Sunday, January 13, 2008

Favorite Books:"The Tempered Blade in the Fantastic Silken Sheath"

Just to warn you: this is a long entry. A looooong entry. I do go on. I'm not sure why I wanted to write out what is essentially a book report, but it's been sitting with me for a few weeks, and wouldn't go away. Don't feel like you have to read it, I won't be offended. Come back when I'm babbling more succinctly about something else.

Rosemary Sutcliff is a children’s writer who had a significant influence on me as a kid. I don’t know if she’s now better known on this side of the pond, but the only reason I discovered her books was because we spent a year in London when I was ten. She introduced me to the Irish epic, Cuchulain and the heros of the Red Branch, and to the folk tales of Finn MacCool and the Fianna. She also wrote historical novels about Roman Britain. Many of them won literary awards and big kudos from historians for their detailed and uncannily accurate portraits of the time period. Sutcliff’s portrait of the Celtic world and it inhabitants definitely shaped mine. She was the first to admit that if the choice lay between telling a good story or being historically accurate, she would choose the story every time, so there is no doubt her characters (and thus my image) are at times romanticized. Other influences have interceded over the years, along with more rigorously historical reading and a fair amount of time in Ireland, but Sutcliff’s (with a little help from Yeats) passionate, mystic warrior/poet still lives at the root of my imagination.

When I went back to her books as an adult though, I began to wonder if she had influenced my imagination in other, more surprising ways. Her books stand up to adult scrutiny well; things are never sugar-coated though at times they may be left out. The characters are finely drawn, the stories exciting and well-told, and she’s unafraid to delve into difficult, even tragic terrain. Because so many of her characters are soldiers, warriors or gladiators, there is a lot of fighting, but also a lot of male bonding. Often the significant relationship in the story is between two men. When she’s retelling epics or traditional stories, this could easily be explained as her remaining true to the originals. Cuchulain really does love Ferdia, which is why their battle to the death is so horrifying. Many epics and traditional stories are full of what one of my Shakespeare teachers called “the passionate male friendship.” Arthur and Lancelot, Romeo and Mercutio, Frodo and Sam, if we want another example of a modern spin on the tradition, great love is expressed between these pairs without shame or embarrassment, because, well, there is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Their cultures had a place for these passionate yet sexless bonds.

But... then I looked at one of her books more closely. The Mark of the Horse Lord may be my favorite of all her books (though I recently discovered that there are probably about thirty more than I knew about; I’m very excited). The premise is this; Phaedrus is a half-Celt, half-Greek gladiator who manages to win his freedom at the beginning of the book. He meets a Celtic Prince, Midir, whom he resembles to a startling degree, and for reasons I won’t go into here, agrees to impersonate him, claim Midir’s throne, and depose his usurping aunt. Basically the Prince and the Pauper story, in other words, though Sutcliff manages to make it more plausible. The connection between the two men is passionate, confusing and important to them both, but clearly not romantic or sexual.

Naturally to be able to impersonate him, Phadreus has to learn everything about Midir, so they hole up for a month so Midir can tell his entire history, complete with detailed descriptions of all the people in his life. Midir is quizzing Phadreus at one point:

“‘Conory?’ said Midir’s voice behind him.

‘Conory was –is my cousin, born in the same summer to Iorwen, my father’s younger sister. I know him by his one eye set higher than the other, and a brown fleck in the apple of it.’ There were other things he knew about Conory, a great many other things, including some that Midir had never told him. But he did not recite them now. They had had to be learned, but though the arena years had hardened him to most things, he still disliked trampling more often than need be in another man’s private territory.” (p. 41)


Okay, sure there’s no reason to assume the big unspoken secret between Conory and Midir is sexual in nature. Maybe they murdered a man together, were never caught, and now are the only ones who know the truth. Maybe one of them offended taboo in some way, and the other covered it up.

But come on. I mean, really.

I read this when I was ten, did I mention that? Sure the whole thing probably went over my head at the time, but, like, wow.

