William E. Jones

William E. Jones discusses his new book, True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and Straight to Hell, published by We Heard You Like Books.

A World War II veteran from the Great Plains, Boyd McDonald (1925-1993) had the makings of a successful career in the 1950s—an education at Harvard, jobs at Time/Life and IBM—but things didn’t turn out as planned. After 20 years of resentful conformity and worsening alcoholism, McDonald dried out, pawned all of his suits, and went on welfare. It was then that his life truly began.

From a tiny room in a New York SRO hotel, McDonald published Straight to Hell, a series of chapbooks collecting readers’ “true homosexual experiences.” Following the example of Alfred Kinsey, McDonald obsessively pursued the truth about sex between men just as gay liberation began to tame America’s sexual outlaws for the sake of legal recognition. Admired by such figures as Gore Vidal and William S. Burroughs, Straight to Hell combined a vigorous contempt for authority with a keen literary style, and was the precursor of queer ‘zines decades later. Even after his death, Boyd McDonald continued to trouble the powers that be—he was the subject of a 2006 opinion by U. S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who ruled that one of his books was pornographic while acknowledging that this question is ultimately vague and subjective.

William E. Jones conducted in-depth interviews with many people from McDonald’s life, including friends, colleagues, and most unexpectedly, family members who revealed that he was a loving uncle who doted on his nieces and great-nieces. A complex portrait drawn from a wealth of previously unpublished material, True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and Straight to Hell is the first biography devoted to a key figure of the American underground.

William E. Jones was born in Canton, Ohio. He received a B. A. from Yale University and an M. F. A. from California Institute of the Arts. He has made the films Massillon (1991) and Finished (1997), which won a Los Angeles Film Critics Association award, the documentary Is It Really So Strange? (2004), and many videos including The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography (1998). His work was included in the 1993 and 2008 Whitney Biennials, and he has had retrospectives at Tate Modern (2005), Anthology Film Archives (2010), and the Austrian Film Museum (2011). Jones has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant, two California Community Foundation Fellowships, and most recently, a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. His books include “Killed”: Rejected Images of the Farm Security Administration (2010), Halsted Plays Himself (2011), Between Artists: Thom Andersen and William E. Jones (2013), Imitation of Christ, named one of the best photo books of 2013 by Time magazine, and Flesh and the Cosmos (2014). He lives in Los Angeles.

The Ecstatic Writing of Qiu Miaojin

Ari Larissa Heinrich, in conversation with Scott Esposito, discussed the work of Qui Miaojin, author of Last Words from Montmarter, published by NYRP Classics and translated from the Chinese with an afterward by Ari Larissa Heinrich at City Lights Bookstore.

Qiu_MiaojinWhen the pioneering Taiwanese novelist Qiu Miaojin committed suicide in 1995 at age twenty-six, she left behind her unpublished masterpiece, Last Words from Montmartre. Unfolding through a series of letters written by an unnamed narrator, Last Words tells the story of a passionate relationship between two young women—their sexual awakening, their gradual breakup, and the devastating aftermath of their broken love. In a style that veers between extremes, from self-deprecation to pathos, compulsive repetition to rhapsodic musings, reticence to vulnerability, Qiu’s genre-bending novel is at once a psychological thriller, a sublime romance, and the author’s own suicide note.

The letters (which, Qiu tells us, can be read in any order) leap between Paris, Taipei, and Tokyo. They display wrenching insights into what it means to live between cultures, languages, and genders—until the genderless character Zoë appears, and the narrator’s spiritual and physical identity is transformed. As powerfully raw and transcendent as Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Theresa Cha’s Dictée, to name but a few, Last Words from Montmartre proves Qiu Miaojin to be one of the finest experimentalists and modernist Chinese-language writers of our generation.

Sandip Roy and Davia Nelson of the Kitchen Sisters

Sandip Roy celebrates the release of his new book, Don’t Let Him Know, with Davia Nelson of the Kitchen Sisters and City Lights Book Store.

