No, the title of
this month's editorial is not metaphoric. In fact, this is a real
reading list, posing as an editorial. You see, once upon a time
BENT did feature reviews
of books relevant to our cripgay experience (and may one day
again), but finding titles that met that criterion proved more and
the excuse of a summer reading list, I've decided to offer a handful
of books, wildly disparate in subject matter, that I have found
thought-provoking. Not all of them are current. Some are decades
old but new to me.
relevant are these books to "our cripgay experience"?
I'll leave that to you.
COMEBACK: Six Remarkable
People who Triumphed Over Disability
By FRANK BOWE (Harper & Row, 1981)
Get past the "inspirational" title and you may be in for
a few surprises. The publication date alone guarantees historical
interest. "One wonders whether his parents were right to withhold
from Roger the fact of his retardation. It is easy to understand
why they did. After all, they continued to hold out hope that it
would all be 'cleared up' someday soon, so why worry the child unduly?"
FIREBIRD, A MEMOIR
By MARK DOTY (Harper Collins, 1999)
"Sixty years before, as a second- or third-grader, Warren sat
behind a boy whom he admired, a popular and handsome kid, and one
day Warren noticed something he had never before observed. When
the handsome boy wore a polo shirt, his arm filled the sleeve so
that the fabric stretched a little. Warren's arms did not fill a
sleeve in this way; it had never occurred to him that an arm could
fill a sleeve, and in observing this characteristic of the boy's
body Warren realized that he found it remarkable; the muscle, in
its taught encasement of cloth, was a beautiful thing."
By KATHERINE DUNN (Warner Books, 1983)
"We have this advantage, that the norms expect us to be wise.
Even the rat's-ass dwarf jester got credit for terrible canniness
disguised in his foolery. Freaks are like owls, mythed into blinking,
bloodless objectivity. The norms figure our contact with their brand
of life is shaky. They see us cut off from temptation and pettiness..
Even our hate is grand by their feeble lights. And the more deformed
we are, the higher our supposed sanctity."
I PUT A SPELL ON YOU
NINA SIMONE with STEPHEN CLEARY
(Da Capo Press, 1993)
"I didn't suddenly wake up one morning feeling dissatisfied.
These feelings just became more and more intense, until by the time
the sixties ended I'd look in the mirror and see two faces, knowing
that on the one hand I loved being black and being a woman, and
that on the other it was my color and sex which had fucked me up
in the first place."
True Stories of Traumatic Memories, Lost and Found
By LENORE TERR, M.D. (Basic Books, 1994)
"Gary strove for control because he once had none. His mother's
games of death had given him plenty of ways to 'play' with his own
A MIND OF ITS OWN:
A Cultural History of the Penis
By David M. Friedman (The Free Press, 2001)
"At first, most circumcisions were done on boys, not infants,
of the middle and upper classes. According to historian David L.
Gollaher, a circumcised penis soon became a badge of statusproof
of one's membership in the American elite. (Europeans, however,
never bought this argument, though they were as phobic about masturbation
as everyone else. As a result, circumcision failed to spread outside
the Jewish community there.)"
PUSHING TIME AWAY:
My Grandfather and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna
By Peter Singer (Harper Collins, 2003)
"A misguided upbringing and a hostile social environment may
suppress our natural sense of community, and instill in us the false
belief that we can find fulfillment by thinking only of ourselves.
If education can change the way in which children are reared, they
will cease to see work for the common good as an obligation imposed
from outside. Working with others for a common goal will instead
be the natural result of following our need to belong to a community."
TIMES SQUARE RED, TIMES
By Samuel R. Delany (New York University Press, 1999)
"I remember I asked him. 'Why are you sitting on your hands?'
He laughed. 'Cause they're so big and ugly. And I bite my nails
so bad. My mother used to make me sit on them, for an hour, every
time she caught me chewing on them. It never broke me of the habitit
just got me in the habit of trying to hide them whenever I could.'
'I think you have the most beautiful hands I've ever seen,' I said."
© 2003 BENT
Bob Guter has
been a bilateral amputee since the age of six as the result of
multiple birth defects. His writing has appeared in The New York
Times, Stagebill, and other publications. He lives in San Francisco
where he publishes and edits BENT.