But wait, it gets better. You haven’t met Conory yet.

“And then behind the rest, with some kind of great fur collar round his neck, he saw a man holding back, taking his time, watching him out of eyes that seemed, even in the gloom beyond the torchlight, to be oddly set— one a little higher than the other...

Their gaze met, and Phaedrus saw in that intant that the fur collar had eyes too. A striped-grey-and-dark thing with eyes like green moons. The young man made a sound to it, and the thing rippled and arched itself into swift, sinuous life, became a wildcat, poised and swaying for an instant on his shoulder and leapt lightly to the floor, and advanced beside him with proudly upreared tail, as he came forward to take his place among the rest.

For an instant, as they came face to face, and the wildcat crouched at his foot, Phaedrus thought that this could not, after all, be the cousin born in the same summer, who had helped Midir to wash the blood from his back after that long-ago beating. Not this wasp-wasted creature with hair bleached to the silken paleness of ripe barley, who wore a wildcat for a collar, and went prinked out like a dancing-girl with crystal drops in his ears and his slender wrists chiming with bracelets of beads strung on gold wires! But one of the man’s eyes was certainly set higher than the other; and on the bright hazel iris was a brown fleck the shape of an arrow-head.

For a long moment they stood confronting each other, and Phaedrus knew that this was indeed the danger moment. He saw a flicker of doubt in the odd-set eyes, quickly veiled and something tensed in his stomach, waiting for what would happen next, while the men around him looked on.

The young man said, ‘Midir.’ Just the one word, and his hands came out. Phaedrus, with an unpleasant consciousness of the wildcat crouched with laid-back ears on the floor, followed his lead so instantly that the onlookers could scarcely have said which made the first move. But next instant their arms were round each other in a quick, hard embrace that looked like the reunion of long-parted brothers, but had actually nothing in it but a kind of testing, an enquiry, like the first grip of a wrestling-bout... ‘Conory— you have changed!’ It was the only thing that Phaedrus could think of to say, and it seemed safe.

‘Have I?’ Conory said. ‘So have you, Midir. So—have—you,’ and the doubt was still in his eyes; indeed, it had strengthened, Phaedrus thought, but it would not be there for anyone but himself to see. At any rate — not yet. What game was he playing? Or was he playing any game at all? Had he, Phaedrus, only imagined that flicker of doubt? It was gone now. Unless it was only veiled once more...

With Conory’s grip on his shoulders, he discovered that there was more strength in those slender wrists than anyone could have expected. He made another discovery, too. He did not know, looking into those oddly set eyes that were so silkily bright, whether he and Conory were going to be heart-friends or the bitterest of enemies, but he knew that it must be one or the other; something between them was too strong to end in mere indifference.” (pp. 64-65)

Good stuff, no? Let me share another view of Conory from another member of his tribe.

“Phaedrus took the mead-horn, grinning... ‘I was taking a look at (Conory).’

And an older man leaned across to him from the other side. ‘A good long look, then. Aye well, he’s worth looking at, and he knows it,’ he snorted, but there was a hint of admiration in the snort. ‘Ever since he came to manhood he’s been one that the women watch— aye, and men too, and there’s times I think he makes a sport of seeing just how far he can go. He only has to come out one day with his cloak caught in a particular fold, or a woman’s ear-ring in one ear, and the next day half the young braves of the tribe are doing the same. If he cut off a finger-tip tonight, the other half would lack a finger-tip tomorrow. Fools!” (p. 71)

There’s more, but I'll stop there. Oh, don’t get too excited; it is a children’s book, this is as explicit as anything gets. And again, this innuendo about Conory and his relationship with Midir doesn’t have to be sexual... but I repeat, come on.

The Celts, like lots of ancient cultures, were pretty relaxed about sexuality; bisexuality was probably the norm in more places than not. People like Conory would have existed, it's just surprising to find one in a children's book published in 1965. I can’t help but wonder how it got through editing. I wish I could write her a letter to ask how conscious Sutcliff was of this possible interpretation, but she died in 1992.

