Dennis Bacchus is a man who has outlived himself. HIV-positive and prepared to die at any minute, he finds himself in the late 1990s blessed with life-giving drugs, supportive friends, a boom economy, and an era of never-ending celebration—and he doesn’t know what to do with himself.
For ten years he has traveled and celebrated a curtailed life with the similarly infected Jimmy and, though Dennis was never that close to Jimmy, he decided to let the friendship run its course to the end. Now there’s no end in sight. Stuck with leftover friendships, careers, and commitments, what can a man do but become a priest? The Boom Economy covers what was supposed to be the last decade of Dennis Bacchus’ life, but turns out to be the first decade of the rest of it. The Boom Economy is a novel about conversion—not just seroconversion or religious conversion, but all of the social, spiritual, and emotional problems of changing from one life to another. At once raucous and serious, pagan and saintly, it’s a look at the way we live now. Again.
Niobe Way Harvard University Press, 2011 Library of Congress BF575.F66W39 2011 | Dewey Decimal 155.532
“Boys are emotionally illiterate and don’t want intimate friendships.” In this empirically grounded challenge to our stereotypes about boys and men, Niobe Way reveals the intense intimacy among teenage boys especially during early and middle adolescence. Boys not only share their deepest secrets and feelings with their closest male friends, they claim that without them they would go “wacko.” Yet as boys become men, they become distrustful, lose these friendships, and feel isolated and alone.
Drawing from hundreds of interviews conducted throughout adolescence with black, Latino, white, and Asian American boys, Deep Secrets reveals the ways in which we have been telling ourselves a false story about boys, friendships, and human nature. Boys’ descriptions of their male friendships sound more like “something out of Love Story than Lord of the Flies.” Yet in late adolescence, boys feel they have to “man up” by becoming stoic and independent. Vulnerable emotions and intimate friendships are for girls and gay men. “No homo” becomes their mantra.
These findings are alarming, given what we know about links between friendships and health, and even longevity. Rather than a “boy crisis,” Way argues that boys are experiencing a “crisis of connection” because they live in a culture where human needs and capacities are given a sex (female) and a sexuality (gay), and thus discouraged for those who are neither. Way argues that the solution lies with exposing the inaccuracies of our gender stereotypes and fostering these critical relationships and fundamental human skills.
James Fenimore Cooper Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS1406.A2T39 2013 | Dewey Decimal 813.2
Set in the 1740s, when Natty Bumppo is in his twenties, J. F. Cooper’s last leather-stocking tale shows us how “Deerslayer” becomes “Hawkeye.” For modern readers, it remains the best entry point into the series. Ezra Tawil’s introduction examines the static nature of Natty, Cooper’s motivations in writing the novel, and his vexed racial politics.
Alan Bray University of Chicago Press, 2003 Library of Congress BJ1533.F8B755 2003 | Dewey Decimal 177.6209
In the chapel of Christ's College, Cambridge, some twenty years ago, historian Alan Bray made an astonishing discovery: a tomb shared by two men, John Finch and Thomas Baines. The monument featured eloquent imagery dedicated to their friendship: portraits of the two friends linked by a knotted cloth. And Bray would soon learn that Finch commonly described his friendship with Baines as a connubium or marriage.
There was a time, as made clear by this monument, when the English church not only revered such relations between men, but also blessed them. Taking this remarkable idea as its cue, The Friend explores the long and storied relationship between friendship and the traditional family of the church in England. This magisterial work extends from the year 1000, when Europe acquired a shape that became its enduring form, and pursues its account up to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Spanning a vast array of fascinating examples, which range from memorial plaques and burial brasses to religious rites and theological imagery to classic works of philosophy and English literature, Bray shows how public uses of private affection were very common in premodern times. He debunks the now-familiar readings of friendship by historians of sexuality who project homoerotic desires onto their subjects when there were none. And perhaps most notably, he evaluates how the ethics of friendship have evolved over the centuries, from traditional emphases on loyalty to the Kantian idea of moral benevolence to the more private and sexualized idea of friendship that emerged during the modern era.
Finely nuanced and elegantly conceived, The Friend is a book rich in suggestive propositions as well as eye-opening details. It will be essential reading for anyone interested in the history of England and the importance of friendship in everyday life.
History Today’s Book of the Year, 2004
“Bray’s loving coupledom is something with a proper historical backbone, with substance and form, something you can trace over time, visible and archeologicable. . . . Bray made a great contribution in helping to bring this long history to light.”— James Davidson, LondonReview of Books
Based on surveys and interviews of two hundred gay men, Peter Nardi's new study presents the first book-length examination of contemporary urban gay men's friendships. Expertly weaving historical and sociological research on friendship with firsthand information, Nardi argues that friendship is the central organizing element of gay men's lives. Through friendship, gay identities and communities are created, transformed, maintained, and reproduced.
Nardi explores the meaning of friends to some gay men, how friends often become a surrogate family, how sexual behavior and attraction affects these friendships, and how, for many, friends mean more and last longer than romantic relationships. While looking at the psychological joys and sorrows of friendship, he also considers the cultural constraints limiting gay men in contemporary urban America—especially those that deal with dominant images of masculinity and heterosexuality—and how they relate to friendship.
