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Two Books

I stumbled upon this book, Before the Last Dance, when I stumbled upon a friend who was reading it. Then on a gay men social network I saw that name again and it rang a bell. Until then I have never heard of James Randall Chumbley, whose website I just located. The novel, which I promptly acquired today, tells a familiar tale of iconically beautiful gay men and their obsession with youth and aging, the pursuit of of physical perfection and, of course, sex. Honestly, over the years I have grown weary about the subject matter because it’s been written to death. You will have some charged sex scenes that transcend pornography. Chumbley’s book delves in an inevitable subject all all gay men have to face: aging. This book really helps put my recent trip to Palm Springs in perspective. Over half of the (gay) population is men over 50. Every Gay man can identify with The main characters, Tom and Trey. I saw a bit of myself in Tom with his obsession with youth and his terror of growing old. The topic of growing older in our youth-obsessed gay culture is something that cries to be discussed and considered. I’m looking forward to reading this when I take a weekend off in Los Angeles at the end of the month.

The other highlight is Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America by Christopher Bram, whose fictional works I have long revered. Bram brilliantly chronicles the rise of gay consciousness in American writing. Beginning with a first wave of major gay literary figures-Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Allen Ginsberg, and James Baldwin-he shows how (despite criticism and occasional setbacks) these pioneers set the stage for new generations of gay writers to build on what they had begun: Armistead Maupin, Edmund White, Tony Kushner, and Edward Albee among them. Like all good books of criticism, this one will make me eager to read the many works I may have missed or re-read others.

3 Responses

  1. Before the Last Dance looks very interesting. I’ve found that a lot of gay literature revolves around the same few themes; its good to find something fresh like this looks to be.

  2. I haven’t read a lot of gay lit, mostly just because I’m not one to randomly pick up a book that I don’t know a lot about. But the themes you discuss are things I am really interested in. My brother is gay, and when I was in New York last month, it really hit me how concerned with physical perfection and aging the gay community can be. We spent a lot of time with his large group of friends (in fact, I was the only girl), and it really made me sad to see that almost paranoid reaction to both weight changes and age. I don’t quite know how to describe it.

    Not that others don’t have those concerns, but I do think it’s much different or maybe more concentrated. Sorry, I’m not phrasing any of this very well, but I am interested in this book and may have to read it to see how it explores these ideas.

  3. It is very interesting to me about this youth obsession that gay men have. Why do you think this is? While visiting West Hollywood recently it seemed that everyone was perfectly muscular, with Botox, etc. I wondered where the “old” people were…

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