After rediscovering Conory though, I realized that while he may be the first, he wasn’t the only figure of this kind I read about as a kid. Sutcliff's subject matter and writing style proved to be a great introduction to the books of Mary Renault. Perhaps more than any other writer, Renault shaped my earliest dreams of what love between men could be. At her best, her writing is compelling, layered, witty, wise yet forgiving of human nature. I have talked about another her books before, and may talk about others later, but after rereading Horse Lord, I specifically sought outThe King Must Die. I remembered meeting another Conory, several in fact, here too.

This book is a marvelous retelling of the Theseus myth, specifically his time in the Labyrinth of Crete. Making use of what was then recent archeological discoveries (Knossos, and the labyrinth, had just been discovered), Renault pictured the Athenian tribute as dancers in the sacred bull dance. Theseus and the other Athenians have just been brought to the practice court of the bull dancers, where they meet the de facto leader. (Theseus is talking.)

“He was slight, smaller than I... he stood poised on the balls of his feet, like a dancer, then took a step back and looked us over. I had never seen such a youth as this. At first sight he could have been a mountebank. But his heavy gold necklaces, his arm-rings of jeweler’s work, the gems on his glittering belt and loin-guard, were not gilded shams; he was wearing a princes’s ransom. His light-brown hair hung down in long curled tresses, groomed as sleek as a girl’s and his eyes ere painted. But with all this frippery, he was like a young panther, lean and spare and hard. A thick red scar, like a long burn, curved round the ribs on his right side... He raised his brows again, and then walked round us, staring at each in turn. Many had stared at us that day; but this one saw us. I felt as if a fine sharp blade pricked me over, searching for flaws.” (p. 241)

We learn that this fellow (simply called the Corinthian because he is the only still living) is a superstar, one of the best bull-leapers in the court, rivaling even the old legendary figures. Theseus finds out what this means the first time he’s allowed to witness the bull dance.

...[T]he Corinthian ran round [the bull] to face him, and held out both arms; the circling [of the other dancers] stopped.

He ran smoothly up to the sullen, bull. It was the leap I had seen often in the Bull court. But that was a shadow; now, he had a living things to dance with. He grasped the horns, and swung up between them, going with the bull; then he soared free. The beast was too stupid to back and wait for him. It trotted on, when it felt him gone. He turned in the air, a curve as lovely as a bent bow’s, and on the broad back his slim feet touched down together; then they sprang up again. He seemed not to leap, but to hang above the bull, like a dragonfly over the reeds, while it ran out from under him. Then he came down to earth, feet still together, and lightly touched the catcher’s hands with his, like a civility; he had no need of steadying.... I stretched in secret my right hand earthwards, and whispered under all the noise, ‘Father Poseidon! Make me a bull-leaper!’” (p. 244)

Unlike Sutcliff, Renault is writing for adults, so she is free to let us know some men sleep with men in this world. Men who never sleep with men are the odd-balls, as Theseus comes to learn. Everyone in the Bull Court dresses like the Corinthian too. Theseus is portrayed as a back country prince; sexist, homophobic (to use modern terms as short-hand) with a bit of Napoleonic complex, he has his eyes opened in many ways in Crete, including how he sees women and 'Nancy boys'(though remaining a ‘man for women’ all his life), and is soon just as bejeweled and coiffed as anyone else.

But the Corinthian isn’t the only figure of this kind in the book. As Theseus begins to plot the downfall of the royal house, he is soon allied with some nobles from the ancient (Minyan) houses. Alektryon is a member of the guard, and a formidable warrior. One night he has a message for Theseus.

“But the next night, after supper, I heard laughter at the doors of the Bull court, and the chink of gold. It is not cheap, to buy your way in there after dark. In came Alektryon, swift and glittering, his kilt stitched with plaques of pearl and his hair stuck with jasmine. He had a necklace of striped sardonyx, and a rolled kid belt covered with leaf gold. He strode among the dancers, flirting with this youth or that, talking of the odds, and the newest bull, like any young blood who follows the ring. But I saw his seeking eyes, and went toward him.