By listening to gay men talk about their interactions, Nardi offers a rare glimpse into the mechanisms of gay life. We learn how gay men meet their friends, what they typically do and talk about, and how these strong relationships contain the roots of larger cultural forces such as social movements and gay identities and neighborhoods. Nardi also points out the political and social consequences when friendships fail to provide support against oppression.
An intimate and informative look at gay life in urban America, Gay Men's Friendships ultimately shows how these relationships challenge the gender order of our society by questioning how masculinity is constructed and by offering a model for a more creative blending of gay and heterosexual masculinity.
In Love Stories, Jonathan Ned Katz presents stories of men's intimacies with men during the nineteenth century—including those of Abraham Lincoln—drawing flesh-and-blood portraits of intimate friendships and the ways in which men struggled to name, define, and defend their sexual feelings for one another. In a world before "gay" and "straight" referred to sexuality, men like Walt Whitman and John Addington Symonds created new ways to name and conceive of their erotic relationships with other men. Katz, diving into history through diaries, letters, newspapers, and poems, offers us a clearer picture than ever before of how men navigated the uncharted territory of male-male desire.
On the battlefields of World War II, with their fellow soldiers as the only shield between life and death, a generation of American men found themselves connecting with each other in new and profound ways. Back home after the war, however, these intimacies faced both scorn and vicious homophobia. The Mourning After makes sense of this cruel irony, telling the story of the unmeasured toll exacted upon generations of male friendships. John Ibson draws evidence from the contrasting views of male closeness depicted in WWII-era fiction by Gore Vidal and John Horne Burns, as well as from such wide-ranging sources as psychiatry texts, child development books, the memoirs of veterans’ children, and a slew of vernacular snapshots of happy male couples. In this sweeping reinterpretation of the postwar years, Ibson argues that a prolonged mourning for tenderness lost lay at the core of midcentury American masculinity, leaving far too many men with an unspoken ache that continued long after the fighting stopped, forever damaging their relationships with their wives, their children, and each other.
In Nightwork, Anne Allison opens a window onto Japanese corporate culture and gender identities. Allison performed the ritualized tasks of a hostess in one of Tokyo's many "hostess clubs": pouring drinks, lighting cigarettes, and making flattering or titillating conversation with the businessmen who came there on company expense accounts. Her book critically examines how such establishments create bonds among white-collar men and forge a masculine identity that suits the needs of their corporations.
Allison describes in detail a typical company outing to such a club—what the men do, how they interact with the hostesses, the role the hostess is expected to play, and the extent to which all of this involves "play" rather than "work." Unlike previous books on Japanese nightlife, Allison's ethnography of one specific hostess club (here referred to as Bijo) views the general phenomenon from the eyes of a woman, hostess, and feminist anthropologist.
Observing that clubs like Bijo further a kind of masculinity dependent on the gestures and labors of women, Allison seeks to uncover connections between such behavior and other social, economic, sexual, and gendered relations. She argues that Japanese corporate nightlife enables and institutionalizes a particular form of ritualized male dominance: in paying for this entertainment, Japanese corporations not only give their male workers a self-image as phallic man, but also develop relationships to work that are unconditional and unbreakable. This is a book that will appeal to anyone interested in gender roles or in contemporary Japanese society.
There was a time in America when two men pictured with their arms wrapped around each other, or perhaps holding hands, weren’t necessarily seen as sexually involved—a time when such gestures could be seen simply as those of intimate friendship rather than homoeroticism.
Such is the time John Ibson evokes in Picturing Men, a striking visual record of changes in attitudes about relationships between gentlemen, soldiers, cowboys, students, lumberjacks, sailors, and practical jokers. Spanning from 1850 to 1950, the 142 everyday photographs that richly illustrate Picturing Men radiate playfulness, humor, and warmth. They portray a lost world for American men: a time when their relationships with each other were more intimate than they commonly are today, regardless of sexual orientation. Picturing Men starkly contrasts the calm affection displayed in earlier photographs with the absence of intimacy in photos from the mid-1950s on. In doing so, this lively, accessible book makes a significant contribution to American history and cultural studies, gender studies, and the history of photography.
Now associated with family health clubs, the YMCA's bland image is the result of relentless outreach and the studied avoidance of controversy. But, as John Gustav-Wrathall shows in his revealing social history of the organization, the life of the YMCA has been filled with strife, tragedy, and irony, a life that itself reflects the struggle over the shifting societal mores regarding masculine friendship and intimacy. Take the Young Stranger by the Hand presents the YMCA as an institution of profound contradictions, reflective of society's views of same-sex love and sexuality.
"Gustav-Wrathall's book offers an in-depth history of the origins and purposes of the Young Men's Christian Association and how it evolved into—and out of—a gay playland."—Arnie Kantrowitz, Lambda Book Report
"The book's absorbing exploration of the sometimes schismatic, sometimes synergistic relationship between spirituality and sexuality is a fascinating addition to the growing body of social history."—Jim Van Buskirk, San Francisco Bay Guardian