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Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life

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" Bisexuality is about three centuries overdue . . . nevertheless, here it a learned, witty study of how our curious culture has managed to get everything wrong about sex."
-Gore Vidal

624 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1995

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About the author

Marjorie Garber

47 books66 followers
Marjorie B. Garber (born June 11, 1944) is a professor at Harvard University and the author of a wide variety of books, most notably ones about William Shakespeare and aspects of popular culture including sexuality.

She wrote Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety, a ground breaking theoretical work on transvestitism's contribution to culture. Other works include Sex and Real Estate:Why We Love Houses, Academic Instincts, Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life, Shakespeare After All, and Dog Love (which is not primarily about bestiality, except for one chapter titled "Sex and the Single Dog").

Her book Shakespeare After All (Pantheon, 2004) was chosen one of Newsweek's ten best nonfiction books of the year, and was awarded the 2005 Christian Gauss Book Award from Phi Beta Kappa.

She was educated at Swarthmore College (B.A., 1966; L.H.D., 2004) and Yale University (Ph.D., 1969).

(from Wikipedia)

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5 stars
53 (24%)
4 stars
78 (36%)
3 stars
58 (26%)
2 stars
18 (8%)
1 star
9 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews
Profile Image for George Ilsley.
Author 12 books229 followers
May 21, 2022
Counting this book as read, even though I've never read it straight (ahem) through. I've perused the index, and chased down references to E.M. Forster and many others, and become entangled in a wonderful maze of digressions, speculation, and literary analysis.

The author is an English professor, and approaches the themes of the book through a close reading of literary sources, which is perfect for me, although I wondered about the accuracy and honesty of playwrights and fiction writers. Is fiction a reliable source? Of course, at many times one could only approach controversial themes from a safe distance, and fiction provided "deniability."

Garber also examines other elements of pop culture, such as movies and other media.

People who have the opinion that only the most recent developments in human sexuality can represent the pinnacle of human achievement are likely to be critical of this book, which looks back in time from the 1990s.

History, however, is valuable and interesting, and readers who can appreciate context will find much of this book to be quite startling and thought-provoking. Humans have always been creative in those pursuits which inspire them the most.
Profile Image for Joe S.
42 reviews108 followers
November 30, 2007
I will now officially join the horde of college sophomore sorority girls who kissed a chica once in a bar and promptly added this book to their shelves. *sigh*

Marjorie Garber is my workhorse. Does someone not believe cultural studies is a legitimate discipline? Enter Marjorie Garber. Does someone need a concrete example of discursive fields? Marjorie Garber. Need an accessible primer in how cultural studies should be done? MG. Tired of agreeing to sexuality's constant either/or constructions? MG. Chica kicks my ass.

Bisexuality can be a bit frustrating until you realize Garber isn't interested in right/wrong or good/bad. She isn't trying to win an argument. She does a whole lot of "huh...wouldja look at that" with concrete examples of bisexuality in contemporary Western societies, and she works through a number of possible themes these occurences might indicate about us. Very well-researched, very sophisticated and still tempered with concern for the lay reader and a love of pop culture.
Profile Image for Rain.
Author 8 books16 followers
October 11, 2016
Takes half the book to begrudgingly (!?) admit there's a difference between a person's gender identity and partner preference, pretends Freud is still relevant or okay, and ultimately can't get over the idea that bisexuality is some sort of Joycean riddle to be unlocked and solved/resolved. Put down the comp lit readers and just deal with the fact that some people of any gender date others of any gender. Also there's no need for it to be written so formally.
Profile Image for HeavyReader.
2,247 reviews14 followers
December 28, 2008
I read this book when I was first learning about bisexuality, when I was just figuring out that I am bisexual and trying to decide what that meant for me. It was a huge book, with so much information, both informative and overwhelming.
164 reviews4 followers
September 30, 2012
Exhaustively and meticulously researched. Garber's book presents historical and contemporary (through the early '90s) views of bisexuality. I continually struggled with what appears to be her contention that bisexuality *is* a problem, as opposed to being something that is a problem culturally. I kept thinking i was misreading her. But then she kept making statements to the effect of the former. And to me, bisexuality as an experience is, in some ways, pretty simple. Regardless, an extremely informative book.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,717 reviews102 followers
July 28, 2011
This was a book that was struggling with what it wanted to be, and as a result, ended up poorly organized but interesting. Some parts are Bi history, which I found very very interesting, but other parts reflect that the author is definitely an English professor. There are long drawn out sections of literary analysis and criticism, examining the life and work of numerous bisexual authors, questioning their bisexuality and their work. Then there were sections of popular cultural discussion, keeping in mind that this book was published in 1995, so it is largely useful as a historical analysis of the late 80's and early 90's.