‘Theseus!’ he said, making eyes at me and tossing back his hair. ‘I vow you are of all men, the most fickle. You have forgotten my feast and eaten in the Bull Court! You have crystal for a heart. Well, I will forgive you still, if you come now for the music. But hurry; the wine is poured out already.’

I begged his pardon and said I would come. ‘The wine is poured’ was a signal agreed on between us, for something that could not wait.

We went out into the Great Court, which, since it was still early, was full of lamplight, and of people with torches passing to and fro. He caught my eye, then leaned upon a column in a Cretan pose. As someone passed he said, ‘How can you be so cruel?’ and fingered my necklace and drew me near. The he said softly, ‘Minos has sent for you. The way is marked as before. You must go alone.’

He spoke as if he had learned it off. But I had never had word from the King, except from the Goddess. I stared, trying to read him. His Cretan looks, his finery, his foppish ways, all made him doubtful to me, once I began to doubt. I knew nothing of his standing among the warriors. My eyes met his. He took my by the arm, a grip tender to look at but strong and hard. ‘I have a token for you. Watch out, and take it like a love gift.’ someone came past us [he said], ‘Wear it, my dear, and think of me’... He slipped it on my hand. Under his warning eye I smiled, turning it this way and that. I had seen it once before. So I leaned on his shoulder, as I had seen youths do in Crete, and whispered, ‘It is enough. What does he want?’ He put his arm around my waist and said, ‘He did not tell. It is something heavy.’ Then he looked past my shoulder and murmured swiftly, ‘One of Asterion’s people. We mustn’t look too well together. Quick, give me the slip.’ I shrugged him coyly off me, and went away. Though I felt a fool, I had no more doubts of him.” (pp. 324-5)

I read this book probably around age twelve, maybe thirteen.

I’m not sure what to call this figure I’m describing. The title of this entry is how Phaedrus comes to see Conory, and it’s a good summation of what I find compelling about him. That flashy, unapologetic androgyny, combined with surprising strength and formidable skills (even if only for acrobatics) was all part of it. I loved the idea of someone being feminine and dangerous, if anything dangerous in part because of his effeminacy. Not the most Quakerly of thoughts, of course, but I was in junior high at the time, as close to lord of the flies I ever hope to come. Don’t worry, I wasn’t actually bullied much. I had gotten very good at being invisible, so mostly people just ignored me. This creature though, he didn’t hide, he didn’t avoid people’s attention, he demanded it, knowing he deserved it, he was a delight to the eye, and could take care of himself if there was any trouble.

What would I have done if I had met such a person in real life? I would have fled screaming the other direction. I would have had nothing to do with this guy when I was a teenager, and was well into college before he wouldn’t have freaked me out. The men who came closest to this image at the time either seemed ridiculous (Elton John, Liberace), or scary (Bowie). (I never saw Mick Jagger this way for some reason.) Nor was there any way on God’s little green earth I was going to BE this person. I’d managed to win the two fights I couldn’t avoid (scuffles, really), but my invisibility policy was working even better, why mess with a good thing? I think I wanted to be him though, flashy, eye-catching, powerful, and dangerous.

By high school Boy George, Annie Lennox, Prince, Michael Jackson, and their imitators were on the scene. None of them scared me (though I thought most of them ridiculous), and I could even enjoy their music without repercussions. Androgyny was talked about more. I know their very existence still freaked a lot of people out, but I never saw any of them as having that dangerous power I found so compelling. Annie Lennox and Prince occasionally got close. All of them did help get me more comfortable with the gentler, less threatening face of this image, and that was good.