Moving from adolescent rooftop games to adult encounters in gay bars, from hair salons in Calcutta to McDonald’s drive-thrus in California, Don’t Let Him Know follows the trajectory of a family, the struggle between having what we want and doing what we feel we must – and the sacrifices we make for those we love. Tender, powerful, and beautifully told, Don’t Let Him Know marks the arrival of a brave new voice.Sandip

Sandip Roy is Senior Editor at the popular news portal Firstpost.com and blogs for the Huffington Post. He has been a longtime commentator on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio programme in the US, and has a weekly radio postcard for public radio in the San Francisco Bay Area. For years he was a radio host on KALW in San Francisco. He is also an editor with New America Media. Sandip has won several awards for journalism and contributed to various anthologies including Storywallah!, Contours of the Heart, Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India, Out! Stories from the New Queer India, New California Writing 2011 and The Phobic and the Erotic: The Politics of Sexualities in Contemporary India. Sandip lives in Kolkata.

Interview with Thomas Page McBee

Thomas Page McBee speaks to City Lights about his new book, Man Alive. In this recording of the interview, McBee talks about his writing process and how he came to write the memoir. He also talks about his work in The Rumpus and what lays ahead for him in his literary career.

ThomasMcBeeFor more about Man Alive, go here.

Thomas Page McBee

Book Party for Thomas Page McBee
Thursday, October 9th, 2014, 7:00pm, City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco

ManAliveCover

Full recording of the book release party for Man Alive. Thomas Page McBee is introduced by City Lights publisher Elaine Katzenberger. Thomas reads from the book as well as his new material and takes questions from the audience about the book and his current/forthcoming projects.

What does it really mean to be a man?

Man Alive engages an extraordinary personal story to tell a universal one—how we all struggle to create ourselves, and how this struggle often requires risks. Far from a transgender transition tell-all, Man Alive grapples with the larger questions of legacy and forgiveness, love and violence, agency and invisibility.

“Thomas Page McBee’s Man Alive hurtled through my life. I read it in a matter of hours. It’s a confession, it’s a poem, it’s a time warp, it’s a brilliant work of art. I bow down to McBee—his humility, his sense of humor, his insightfulness, his structural deftness, his ability to put into words what is often said but rarely, with such visceral clarity and beauty, communicated.”—Heidi Julavits, author of The Vanishers and The Uses of Enchantment

Author Dia Felix Discussing Her New Novel Nochita at City Lights

87286100978980MWe were proud to talk to Dia Felix about her debut novel, Nochita. She discussed how her childhood molded the narrative and also about her collaborations with the Sister Spit group. Nochita is the latest novel in the City Lights/Sister Spit series.

Daughter to a divorced new age guru, Nochita wanders through the cracks of California’s counter-culture, half feral child, half absurdist prophet. When tragedy strikes she is sent to live with her father, a working-class cowboy with a fragile grasp on sobriety and a dangerously mean fiancée. Stuck with adults chillingly unable to care for her, Nochita takes to the streets, a runaway with nothing to run from, driven forward by desperation, hope and an irrepressible wonder.

Nochita is a poetic novel dazzling in its detail, stylistically daring, by turns hallucinatory, darkly funny and brutally real. At its heart is the singular voice of Nochita, tender and fierce, alone and alive and utterly unforgettable.

Dia Felix is a writer and filmmaker who’s screened films at independent festivals (Frameline, Outfest, San Francisco Film Festival), and performed literary work a lot too (Segue Series, Radar, Dixon Place). Her novel Nochita was published through City Lights/Sister Spit in early 2014. She teaches and mentors teens in experimental film making at Reel Works, a teen film making continuum in Brooklyn. She is an award-winning digital media producer for museums (Exploratorium, Museum of Arts and Design.) She is the founder and editor of Personality Press.

Christina Hanhardt discussing her new book, Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence

Since the 1970s, a key goal of lesbian and gay activists has been protection against street violence, especially in gay neighborhoods. During the same time, policymakers and private developers declared the containment of urban violence to be a top priority. In this important book, Christina B. Hanhardt examines how LGBT calls for “safe space” have been shaped by broader public safety initiatives that have sought solutions in policing and privatization and have had devastating effects along race and class lines.

Drawing on extensive archival and ethnographic research in New York City and San Francisco, Hanhardt traces the entwined histories of LGBT activism, urban development, and U.S. policy in relation to poverty and crime over the past fifty years. She highlights the formation of a mainstream LGBT movement, as well as the very different trajectories followed by radical LGBT and queer grassroots organizations. Placing LGBT activism in the context of shifting liberal and neoliberal policies, Safe Space is a groundbreaking exploration of the contradictory legacies of the LGBT struggle for safety in the city.


Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence was published by Duke University Press

Christina B. Hanhardt is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

An Excerpt from New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut by B. Ruby Rich

New Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut

published by Duke University press

B. Ruby Rich designated a brand new genre, the New Queer Cinema (NQC), in her groundbreaking article in the Village Voice in 1992. This movement in film and video was intensely political and aesthetically innovative, made possible by the debut of the camcorder, and driven initially by outrage over the unchecked spread of AIDS. The genre has grown to include an entire generation of queer artists, filmmakers, and activists.

As a critic, curator, journalist, and scholar, Rich has been inextricably linked to the New Queer Cinema from its inception. This volume presents her new thoughts on the topic, as well as bringing together the best of her writing on the NQC. She follows this cinematic movement from its origins in the mid-1980s all the way to the present in essays and articles directed at a range of audiences, from readers of academic journals to popular glossies and weekly newspapers. She presents her insights into such NQC pioneers as Derek Jarman and Isaac Julien and investigates such celebrated films as Go Fish, Brokeback Mountain, Itty Bitty Titty Committee, and Milk. In addition to exploring less-known films and international cinemas (including Latin American and French films and videos), she documents the more recent incarnations of the NQC on screen, on the web, and in art galleries.


Ali Liebegott’s Book Party at City Lights!

celebrating the release of Cha-Ching! and The Beautifully Worthless the latest in the City Lights/Sister Spit series, Ali Liebegott had a pizza and reading party at City Lights!

Cha-Ching! is the story of Theo, our scruffy, big-hearted and quick-witted heroine, who is not so much down on her luck as delivered luckless into a culture where the winners and losers have already been decided. Her adventures in getting over take her from SF to NYC, from dyke bars to telemarketing outfits, casinos to free clinics. With the signature poet’s voice that has won her awards and acclaim, Liebegott investigates the conjoined hearts of hope and addiction in an unforgettable story of what it means to be young and broke in America.

Andrew Codrescu, author of So Recently Rent a World: New and Selected Poems, compared Liebegott’s writing to Dostoyevsky and her main character to On the Road’s Dean Moriarty when he said, “In the game of American-life-on-the-go hopscotch, Ali Liebegott’s heroine Theo just jumped a square ahead of Dean Moriarty. . . . The author’s fine writing about gambling is as good as I ever read, including Dostoevski’s and the Barthelme Bros. In the end, love, in whatever twisted, pallid form, a love that has little to do with sexuality, is the only answer. . . .Wonderful book.”

In Ali Liebegott’s award-winning road story, The Beautifully Worthless, a runaway waitress leaves her lover, grabs her dog and hits the highway. Liebegott maps her travels in a series of hilarious and heartbreaking letters to the girl she left behind, and some of the most exquisite poetry written about love, heartache and madness.

The winner of the 2005 Lambda Literary Award for Debut Lesbian Fiction, The Beautifully Worthless is back in print and now available from City Lights/Sister Spit!

Sister Spit takes City Lights by Storm

On Wednesday, October 24, 2012, City Lights Bookstore celebrated the release of Sister Spit: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road (City Lights Books), hosted by Michelle Tea. Featuring readings from Ali Liebegott, Ben McCoy, Cassie J. Sneider, Kat Marie Yoas, MariNaomi, Michelle Tea, Rhiannon Argo, Sara Seinberg, Tamara Llosa Sandor.

A collection of writing and artwork from the irreverent, flagrantly queer, hilariously feminist, tough-talking, genre-busting ruffians who have toured with the legendary Sister Spit. Co-founded in 1997 by award-winning writer Michelle Tea, Sister Spit is an underground cultural institution, a gender-bending writers’ cabaret that brings a changing roster of both emerging writers and some of the most important queer and counterculture artists of the day to universities, art galleries, community spaces, and other venues across the country and worldwide.

Sister Spit: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road captures the provocative, politicized, and risk-taking elements that characterize the Sister Spit aesthetic, stamping the raw energy and signature style of the live show onto the page. Bratty poets and failed priestesses, punk angst and tough love, too much to drink and tattooed timelines—this anthology captures it all in a collection of poetry, personal narrative, fiction, and artwork. Featuring a who’s who of queer and queer-centric writers and artists, the collection functions as a travelogue, a historical document, and a yearbook from irreverent graduates of the school of hard knocks.

