot). The tendency to cluster together different images often provides a more eloquent testament to changing styles, social mores, and queer visibility in American culture than the text itself does. Best considered as an introduction for further avenues of inquiry. (less)