In college I finally met the great-granddaddy of these guys, Dionysus in Euripides The Bacchae. I had just come out months before, so this was my first time meeting the figure when I was free to enjoy him. Sure, I think he overdoes it with poor stupid Pentheus, but I still loved his combination of feminine sensuality and panther-like ferocity. Here was this creature turned force of nature, a natural and universal impulse we deny at our peril. Though I’ve never gotten to play him in The Bacchae, over the years he’s danced in and out of my life; some of the solo performing I’ve done has been in his guise as Bromios, and once or twice I’ve gotten to play Dionysian-like characters in other plays. Seeing as how this is the second entry I’ve written touching on androgyny, he’s clearly still a potent figure in my life, even if we’re not in touch presently. It was fun realizing where and when I actually met him.


Melissa said...

So worth the read sweet Patrick...

And funny that you should be thinking of that now - I was just having some identity revelation discussions with Zoe...talking about how I always knew I was proud to be a girl, and enjoyed girly things...(dancing, dolls, but also matchbox cars and climbing trees) but really I would have been happiest if I could have been a young-girl-who-had-to-dress-as-a-boy-
you know the type? I used to read about them like crazy....
Lovely when the hat comes off, but tough as nails right up to that moment.
Now I'm happy to aim for strong and capable with lip stick and a skirt...
I know its not quite the same, but the affect those concepts have on who we might become and how we might present ourselves to the world in a unique way (while defending ourselves if needed) is interesting!
The beauty of your powerful androgyny images is so compelling...I want to read the King Must Die again!!

Paul said...

Do these things really go "over the head" of the average ten year old? Or are they just not unusual -- no big deal, and unquestioned?

I wonder.

At what age are kids taught prejudice and hate?

Patrick said...

Dear Sweet Melissa: actually that figure, let's call her the tom boy for short, corresponds quite nicely with the image I'm describing. The drag queen is something else (and another image I had to learn to appreciate), but this guy... it's almost like he's a male tom boy, as Eddie Izzard likes to call himself. Something like that... Yes, I think the images we conjur, and the stories we tell ourselves play huge roles in how we see ourselves, and live our lives. You would also love the sequel to The King Must Die, called The Bull From the Sea. There you meet Hippolyta; you'd like her.;)

Paul: I guess the only reason I think the innuendo about Conory - specifically secret between him and Midir- went over my head is because when I reread the book as an adult, that passage hit me like I'd never seen it before. I had a shocked 'a ha!' moment. I understood the visual impact of Conory himself all along, certainly, but I think at age ten, while I understood the mechanics of sex and procreation, I really knew nothing about desire, especially not desire between men.

I think the 'be a man' stuff we're taught gradually over time. It happens at different rates for different people, but no later than puberty I think we start picking up on very rigid definitions of masculinity, and the price one pays for deviating from it. I don't meant to suggest there is a simple mechanism for teaching prejudice, but I think that is a time when most of us get a big booster shot of it, especially concerning gender roles.

somewhere joe said...

Patrick this is marvelous, a remarkable piece of gay studies... beautifully pondered and articulated. I remember the sensation that Mary Renault created with The Persian Boy. Some women have an uncanny appreciation of male homosexuality.

I was thinking about the paradigm you propose... a flamboyant, androgynous type who can kick your ass. Difficult trick to pull off since those characteristics - androgyny, flamboyance, ferocity - as archetypes anyway, often add up to villainy. Heroes are usually artless, and androgyny suggests diminished physical prowess. It strikes me, though, that the androgynous hero in literature and myth often has access to occult powers. Isn't there a rather fey character in Lord Of The Rings, one of the movies, who is not only powerful, but good as well...

Real world examples in modern life are harder to come by, at least in which that particular synthesis is exemplified.

As an aside, I never thought of Elton John, even at his most flamboyant, as ridiculous. His embrace of outrage was over the top, but triumphant. Being a pop giant with the most consecutive #1 albums in history didn't hurt. That's the kick-ass part. A lesser talent would probably come off as merely ridiculous.

Somebody else who comes to mind is Dennis Rodman. Straight, but flirting outrageously with androgyny... and again his competitive prowess on the court was his license to vamp.