Eileen Myles * Beth Lisick * Michelle Tea * MariNaomi * Cristy Road * Ali Liebegott * Blake Nelson * Lenelle Moise * and Many More!

“Heartbreakingly beautiful writing; sometimes funny, sometimes shattering—always revolutionary. Truly amazing collection!”—Margaret Cho

“Sister Spit is like the underground railroad for burgeoning queer writers. Not only in the van, but in the audiences trapped in the hinterlands of America and looking to escape. Sister Spit saves lives.”—Justin Vivian Bond, author of TANGO: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels

Cynthia Carr in conversation with Amy Scholder on The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz

City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in conjunction with the San Francisco Art Institute and Bloomsbury Books present an evening with Cynthia Carr and Amy Scholder celebrating the release of Cythnia Carr’s new book Fire in the Belly : The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (Bloomsbury Books), October 3, 2012.

In December 2010, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington made headlines when it responded to protests from the Catholic League by voluntarily censoring an excerpt of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly from its show on American portraiture. Why a work of art could stir such emotions is at the heart of Cynthia Carr’s Fire in the Belly The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, the first biography of a beleaguered art-world figure who became one of the most important voices of his generation. Wojnarowicz emerged from a Dickensian childhood that included orphanages, abusive and absent parents, and a life of hustling on the street. He first found acclaim in New York’s East Village, a neighborhood noted in the 1970s and ’80s for its abandoned buildings, junkies, and burgeoning art scene. Along with Keith Haring, Nan Goldin, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Wojnarowicz helped redefine art for the times. As uptown art collectors looked downtown for the next big thing, this community of cultural outsiders was suddenly thrust into the national spotlight. The ensuing culture war, the neighborhood’s gentrification, and the AIDS crisis then devastated the East Village scene. Wojnarowicz died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of thirty-seven. Carr’s brilliant biography traces the untold story of a controversial and seminal figure at a pivotal moment in American culture.

Cynthia Carr is a writer and cultural critic living in New York City. She has served as staff writer for The Village Voice and has also written about performance art and culture for ArtForum, LA Weekly, Interview, and Mirabella. She is the author of Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America and On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century.

Amy Scholder is the editorial director of the Feminist Press. Over the past twenty-five years, she has worked with David Wojnarowicz, Sapphire, Kathy Acker, Karen Finley, Barbara Hammer, June Jordan, Joni Mitchell, Kate MIllett, Judith Butler, Mary Woronov, Kate Bornstein, Jill Johnston, Justin Vivian Bond, Laurie Weeks, and many more writers and artists. She divides her time between New York City and Los Angeles

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters

On Wednesday, April 11, 2012, Michael Long discussed his new book I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters (City Lights) at City Lights Bookstore.

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters

Published on the centennial of his birth, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, here is Bayard Rustin’s life story told in his own words.

Bayard Rustin has been called the “lost prophet” of the civil rights movement. A master strategist and tireless activist, he is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the U.S. He brought Gandhi’s protest techniques to the American civil rights movement and played a deeply influential role in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to mold him into an international symbol of nonviolence.

Despite these achievements, Rustin often remained in the background. He was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era.

Here we have Rustin in his own words in a collection of over 150 of his letters; his correspondents include the major progressives of his day — for example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker, and of course, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bayard Rustin’s eloquent, impassioned voice, his ability to chart the path “from protest to politics,” is both timely and deeply informative. As the Occupy movement ushers America into a pivotal election year, and as politicians and citizens re-assess their goals and strategies, these letters provide direct access to the strategic thinking and tactical planning that led to the successes of one of America’s most transformative and historic social movements.

[A note from editor Michael Long: I thank Nancy D. Kates and Bennett Singer, co-producers/directors of Brother Outsider, for my use of material in their excellent documentary about Rustin. I am especially grateful to Question Why Films, co-owned by Kates and Singer, for my use of an interview that Kates conducted with Dr. Robert Ascher. — ML]

With a foreword by Julian Bond.

