Gay Life and Culture: A World History
By Jason Lamphier
Any self-respecting queer knows about the rampant homoeroticism in ancient Rome and Greece, but the ambitious tome Gay Life and Culture: A World History (Universe, $49.95) will edify even the most hard-core history buff. In 14 chapters, expert Robert Aldrich, along with a team of scholars from nine different countries, maps the global evolution of same-sex relationships and gay identity, covering everything from Zeus�s mythical fling with his young male cupbearer to the current debate over same-sex marriage. The sweeping volume harbors archetypal images such as Thomas Eakins�s The Swimming Hole�a bucolic canvas depicting nude male camaraderie�as well as unanticipated gems, including an arresting photograph of lesbian author Radclyffe Hall with her lover, Una Troubridge, just a year before she published her iconic novel, The Well of Loneliness. A cross-dressing Native American ambassador upends social convention, presenting himself as a third gender in the 19th century; European scribes and artists limn erotic, sadomasochistic scenes set in the Middle East and the Maghreb; a writer boldly asserts that Jesus and St. John may have been lovers. This collection of paintings, objets d�art, movie stills, letters, and literature unfolds like an international tour of all things gay right up to its final photograph: a moving snapshot of two elderly Danish men, the first gay couple ever to enter civil partnership, embracing one another in a shower of celebratory confetti.
On the home page: Thomas Eakins, The Swimming Hole, 1883. Photo Credit: Amon Carter Museum/Courtesy Universe Publishing/Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.