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A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition Paperback – November 10, 1999
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Beginning at the beginning, and traversing millennia and cultures, Woods selects representative examples of homo-erotic literature, enormously exhaustive, acknowledging at the outset that his representative samples may not reflect what many today suppose to be "gay." The post-Stonewall moment heralded an intolerance of concealment, an unwillingness to be persecuted, and a new narrative that may occurred (forced or natural) in the Seventies was hardly emblematic in history. The so-called Castro Clone, hairy men in masculine garb with well-defined features and perhaps a little excess of macho bravado, might have been the dominant craze at the time. But what did this species of same-sex orientation have in common with the pederast (boy-crazy) male of antiquity? According to literature, not much.
But the Castro Clone has already passed into history, and Queer Theorists are bent on a new narrative. The effect, perhaps, of AIDS. Certainly, a little microbe has changed the same-sex dynamics considerably; a latex sheath now invades our love, and it seems to have changed our narrative and created distance among us. But we're all stronger and more open than all our historical predecessors ever imagine. The "closet" has ever been the refuge of adult gay men, and after millennia of persecution, we're no longer content to dwell in darkness. And perhaps the re-emergence of political homophobia requires a new story. Perhaps the militant subversion of the Other needs to experience what true Others have felt for ages. Whatever the impetus, more gay men are understandably reacting, often with unparalleled defiance, which may be more adaptive, but it seems foreign to me. Whatever excesses occurred in the Seventies, and they are legion, for the first time in recorded history adult male love, however elusive, was boldly believed.
Few books on a "gay" theme have touched me as deeply as this one, because none, despite its failings, has been bold enough to admit that our narratives change to fit the situation, and few narratives reflect the same story. In the final chapter of this otherwise non-polemical inquiry, Woods deliberately casts off his "impartial narrator" and engages in the polemics of paradox (a frequent theme among post-modernists), a variable in the deconstructionist "play" of differance, and one of Foucault's subversions of power. As my anger at his apotheosis of paradox grew (another Pope John Paul II, I thought), he slid home safely. "Paradox," he writes in the final sentences, "may be subversive, but it makes unsound political discourse if ever required to move the very public it defies. Beware of orators bearing paradox: they are unlikely to be democrats" (388).
For many, being "gay" is an act of defiance, an act of being ostracized as well as ostracization, and another act of being compromised as well as compromising. In my defense, I lived wherever the margins took me, and disregarded the consequences (and in my case those margins were far and few between). But those days when the love that dared not speak its name (and those days have been interminably long), when paradox and defiance spoke for us as staples of survival (however clandestine), came to an end with Stonewall. However small our numbers, we were liberated by a simple act, not of defiance alone, but of truthful pride. For all the angry contempt heaped on our persecutors, there was a time when we simply did not care to give them any notice. My only hope is that the new wave of persecution does not jade us to love's possibilities, but alas the video record suggests love is a commodity we can consider if we survive.
But we've always survived. We're an intrinsic part of nature, for heaven's sake. The Stonewall liberation, however, was truly unique; it allowed us to love openly and passionately, perhaps indiscriminately, and we'll always be open to love, unless the hate of our antagonists prevails. Very, very sadly, I see hate in our own eyes, so virulent, so understandable, and so self-defeating. "They" have already won, because we accepted their binary terms of opposition. In our anger, however justified, we've become one of them. Hate can conquer love, and once again "they" have proved it. What narrative follows next I know not. I only thank Fate for allowing me to experience an extraordinary moment in time. It may never pass again.
However, if you are quite far in the subject, you may find this volume a little bit too simplistic and disagree with some of Woods conclusions - e.g. the use of the word "gay" in the title may be quite disputable in the context. But still you may find many pieces of information you haven't yet heard.