Friday, January 17, 2014

Sam Steward, the Secret Historian

I just finished on this snowy, cold day, Justin Spring's excellent biography of Samuel Steward, English professor, tattoo artist, and historian of his own sexual life.

If we are friends on Goodreads or Facebook, you've probably already seen my little blurb about the book. I wish I could say more. I wish it were easier for me to expound on what I feel about it, but I can't. All I can really think about is how much I want to begin the book again. How I want to read everything in Spring's bibliography. How I wish I could've known Steward, Stein, Toklas, Lynes, Douglas Martin. I feel like there is a wide canyon between me and a life that occurred just a few decades ago - made a bit wider by the losses of the AIDS epidemic and even by the great social strides made post-Stonewall. Or possibly I'm just silly and don't know how good I've got it. But still...

It seems we've gone, so much, from discovering new things and insisting on a life to distraction and gadgets (I say, as I type on my gadget.)

Ah, well...

Well, if you are reading my blog, I command you to go get a copy of Spring's The Secret Historian...it isn't just about a singular man, but of a time and how that man was evidence of that time.

Here's a bit towards the end...

Academic and popular accounts of homosexual life during the 1940s, 50s, early 60s have generally been accounts of marginalization, trauma, and victimhood. Tales of persecution, blackmail, and social ostracism were, in fact, the essential conditions of an entire generation of homosexual men who lived through a period of sexual intolerance and social opprobrium that is barely imaginable today. No wonder, then, that so few lively accounts of everyday homosexual experience survive from that time. But Steward was different: in quietly rejecting society's notion that both he and his sexual nature were abhorrent, he had the presence of mind and the force of character to insist that society was wrong, not he. His various life records demonstrate, as few others have, just how difficult a set of circumstances and prejudices surrounded and shaped his everyday existence. (Spring 411)

2 comments:

John Gothro said...

I am putting this on my list of books to buy.
JPinPDX

Writer said...

Definitely, John. Also see if there are anymore copies of An Obscene Diary available. It's well worth it. :)