In all, I probably skipped or skimmed 2/3 of this book. I wish she would have written three different books on specific topics instead of trying to cram it all into one, where I found large sections boring and irrelevant. I couldn't find a thesis or theme to this book, and even after finishing it, I didn't understand what the title had to do with the content.

I would highly recommend it to bisexuals interested in history and literary criticism, but you definitely need a large vocabulary, experience with literary criticism, and even a college degree to follow her dense prose.
Profile Image for Korri.
584 reviews2 followers
May 24, 2015
This is a thought-provoking and comprehensive cultural study of bisexuality. The first chapter alone is worth the price of the book, with its theoretical (but accessible) definition of bisexuality, bi invisibility, and the problem of sexual identity politics rooted in a sexuality that is, by definition, fluid. Garber problematizes the word 'queer', examines schools and single-sex education, tackles what the myth of Tiresias teaches us, discusses the lives & loves of famous bisexuals like Vita Sackville-West, and manages to make it an enjoyable read. Sprinkled with quotations and anecdotes throughout, Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life is a joy to read and has garnered a place on my bookshelf.
Profile Image for Cara.
62 reviews3 followers
Want to read
January 15, 2008
Just look at that cover alone- sexy. ; )
Profile Image for James M..
1 review7 followers
April 2, 2014
Gore Vidal's recommendation, right there on the cover of the paper edition, says it all. Dr. Garber (a Ph.D. not M.D.) writes well and covers her subject inside and out, primarily on the theme that human sexuality is so fluid categorization of a person as heterosexual, homosexual, or even bisexual simply confuses the issues and poorly serves the persons who "fit" the ersatz description. The sections on the Bloomsbury group, on Freud's embrace of the ideas of Fliess, on androgyny (vis-a-vis bisexuality, since the two are often conflated), and literary people (e.g. Virginia Woolf, the Beats, &c.) are especially fine.
Profile Image for Eternallyfab.
8 reviews
March 19, 2014
Incredible. Immensely readable and fascinating. All of this is still very relevant, even a couple of decades later - Garber's analysis is just super neat to read and doesn't lose its currency, particularly in an age where bisexuality is still discussed with hesitation and trying to pin people down. I love the argument that bisexuality is more of a narrative than an identity. Sexuality is such a weird, slippery thing, and Garber dissociates sexuality's practices, feelings, and identifications by discussing all sorts of life's examples where these don't line up. I just love this book.
Profile Image for Ginger K.
237 reviews15 followers
July 27, 2007
Bisexuality in literature, history, boarding schools, psychology, biology... This book makes the invisible and marginialized visible. Every chapter added more to my list of books I need to read (and I've even gotten around to a few of them). It's definitely one I mean to re-read; I suffered informational overload the first time through.
123 reviews1 follower
October 24, 2017
Probably deserves a 4, just was not on target with what I was hoping for. A long book, rather academic and heavy on history, but very approachable. Written in 1995, and sadly, many things that should have changed have not.
December 25, 2022
I came to this tome, as a bisexual, with low expectations. I was pleased with a history that generated critique of attitudes that pre-dated, and permeated the nineties. I was pleasantly surprised. I learned about some important figures during the 60s counter-culture into the 70s, some important figures of the 80s and the AIDs epidemic, into the 90s. There are other articles and works that Garber reflects on and presents in her writing, that are great springboards into media of all sorts, even mythically Garber points to important characters of literature of the past. I want to add this to my bookshelf for reference, as I continue to learn about bisexuality and me: in just borrowing it from the library I wasn't given too much time to go explore all this book has to offer.
5 reviews
April 10, 2018
Definitely worth reading for the variety of material discussed alone. The author is very interested in etymology and will sometimes abandon an argument to pursue how the circumstances affect the use or perception of a particular word. It often reads like a textbook and highlights some excellent concepts regarding the nature of eroticism.
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews

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