Perhaps Greg Louganis comes closest, in spirit, to your model... Physically beautiful, artful, androgynous enough... and a kick-ass Olympic gold medal performance in Los Angeles that brought the world to its feet.

Normally, I'm not that interested in gay culture... I believe it largely sprang as a defensive response to oppression. Homosexuality in my opinion, just is, and its cultural fetishization will probably fade with its acceptance. I think homosexuality is in a somewhat giddy, but relative immature phase of self-celebration.

It strikes me that the oblique suggestions of homosexuality in historic art and literature derive their intrigue precisely from its implied status as something covert, forbidden, or special. So my response is ambivalent. I enjoy the titillation, while realizing that in the long run, that's kid's stuff. On the other hand, it strikes me that the our determination to see homosexuality mainstreamed, and for some pretty good reasons, may end up destroying some of its heretofore most enchanting attributes. What's better than forbidden love? I think that was one of the most engaging things about Brokeback Mountain - forbidden love, largely without reference to the gay subculture that in some ways has banalized our experience.

Thanks for this thought-provoking excursion, Patrick.

somewhere joe said...

One more thing, and to get back to the heart of your post - contrast. Cooper touches on it at the corridor today. And I think that's what you're talking about too... "the tempered blade in the fantastic silken sheath."

Traditional culture is inclined to encrust masculinity with masculine trappings which, paradoxically, often diminishes the thing it attempts to enhance. I think I've alluded to this here before, but Mick Jagger's youthful toying with lipstick and eye shadow only brought his maleness into more striking relief.

Patrick said...

Joe: I can't remember if it was the Persian Boy or the Charioteer I read first, simply because they were lying around the house, but it was definitely one of them. I suspect it was Persian Boy because the cover would have drawn me in (a reproduction of a Michelangelo), then the blurb on the back would have closed the deal. Talk about blowing the roof off my world. I was probably eleven or twelve then. Charioteer had the gay stuff AND Quakers AND pacifism... yowza.
Like you, I was thinking this morning about Russo's Celluloid Closet, and his discussion of the evil cross-dresser; if a character blurs gender lines at all, he or she either a joke, or an evil character who dies a horrible death at the end. Actually the dying often occurs in either case. Though I haven't seen it, I know some people felt the portrayal of Darius in the movie 300 fit this type, in contradiction of historical fact, and the suspicion was it was a way of de-gayifying the buff, half-naked heroes of the movie.

For the record, I love Elton John and Bowie NOW, and can even appreciate the phenomenon at least of Liberace; my point was that back then, they treaded close to this territory I found tantalizing in the books and distasteful coming from them. I loved the movie Velvet Goldmine for it's exploration of the 70s glam rock phase, but as a kid in the 70s, all that stuff was creepy to me.
Rodman is a good one to bring up, I always forget about him. It's also funny to remember how many pop stars were accused of being androgynous at the time, though we wouldn't see it by present day standards. The Beatles, Elvis, Jim Morrison, Roger Daltry all were accused of blurring the line and endangering western civilization. (For my younger readers, yes, even the Beatles.

I agree with you on Jagger, and think that all the gorgeous pop star boys presently wearing eye-liner tread the same ground. Male, with just a little more flash (I've got to find a better adjective than that) that only emphasizes it. And I'll admit, I find a lot of them hot.

Paul said...

Interestingly, I can't remember when I learned Elton John was gay. I just liked his music.

Did his flamboyance go over my head? I think I just didn't care.

Now Dennis Rodman ... I never could accept him in a wedding dress. Too weird for me.

john said...

I also wonder how much of this goes over someone's head, or how much we tend to just look the other way.
I remember wondering about things like this when I was younger--and the friendship bonds between characters in books like "A Separate Peace". I was in 9th grade when I read it and still I had wondered about why they were so close to one another.

Cooper said...

