Book Review – The Joy of Gay Sex

The Joy of Gay Sex

Dr. Charles Silverstein and Felice Picano

Paperback, 2003 (Third Edition)

 

We are back in the world of banned books, and because of that, I need to preface this review with the following – I am neither gay nor a man.  I was, however, on the board of directors (and a founder) of a GLBT outreach and have many gay friends and family members.  So I am going to review this one anyway.

The first edition of the book was written in the late 70s, back when being gay was taboo and existed in the seedy underworld of America, hidden in back alleys and big cities, where people hid gayness and had gay sex like it was a fetish.

According to the prologue, the author (Dr. Silverstein with the help of somebody else) had intended a book made up of encyclopedia entries, blowjob erotica and sketches of men in the middle of whatever.  By the time the censorship was over, they had a dry, textbook of a book.  The anectdote of a little old lady who confused The Joy of Gay Sex with The Joy of Cooking was especially funny.

This book has, supposedly, been expanded and updated since then.  My problem with it is that the book is still geared towards that seedy underside of 70s gay culture.  The book is full of references to bath houses and glory holes and everything else.  But to put this book in context, the reprint was in 2003, so it was coming while Massachussettes was debating being the first state to allow gay marriage (the vote passed in Nov.), twenty years after they had named AIDS.  So when I read entry after entry talking about this great big scary epidemic of omg AIDS and everything else, it really pissed me off.

It pissed me off for a lot of reasons much too political to get into in depth here.  But really, because for every gay dude who went to a rave and screwed around in the bathroom, there were at least as many men out there who just wanted to be out of the closet and in regular society without persecution for the people they love.

And that is where I think this book failed.  Because they did not upgrade the book for the culture and society of today, they updated the entries they already had. What I failed to see was entries that said that something was popular in the 70s but had gone out of use.  What I failed to see were entries that painted the homosexual male as anything other than a sex-crazed pervert out to get as much cock as they could possibly have as fast as they could with footnotes and paragraphs that said watch out because everyone has AIDS.

So the book, in my opinion, is a failure.  While it paints a glorious picture of the early 1980s when everyone was suddenly dying of a mysterious disease that nobody understood, the same worlds that we get Angels in America and Borrowed Time, what it totally, epically fails at is bringing the book into modern times.  Bringing it to issues that would actually affect the average gay man today.

Like I said, I know I am not a gay man, but I know enough of them to know that the seedy 70s world that this book implies is not the world that everyone is a part of today.  I mean, this book lists married men as a category (meaning men who are married to women), but totally fails to talk about gay marriage at all.

I appreciate the research that went into this book 30 years ago for the first edition.  But because the book failed to update for the society of today (and partially because the illustrations are sometimes a bit creepy – think strong gay men with heart tattoos in odd places), I think the book falls short of what is needed today.  I keep thinking about the prologue and the book that the author wanted to do, and I really miss that.  This book is an AIDS IS COMING OMG trainwreck and just as outdated as it is current.  So for that I give it a 2/5.

Book Review – The Great Gilly Hopkins

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Katherine Peterson

Hardback, 1978

Galadriel Hopkins is a foster child of the steryotypical foster child variety.  She’s a bully to her classmates, mean to her teachers, and downright awful to the people that she happens to be around.

So, this is another banned book, but since it’s by the same writer who did Bridge to Terabithia (also banned frequently, btw) I was actually sort of looking forward to it, even though I knew nothing about it.

Then I started reading.

If I had happened across this book, I wouldn’t have picked it up to begin with.  As it was now, I almost didn’t bother with it.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t know if it’s the character or the author’s writing, or both, but as the book started, there wasn’t a single character I cared about.  Gilly is a bitch, her teachers are weak, her case worker felt like a slimy used-car salesman…

There’s a mother totally out of the picture, but Gilly holds on hope she’ll come back for her, despite having never spoken to her.  The neighbor is “one of those” (ahem, black) and Gilly uses that as her excuse to justify stealing from him and treating him like crap. Her teacher is black so she leaves racist poetry tucked in the teacher’s math book. The one friend she manages to make, she’s only has because she wants to be abusive to the girl and the girl is too stupid to notice.  The foster brother is a little, uh, slow, and Gilly makes sure to exploit it.

Oh, and the foster mother, who is annoyingly southern, is also fat.  And I know she’s fat because the author has made sure that her being fat is her only memorable quality.  She sits and chairs sag and bedsprings squeak.  She falls and lands on top of Gilly, crushing her.

In other words, I’m sorry I read the book.  At the end, Gilly gets closer to what she wants, and that’s not good enough either.

So, The book is, I’m sure, banned because Gilly is a racist piece of crap.  I think that a better author or differently written book could have made it more “oh, look at the poor foster child” and less of that because a lot of the piece of crap part, at least, is her intentionally not getting close.  I wonder how differently this book would have been written if it had been done twenty years later – styles and approaches have changed, after all.

You, of course, all know my opinion – I don’t think any book should be banned.  But this one could be omitted from shelves because of its lack of quality just the same, and I wouldn’t mind.

Bottom Line – 2/5 pages.

Book Review – Where’s Waldo?

Where’s Waldo? – 25th anniversary edition

Illustrated/written by: Martin Handford

Hardback 2012

 

Where’s Waldo is quite possibly the most well-known search and find book ever made.

Seekers look for Waldo, Wendy, Odlaw, the Wizard and Waldo’s dog on every picture, plus an assortment of Waldo look-alike followers each found once in the book, and a list of unique things for each spread.

I remember checking out these books from my local library when I was ‘just a kid’ and probably had more fun this time.  What I don’t remember from back then is bothering to look for anything but Waldo himself.  In fact, I recall a conversation with my father where he was telling me what I needed to look for and I was blowing him off to turn the page and find Waldo again.

So this time, I made sure to find Waldo, Wendy, Odlaw, the Wizard, and the dog, who appears tail only, on all the pages.  Also, I know why this is one of the most banned books in the 90s, and I made sure to go out of my way to find that illustration, too, even though they’ve changed it for the prudes out there.  She wasn’t hard to find, knowing what I was looking for.  [Note, in the original, there was a woman sunbathing on the beach, with her bikini top off – the woman was shown from the back, so you couldn’t see anything, but prudish Americans were, well, prudish.  Remember, this is a British book, and toplessness is a lot more acceptable pretty much anywhere but here…]

As for the book – the dog’s tail was oddly easy to find, despite being just a red and white striped tail (you never see the whole dog).  Odlaw, on the other hand, in his bumblebee-yellow and black striped getup was oddly difficult.  You’d think in this mostly red, white and blue book, an adult the scheme of a bumblebee would have been really easy to find, but notsomuch.

My biggest complaint about the book is the 25 people that only appear once at *some point* in the book.  Yeah, if I didn’t have a library version, I could have taken the cover off and had a handy guide, but since the library has theirs taped down, there was no easy way to seek them out, so I didn’t bother.

In all, it’s a good book to have fun with.  I might get the next one in the series for fun.  Sometimes it’s nice to re-visit one’s childhood.

 

4/5 pages

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