Praise for I Must Resist:

“Rustin was a life-long agitator for justice. He changed America – and the world – for the better. This collection of his letters makes his life and his passions come vividly alive, and helps restore him to history, a century after his birth. I Must Resist makes for inspiring reading.” — John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

“Bayard Rustin’s courageously candid letters, most of which have never before been available to researchers, provide fascinating glimpses into the private life of one of history’s most reticent public figures.” — Clayborne Carson, Founding Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University

“These letters – poetic, incisive, passionate, and above all political in the broadest meaning of the word – span almost four decades not only of Bayard Rustin’s life but of the emotional and spiritual life of America. There is hardly a social justice movement during this time in which Rustin was not involved from pacifism to ending poverty to battles for sexual freedom. Michael Long’s brilliant editing has created a compelling historical narrative and reading these letters is to be witness to the ever-evolving conscience that guides our country’s endangered, but surviving, commitment to freedom.” — Michael Bronksi, author of A Queer History of the United States

“Bayard Rustin was a committed but very complicated person. This marvelously annotated collection of letters explain the spirit, and evolution of the thoughts and actions of an often overlooked key figure in the 20th century civil and human rights movement.” — Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine Segal Professor of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania, and former Chair United States Commission on Civil Rights

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters provides fascinating insights into Bayard Rustin’s activist life. It includes hundreds of letters in Rustin’s own words that reveal his tireless and brave efforts to promote American civil rights, as well as his personal tragedies. All aspects of Rustin’s experiences are captured in these letters, including his struggles with opponents dedicated to silencing him as an international symbol of nonviolent protests against racial injustice. This remarkable and deeply moving publication is a must-read.” — William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University.

An Interview with Michael Long, Editor of I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters

On Wednesday, April 11, 2012, Michael Long spoke with City Lights Director of Marketing, Stacey Lewis, about his new book I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters (City Lights) at City Lights Bookstore.

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters

Published on the centennial of his birth, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, here is Bayard Rustin’s life story told in his own words.

Bayard Rustin has been called the “lost prophet” of the civil rights movement. A master strategist and tireless activist, he is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the U.S. He brought Gandhi’s protest techniques to the American civil rights movement and played a deeply influential role in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to mold him into an international symbol of nonviolence.

Despite these achievements, Rustin often remained in the background. He was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era.

Here we have Rustin in his own words in a collection of over 150 of his letters; his correspondents include the major progressives of his day — for example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker, and of course, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bayard Rustin’s eloquent, impassioned voice, his ability to chart the path “from protest to politics,” is both timely and deeply informative. As the Occupy movement ushers America into a pivotal election year, and as politicians and citizens re-assess their goals and strategies, these letters provide direct access to the strategic thinking and tactical planning that led to the successes of one of America’s most transformative and historic social movements.

[A note from editor Michael Long: I thank Nancy D. Kates and Bennett Singer, co-producers/directors of Brother Outsider, for my use of material in their excellent documentary about Rustin. I am especially grateful to Question Why Films, co-owned by Kates and Singer, for my use of an interview that Kates conducted with Dr. Robert Ascher. — ML]

With a foreword by Julian Bond.

Praise for I Must Resist:

“Rustin was a life-long agitator for justice. He changed America – and the world – for the better. This collection of his letters makes his life and his passions come vividly alive, and helps restore him to history, a century after his birth. I Must Resist makes for inspiring reading.” — John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

“Bayard Rustin’s courageously candid letters, most of which have never before been available to researchers, provide fascinating glimpses into the private life of one of history’s most reticent public figures.” — Clayborne Carson, Founding Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University

“These letters – poetic, incisive, passionate, and above all political in the broadest meaning of the word – span almost four decades not only of Bayard Rustin’s life but of the emotional and spiritual life of America. There is hardly a social justice movement during this time in which Rustin was not involved from pacifism to ending poverty to battles for sexual freedom. Michael Long’s brilliant editing has created a compelling historical narrative and reading these letters is to be witness to the ever-evolving conscience that guides our country’s endangered, but surviving, commitment to freedom.” — Michael Bronksi, author of A Queer History of the United States

“Bayard Rustin was a committed but very complicated person. This marvelously annotated collection of letters explain the spirit, and evolution of the thoughts and actions of an often overlooked key figure in the 20th century civil and human rights movement.” — Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine Segal Professor of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania, and former Chair United States Commission on Civil Rights

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters provides fascinating insights into Bayard Rustin’s activist life. It includes hundreds of letters in Rustin’s own words that reveal his tireless and brave efforts to promote American civil rights, as well as his personal tragedies. All aspects of Rustin’s experiences are captured in these letters, including his struggles with opponents dedicated to silencing him as an international symbol of nonviolent protests against racial injustice. This remarkable and deeply moving publication is a must-read.” — William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University.

