- Paperback: 386 pages
- Publisher: Kensington (April 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0758201001
- ISBN-13: 978-0758201003
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 9.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
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#2,968,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Gay 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Gay Men and Lesbians, Past and Present
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From Publishers Weekly
From Socrates and Sappho to Madonna and activist/journalist Michelangelo Signorile, this listing profiles those who have profoundly shaped gay and lesbian culture-and culture in general: the Amazons, 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz, Proust, Michel Foucault, professional provocateur Quentin Crisp and so on. Aside from an equivocal portrait of Rock Hudson, Russell (The Salt Point) omits figures whose undeniable influence was less benign, a strategy that misfires. Sigmund Freud, who wrote extensively about sexuality, is out, but Magnus Hirschfeld and Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, two obscure homophilic contemporaries of his, are in. Yet quibbling with the choices here-why Holly Near but not k.d. lang, the Patrons of Stonewall but not the Daughters of Bilitis?-is as pleasurable as reading Rusell's incisive essays. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
There are two major types of quarrels I can see one having with this book. One is the challenging of the selections. This works with the book, since I feel it is the intent of the author to make the reader compose their own gay history. This galvanization of the reader's historical sensibility is something to be applauded. However, there is another quarrel one can have with this book: it sticks to the hetero/homo binary and completely neglects queer figures who have shown that the binary system can be broken (I think of Judith Butler and Eve Sedgwick specifically, since they are the grand theorists of queer thought). I see this exclusion as a drastic oversight that is meant to appeal to an audience that has no interest in questioning the hegemony of binary systems in social spheres.
I also agree with my fellow reviewers: the selections are primarily focused on Western gay history instead of a more egalitarian approach to gay history. I don't see this as one of the author's challenges to the reader but rather revealing the author to be complicit with the idea that western culture (whatever the hell that is) holds dominion over historical narratives. Mishima is included, but there are so many important gay figures from the Asian continent that could have also been included. Honestly, the cultural diversity is probably the weakest point of the book.
But, overall, it is a very interesting selection that creates a very unique interpretation of gay history. It contains both bold choices, the usual suspects, and many important figures who are often overlooked by contemporary LGBTQIA individuals (Magnus Hirschfeld pops into my mind immediately). It also doesn't focus solely on writers but encompasses queer figures from many different walks of life.
I would recommend it. For individuals just getting acquainted with queer history, it is a pretty valuable resource. For more seasoned veterans of the subject, it is still of interest because of the challenge it presents to its readers.
Whilst I love lists, there is no doubt that insurmountable problems with ‘The Gay 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Gay Men and Lesbians, Past and Present' exist. Firstly, whilst there is no doubt that a list like this cannot be focused on the era since homosexuality became first defined and – after generations of resistance from ruling classes – decriminalised, there is much too much speculation about the homosexual affinity of most of the people from before the Industrial Revolution. This is most obviously true of Augustine of Hippo (unless the author believe his role in the criminalisation of homosexuality in the West is too important, a point Russell uses with some reason to justify the inclusion of Susan Anthony and Mary Wollstonecraft), Shakespeare, Michaelangelo and Florence Nightingale, but more and better evidence was certainly needed with most people from the period between Constantine and the Industrial Revolution.
Even amongst the more modern choices, there are obvious problems. Among the numerous crucial omissions include John Maynard Keynes – one of the first open and well-documented homosexuals, whose economics reflects a cultural philosophy more libertine than Marx and which likely had a significant influence in the long-term on the acceptance of homosexuality; Sylvia Townsend Warner – whose Lolly Willowes constitutes almost a prototype of Boom Generation radical feminism and Wiccan spirituality and who formed one of the most celebrated and longest-lasting lesbian loves of the twentieth century with Valentine Ackland; Elton John – whose stage dramatics and flamboyant persona, along with Bernie Taupin's eccentric lyrics, reinvented the image of the rock star beyond its relatively conventional beginnings; k.d. lang and/or Melissa Etheridge – who during the Bush Senior era were the first and most successful openly lesbian popular musicians; Harmodios and Aristogiton – who were two great warriors in ancient Greece and engaged in a permanent sexual relationship and the famed eccentric king Ludwig II of Bavaria. There are others of cultural influence - such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe – who might with demonstrable research potentially add to this already long list. Some critically groundbreaking homosexuals, such as Martina Navratilova in the homophobic world of sports, Adrienne Rich with her explicitly sexual post-divorce poetry, Paul Verlaine with his brutal relationships and poetry that alternates from religious to satyr or Harry Hay who built up modern theories of homosexual liberation, are ranked much lower than they should be.
The writing in “The Gay 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Gay Men and Lesbians, Past and Present’ is moderate in quality at best, with little unknown detail except of the few important but critical celebrities like J.A. Symonds. At times it seems to rush over each choice much more than it should.
All in all, whilst a list of the most influential gays and lesbians is by no means a bad idea – debates and arguments might I imagine go deeper than with some other lists – Russell has not done a good job here. Numerous omissions both obvious and obscure, dubious inclusions without adequate justification, and a flawed writing style prevent me from recommending this book to a historian of the topic.
Spanning the past 2400 years, the book "Celebrates the true heroes of the gay and lesbian community." Writers, thinkers, artists, musicians, military leaders, politicians, and gay rights activists who have had a great influence - by action or example - on the world.
The book includes individuals as diverse as Socrates, Alexander the Great, Leonardo da Vinci, William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Rock Hudson, Quentin Crisp, Freddie Mercury, Madonna. Some were married and closeted until the they died; others acknowledged their sexuality - and many suffered.
Compelling and uplifting, these one hundred portraits capture the people behind the legends and affirm that homosexuals have been an integral part of history from ancient times through the modern day.