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My Queer War Hardcover – April 27, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


My Queer War is magnificent . . . There has never been anything quite like it and it deserves to become a classic.” ―Larry Kramer

“Here's proof that all wars could be a tiny bit less brutal with gay people serving in the military.” ―John Waters

“It's an amazing testament to one individual's struggle with a barbarism mostly erased from triumphalist accounts of Nazi Germany's defeat . . . But what really stands out, what one suspects will be most enduring about this remarkable memoir, is the way in which Lord's outsider-ness gave him a particular perspective and a particular moral compass . . . About the prose: it's so extremely good that Lord has the confidence to flirt with making it bad, simply not to give a damn about verging on the purple . . . This is a work of supreme calculation, every comma fixed in place . . . In this estimation it is evidence of genius.” ―Lewis Gannett, The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide

“The author writes with occasional archness, much irony and good humor . . . It is clear that he and other gay soldiers on the battlefield did as much as anyone to win the war . . . A timely, artfully written memoir of one man's war.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“His unflinching, insolent honesty constantly got him into trouble with his superiors . . . But his cheekiness also gained him entry into the drawing rooms of Picasso and Gertrude Stein, setting the stage for a charmed life and fruitful writing career . . . The story is captivating . . . Recommended for fans of expatriate writers like Edmund White and Gore Vidal and for those seeking a corrective to the standard World War II memoir.” ―David Gibbs, Library Journal

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

JAMES LORD's books include A Giacometti Portrait, first published in 1965, and Giacometti: A Biography (FSG, 1985), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent work is Mythic Giacometti (FSG, 2003).

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374217483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374217488
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #637,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is evident in the first few pages of "My Queer War" that this autobiographical story by James Lord is going to be terrific and that said, it never, ever disappoints. The vagaries of war, compounded by the uncertainty of a homosexual serving in the ranks of the United States armed forces make for a fine book, indeed.

This aspect of war is rarely related and that it is done so here, by a supremely able raconteur, is telling. Lord writes with a whimsical, extensive narrative and what might appear at first to be only a collection of sexual vignettes, "My Queer War" easily blossoms into a full-throated account of Mr. Lord, a self-described pain-in the-(miltary's)ass, as he is assigned and reassigned to intelligence posts across western Europe. Along the way he has his romantic encounters, which he depicts with absolute necessary color.

One of the finest chapters in the book involves his friendly relationship with an English housewife and her twin boys. It is about as good as this book gets, which I mean in the best possible way. That Pvt. Lord weasels his way into meeting Picasso and Gertrude Stein is icing on the written cake.

"My Queer War" succeeds on every level and it does give one pause to think about the state of affairs in the American military regarding homosexuality today. James Lord may have not been the finest or bravest soldier ever to serve, but his contributions to the war, brought home by his remarkable book, are breathtaking. It would have been nice to have met him.
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Format: Hardcover
Lord's book recreates the world of a naive and timid young man, protected from worldly experience by modest privilege as he comes to terms with his sexuality and the realities of the world during WWII. Lord comes across as a low key character who tends to fly under others' radar, barely concealing his ineptitude in many of life's basic tasks. In many ways, this allows other people and events to take the foreground and give his story more depth. It's clear that Lord had a relatively easy war and suffered real guilt when his brother died in the heavy combat of the Pacific War. Instead, Lord spent his time stateside or in mopping-up operations in Europe. This enabled him to explore Paris, have encounters with the famous and often enjoy the privileged life of rear echelon military intelligence. Lord provides a narrative of experiences I'd only heard about in small pieces. It becomes clear that being gay during the war led to certain vulnerabilities, although there also was an underground of fellow soldiers who could provide some support, protection and, occasionally, career advancement. From all of this, Lord emerges as someone different from the shy boy who begins the story. Unfortunately for the reader, the book is leaden in places with wordy, verbose descriptions and fairly archaic slang. Lord died before its publication, so one can only speculate as to whether the result is a "hands off" approach from an editor or literary executor, or really the book Lord wanted. With better editing, this easily could have been a five star book.
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Format: Hardcover
My experience of James Lord's writing comes from his "Plausible Portraits" (2003) and "Six Exceptional Women" (1994): his writing is clean, transparent, gentlemanly. Since the "My Queer War" product page has the Look Inside feature, I could read Chapter 1 and the Epilogue: the writing style is absolutely unrecognizable as Lord's; the text seems to be a "first novel" expressed in the narrator's immature voice, like that of Holden Caulfield in "The Catcher in the Rye."

Lord probably kept a journal (as he did in later years) during his Army service. He may even have tried fictionizing the material during his prolonged attempts to write novels. It took him a long time to realize that nonfiction was his forte, and therein when he wrote about notable people, he was very revelatory about himself, so the three volumes could be described as his Memoirs. But to call "My Queer War" volume 4 of his Memoirs is really jarring: it is, I repeat, an autobiographical, lurid novel.

James Lord died at 86 of a heart attack on August 23, 2009, having just completed (the first draft?, ask I) of "My Queer War" (says The NY Times obit). FS&G announced publication for June 2010, but then advanced the date to April 27, 2010. To what extent Lord's adopted son/companion or the publisher may have manipulated the project, we do not know. In any case, it's strange that Lord should have implemented such a book at the end of his life: he didn't need the money, and the thing certainly doesn't add to his reputation. Still, this "novel" may appeal to gays, and to other readers who can accept that it is not just turgidly written, but a character-monologue like that of Salinger's Caulfield.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was very disturbed upon ordering this book because of the many good reviews. I found the complete opposite to be true of the favorable reviews. Here is a sample paragraph showing the wordiness of the author:

" The alternative raison d"ete of Reno, gambling, also existed outside of our purview. I was humdrum indifferent to losing my parents" admittedly unearned money for the sake of tawdry tautological thrills, albeit deaf and dumb and blindly imprudent when, if ever, risk lay like fata morgana upon the emotional horizon".

This is just one example of the many long winded paragraphs throughout this book.

I love great literature, but I felt that this author was trying way too hard to impress the reader with his extensive vocabulary. I made it through 20% of the book on my kindle and just had to put it down and chaulk it up to experience. I definitely would not recommend this book to anyone.
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