Gayle Rubin reads from Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader

Gayle Rubin celebrated the release of Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader (Duke University Press) on Thursday, February 23, 2012, 7:00 P.M. at the City Lights Bookstore.

Deviations is the definitive collection of writing by Gayle S. Rubin, a pioneering theorist and activist in feminist, lesbian and gay, queer, and sexuality studies since the 1970s. Rubin first rose to prominence in 1975 with the publication of “The Traffic in Women,” an essay that had a galvanizing effect on feminist thinking and theory. In another landmark piece, “Thinking Sex,” she examined how certain sexual behaviors are constructed as moral or natural, and others as unnatural. That essay became one of queer theory’s foundational texts. Along with such canonical work, Deviations features less well-known but equally insightful writing on subjects such as lesbian history, the feminist sex wars, the politics of sadomasochism, crusades against prostitution and pornography, and the historical development of sexual knowledge. In the introduction, Rubin traces her intellectual trajectory and discusses the development and reception of some of her most influential essays. Like the book it opens, the introduction highlights the major lines of inquiry pursued for nearly forty years by a singularly important theorist of sex, gender, and culture.

Gayle S. Rubin is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Women’s Studies, and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. She is a cultural anthropologist and activist whose work has been influential in the areas of sex and gender studies. Rubin was a “pro-sex” activist during the Feminist Sex Wars of the 80’s and she co-founded the first known lesbian SM group, Samois.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore reading from Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?

On February 15, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore stopped by City Lights Bookstore to read from Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? (AKPress), joined by several of the book’s contributors: Debanuj DasGupta, Harris Kornstein, Booh Edouardo and Gina de Vries!

Gay culture has become the ultimate nightmare of consumerism, whether it’s an endless quest for Absolut vodka, Diesel jeans, rainbow Hummers, pec implants, or Pottery Barn. As backrooms are shut down to make way for wedding vows, and gay sexual culture morphs into “straight-acting dudes hangin’ out,” what are the possibilities for a defiant faggotry that challenges the assimilationist norms of a corporate-cozy lifestyle?

Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots? challenges not just the violence of straight homophobia but the hypocrisy of mainstream gay norms that say the only way to stay safe is to act straight: get married, join the military, adopt kids! This anthology reinvokes the anger, flamboyance, and subversion once thriving in gay subcultures in order to create something dangerous and lovely: an exploration of the perils of assimilation; a call for accountability; a vision for change.

“These essays—alternately moving and sprightly, contemplative and outraged—display the power of presenting an alternative to the mainstream: a world of greater tolerance, acceptance, support, and creativity.”
Publishers Weekly

“Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s coruscating eye and clear head is what queers need if we are to survive as anything other than a tamed branch of consumer society, based on assimilation, repression, and despair. These essays come like a plunge into a forest pool of revitalizing joy, honesty, and common sense. Read them. Now. No—not tomorrow. Now!”
—Samuel R. Delany, author of Times Square Red, Times Square Blue

“You may have thought you understood human nature before you read this book; after reading it you will be humbled by all you failed to grasp until now. America invented identity politics but here those identities have been multiplied and articulated as never before.”
—Edmund White, author of A Boy’s Own Story

“Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots is a collection of essays that not only examine the intricacies of the current socio-political climate within the realm of the gay/queer/trans world, but also show how important it is for us to interface and aggressively seek to inform the world view of the culture at large… Thanks, Mattilda, for the insights, intellectual rigor and the glittering ammunition with which to destroy and rebuild.”
—Mx Justin Vivian Bond, singer/songwriter and author of Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels

“This book plumbs the most important question facing queers in the 21st century: how the hell did we go from forming a crucial part of the ’60s ‘lib’
rainbow, and from mastering, refining, and successfully deploying nonviolent resistance
with ACT UP, only to end up creating for ourselves a world of martial and marital law every bit as sterile, constricting, and amoral as the world we once fled like the plague?”
—Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men