Beautiful, evocative post, Patrick. I'm going to be really honest here. Reading your intriguing post and the interesting, lively banter between you and Joe here in the comments, served to make me feel kind of uneducated. I read it twice, and was googling things like "Dionysus" and "Bromios" so I'd have an inkling or a reference point from which to make a half-intelligent commment. Really, I had never heard of the books or characters you mentioned. I have so much to learn, to discover ... and what a joy that will be.

Elton John, though, I have loved since I was 3 years old. B B Benny and the Jets was my toddler party piece.

"As an aside, these words from Joe:

"Normally, I'm not that interested in gay culture... I believe it largely sprang as a defensive response to oppression. Homosexuality in my opinion, just is, and its cultural fetishization will probably fade with its acceptance."

Amen, Joe. That is exactly how I feel, too! You just managed to state the essence of my own thoughts in a way I haven't ever been able to voice as I wished.

Patrick said...

Darling Cooper: Oh dear, that is definitely not the reaction I want people to have. Nor do I think it's an accurate perception of you. 'Uneducated'? Good lord, no. If I thought someone was uneducated because he/she hadn't read a particular book or two, I'd have to put myself first on the list (though I agree with you, fixing the 'problem' would be a lot of fun).

Keep in mind both these books are probably not that widely known these days, at least not in North America. Rosemary Sutcliff is better known among kids now, I believe, but people of my generation or older only knew her if they lived in the UK. Mary Renault is probably more widely known, but mostly among readers, especially gay men, 40 and up. She was hugely popular and successful when she first published, but very few people I meet who are younger than me have even heard of her. I don't know why, her writing is exceptional, and she does get taught in some schools, but her popular appeal seems to have waned. If you like historical fiction, then you would probably enjoy both writers, but not everyone likes that genre. I can also recommend a great book about Dionysus, but only if that interests you.

And keep in mind, ultimately this post was about a boy finding reassurance in books, by meeting a figure who spoke to a scary, secret part of himself, and made it admirable, or at least something to take confidence in.

Melissa said...

I had also somewhat forgotten about Dennis Rodman...He definitely confused me at the time.
I think there is something in the possession of EVERYTHING that has us all the being of not-quite-one-thing-or-the-other that is fascinating, and then to find out that being also has mad skills...
It is just hot, any sex or dress, it just Is.
Bromios is perfection as that example -
Joe, Cooper and Paul, you haven't seen Patrick perform this role, but I have had the pleasure- When he dances his monologue in which Bromios walks into a bar expecting to be loved and is instead confronted by close-minded fear...he smites some serious ignoramus ass.... it is so very satisfying. (hmm...Androgynous Vigilantism...)
Cooper - I hadn't ever heard of Mary Renault until Patrick introduced me to her...

somewhere joe said...

Paul said: "Now Dennis Rodman ... I never could accept him in a wedding dress." Well, yes. I think that is exactly what Rodman was playing with. His unacceptability. But he was also in posession of those extraordinary "mad skills", and badass athletic skills at that, that Melissa alluded to. "Take this!" he was saying. "I'm so bad that I'll wear a wedding dress..." But layered into that was the touch of flirty sexual ambiguity which, cultivated or not, made the whole pose so entertaining.

somewhere joe said...

Cooper, there isn't a doubt in my mind that you could put anything into words that you were motivated to. Some things are closer to your heart, your hearth, your experience, than others.

Greg said...

Another thoughtful and beautiful post here, Patrick. As much as we seem to have in common, our reading history seems often wildly different--how I would love to spend a year or more in your personal library (or better still, having you read to me)!

I remember trying The Persian Boy when it was passed on to me (around age 25) in a bagful of books some older gay friends had suggested were sort of must-reads, back when finding People Like Us in literature was still a novelty for me.

I'm afraid I was impatient with wading through the historical (which I normally love), and I set it aside for more familiar, contemporary (20th century) storytelling, such as Edmund White's "A Boy's Own Story" and a few precious others whose names just now sadly escape me.

In this regard, I can relate to where Coop is coming from. It's certainly not that you are trying to put anyone down as uneducated; we're just gasping for breath after the immersion into new literary waters!