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Leatherman: The Legend of Chuck Renslow Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Schooled on the values of the Great Depression but still too young to fight in WWII, Renslow came of sexual age during the short-lived period of hope, and liberalism, that marked the latter half of the 1940s. It was the era of Kinsey, and the early homophile organizations. It seems that the authors fall prey to the common myth that history advances linearly, "In the less than open post World War II era, homosexuality was treated as not only a perversion but also a mental illness, as well as a crime. Considered both illegal and immoral, gay persons were the lowest of the low." This became much truer by the mid-50s and lasted through Stonewall. As Renslow, himself, goes on to say about the bar scene of the late 1940s, "Things were wide open in those days. There were no laws governing them." Still, the point the authors make that Renslow's lack of conflict regarding his sexual desires was very atypical for that era is certainly true, but would also be atypical for any era save the most modern one, and even if he came of age today, his attitude towards his own sexuality would be healthier than most.Read more ›
The book could have used the ministrations of a tough editor. Without one, the authors and their editors have allowed themselves full rein. The material is not particularly well organized, is often repetitive, and faced with a mountain of information, the authors have chosen to include it all on a superficial level rather than find the most important aspects of their subject and explore them in depth. It was especially frustrating that although I learned a lot about Renslow's accomplishments and was introduced to many of the people around him, I came away from the book never really getting to know the man himself.
Renslow was a sexual revolutionary who was an early explorer of gay BDSM. He was a subject of Alfred Kinsey and was recognized and commended by the Kinsey Institute. Yet, for some reason, the authors have glossed over much of his sex life. Why?
There are a couple of peculiar omissions, one minor and one major. For some inexplicable reason there is not a single italic in the entire book. Whether from ignorance or a weird desire to be different, the end result is to make the whole effort seem like an amateur one.
My biggest gripe with this book is that it has NO index. This is inexcusable! There is a wealth of information and data available, but no easy way to reference it. What were they thinking? Indexing software is not particularly expensive or that difficult to use.
Despite its shortcomings, Leatherman will still be a valuable reference book for some. They will have to dig to make the most of it.
This book is a must-read for anyone who has ever lived in or visited Chicago. For history buffs not from Chicago, it provides an encyclopedic, honest, and insightfully captivating testimony of decades of evolution in our local and national story. The number and diversity of people that contributed insights and interviews to this work amazes me. Leatherman is a treasure trove of detailed facts, photos, art, divergent stories, opinions, and perceptions that somehow still manages to be a page-turner. The truth is sometimes stranger, more captivating, and far more complicated than the best fiction. Read this book and certainly recommend it to anyone interested in Chicago or LGBT history!