“These essays excavate masculinity, unearthing the complex and pervasive structures that police and construct it and exposing the beautiful resilience of its self-avowed refusers and failures. These pieces telescope between analysis of the structures of gendered racialization that produce body norms and the daily physical and emotional traumas and toils of surviving and resisting, providing complex and badly needed ways to imagine and reimagine faggotry.”
—Dean Spade, author of Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the gender-bending author of the highly praised novel, Pulling Taffy, and the editor of four nonfiction anthologies, including Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity and That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation. Sycamore writes regularly for a variety of publications, including Bitch, Utne Reader, AlterNet, Make/Shift, and Maximumrocknroll, and lives in San Francisco.

 

An evening with Edmund White

On Wednesday, February 1, 2012, noted author Edmund White was at City Lights Bookstore reading from Jack Holmes and His Friend: A Novel (Bloomsbury).

The tantalizing story of a decades-long friendship between two men that charts the sexual revolution from both gay and straight perspectives.

Jack Holmes is in love. Sadly for him, his feelings are not returned, at least not in the way he would like them to be. It doesn’t look as if there will ever be anyone else he falls for: the other men he takes to bed never last long.

Jack’s friend Will Wright comes from old stock, has aspirations to be a writer and, like Jack, works on the Northern Review. He is shy and lives alone, working on his novel. Jack will introduce Will to the beautiful, brittle young woman he will marry, but is discrete about his own adventures in love – for this is sixties New York, literary and intense, before gay liberation; a concoction of old society, bohemians rich and poor, sleek European immigrants and transplanted Midwesterners. Against this charged backdrop, the different lives of Jack and Will intertwine, and as their loves come and go, they will always be, at the very least, friends.

Edmund White’s startling perceptions of American society are here deployed to dazzling effect, as character after character is delicately and colorfully rendered and one social milieu after another brought vividly to life. White is a connoisseur of the nuances of personality and mood, and here unveils his very human cast in all their radical individuality. With fabulously on target insights, narrative daring and a gifted sense of the rueful rough-and-tumble of life, Jack Holmes and His Friend is a beautifully sculpted exploration of sexuality and sensibility.

 

Edmund White is the author of many books including A Boys’ Own Story and The Married Man. He has been made an officer in the French Order of Arts and Letters and last year received a literary prize from the Festival of Deauville. Ten of his books have been translated into French, including his magisterial biography of Jean Genet. His novel, Hotel De Dream, is a deftly layered novel of longing, both gay and straight. Edmund White is also the author of The Flaneur which explores parts of Paris virtually unknown to visitors and indeed to many locals, luring the reader into the fascinating and seductive backstreets of his personal Paris. City Boy: My Life During the 1960s and 1970s is Edmund White’s memoir of the social and sexual lives of New York City’s cultural and intellectual in-crowd in the tumultous 1970s.

William E. Jones reads from Halstead Plays Himself

On Thursday, December 8, 2011 at City Lights Bookstore, William E. Jones read from Halsted Plays Himself (Semiotexte Books).

 

Fred Halsted‘s L.A. Plays Itself (1972) was gay porn’s first masterpiece: a sexually explicit, autobiographical, experimental film whose New York screening left even Salvador Dalí repeatedly muttering “new information for me.” Halsted, a self-taught filmmaker, shot the film over a period of three years in a now-vanished Los Angeles, a city at once rural and sleazy.

Although his cultural notoriety at one point equaled that of Kenneth Anger or Jack Smith, Halsted’s star waned in the 1980s with the emergence of a more commercial gay-porn industry. After the death from AIDS of his long-time partner, lover, spouse (and tormentor) Joey Yale in 1986, Halsted committed suicide in 1989.

In Halsted Plays Himself, acclaimed artist and filmmaker William E. Jones documents his quest to capture the elusive public and private personas of Halsted–to zero in on an identity riddled with contradictions. Jones assembles a narrative of a long-gone gay lifestyle and an extinct Hollywood underground, when independent films were still possible, and the boundary between experimental and pornographic was not yet established. The book also depicts what sexual liberation looked like at a volatile point in time–and what it looked like when it collapsed.
 

William E. Jones is an artist and filmmaker who teaches film history at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He has made two feature length experimental films, Massillon (1991) and Finished (1997), several short videos, including The Fall of Communism as Seen in Gay Pornography (1998), the feature length documentary Is It Really So Strange? (2004), and many video installations. His films and videos were the subject of retrospectives at Tate Modern, London, in 2005, and at Anthology Film Archives, New York, in 2010. He has worked in the adult video industry under the name Hudson Wilcox.

Dennis Cooper and Dodie Bellamy celebrate the release of their new books, The Marbled Swarm and the buddhist

On Wednesday, November 16, 2011, Dennis Cooper & Dodie Bellamy joined us at City Lights to celebrate the release of their new books, The Marbled Swarm and the buddhist.

The long-anticipated new novel from literary icon Dennis Cooper is a moody and foreboding tale of a son’s unwitting devotion to a possibly insane father. The Marbled Swarm (Harper Perennial) tells the story of a son raised by a charmingly psychopathic father and taught a private language only the two of them know. With its Parisian and French countryside setting; its trappings of high art, old money, and haute cuisine that obscure an unspeakable system of coercion and surrender; and its completely original, lilting voice; The Marbled Swarm may read as a departure from Cooper’s earlier work – a new beginning, of sorts.  But once again – with secret passages, events that may or may not have happened, and a father-son relationship strangely heavy with sexual tension – readers will find themselves enveloped in a world only Dennis Cooper could create.

 

What is personal, what is public? In our electronic age, can anybody tell the difference? While ending an affair with a Buddhist teacher, Dodie Bellamy wrote about it simultaneously on her blog. In her experiment in writing through states of extremis, she explores nuances of public shame, the vagaries of desire and rage, and her confusion over the authenticity of group and individual spirituality. the buddhist (Allone Editions) becomes a celebration of marginalized subjectivity as enacted in the work of female artists from Bessie Smith to Eva Hesse and Carolee Schneeman, to Bhanu Kapil and Ariana Reines.  This volume contains the essence of the blog, as well as more extended narratives too explicit to post on line.  Like Duras’ The Lover, Bellamy’s writing glorifies the abject and the discarded; it is a passionate evocation of a love lost and a raw depth plumbed.

 

Dennis Cooper – called a “disquieting genius” by Vanity Fair – is the acclaimed author of the George Miles Cycle, an interconnected sequence of five novels: CloserFriskTryGuide, and Period. His other works include My Loose ThreadThe Sluts, winner of France’s Prix Sade and the Lambda Literary Award; God, Jr.WrongThe Dream PoliceUgly Man; and Smothered in Hugs. His plays “Jerk” and “Them” are performed widely across Europe and the United States.

 

Dodie Bellamy is a novelist, nonfiction author, journalist and editor. She is one of the originators in the New Narrative literary movement, which attempts to use the tools of experimental fiction and critical theory and apply them to narrative storytelling. Dodie is the author of Feminine HijinxBroken EnglishThe Letters of Mina Harker, and Pink Steam.

 

 

 

 

Judith Halberstam reads from The Queer Art of Failure

Judith Halberstam stopped by City Lights Bookstore on Thursday, November 3, 2011, to discuss her new book The Queer Art Of Failure (Duke University Press.)

The Queer Art Of Failure is about finding alternatives—to conventional understandings of success in a heteronormative, capitalist society; to academic disciplines that confirm what is already known according to approved methods of knowing; and to cultural criticism that claims to break new ground but cleaves to conventional archives. Judith Halberstam proposes “low theory” as a mode of thinking and writing that operates at many different levels at once. Low theory is derived from eccentric archives. It runs the risk of not being taken seriously. It entails a willingness to fail and to lose one’s way, to pursue difficult questions about complicity, and to find counterintuitive forms of resistance. Tacking back and forth between high theory and low theory, high culture and low culture, Halberstam looks for the unexpected and subversive in popular culture, avant-garde performance, and queer art. She pays particular attention to animated children’s films, revealing narratives filled with unexpected encounters between the childish, the transformative, and the queer. Failure sometimes offers more creative, cooperative, and surprising ways of being in the world, even as it forces us to face the dark side of life, love, and libido.


Judith Halberstam is Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity, and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. Halberstam is the author of In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (NYU Press), as well as Female Masculinity and Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters, both also published by Duke University Press.