Sunday, May 25, 2003 ::: I finished reading the Gay Metropolis by Charles Kaiser. It was in some ways an excellent depiction of gay life in New York in the twentieth century, but I think the subject matter becomes too vast to effectively cover, especially after Stonewall. The middle part of the twentieth century, however, is well written, informative and interesting, especially for readers with an interest in artistic life of the time - the ghettoization of those sufficiently out at the time almost forced them into the creative worlds of dance, art and theater, or at least it seems that way as described in the book.
The description of the AIDS epidemic as it hit in the eighties is also quite amazing, even if it resorts to focusing on a few individuals and their stories, it nonetheless captures the jarring effects of the disease on the gay community at the time, and how it changed the way gay men live. Kaiser also includes the entire New York times article first describing AIDS in July of1981, in which I happened to notice the most interesting sentence, which Kaiser does not choose to comment on -
"There is no national registry of cancer victims, but the nationwide incidence of Kaposi's Sarcoma in the past had been estimated ... [at] about two cases for every three million people. However, the disease accounts for up to 9 percent of all cancers in a belt across equatorial Africa, where it commonly affects children and young adults."
Considering the current prevalence of HIV and AIDS in that very same region of the world, it is a wonder that it took so long to make the connection between the disease which was having such a devastating effect on the gay community in North America was already so well established in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of course, the extreme poverty of the region and prevalence of other lethal diseases such as malaria and general tendency of that region of the world's problems to be ignored by wealthier nations would seem to account for the discrepancy. Many books could be written on the matter. Some probably have already.
But back to the book. I would have been happier with a more academic rather than journalistic approach to the subject matter, and I think more discussion of women and minorities would have made it a better book, but that I think is almost always a place where there is room for improvement in such a book.
Friday, May 09, 2003 ::: I've finished a lot of books that I'd been reading on and off for a while. I also just read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and it's amazing! an account of the Iranian Revolution from the perspective of a young teenage girl, Persepolis is I think most gripping because of the empathetic egotism of the young girl. She wants to the last prophet of god (who wouldn't). Yes, (poorer) boys her age are dying on the battlefields, but she got invited to her first exciting teenage party ever, and it was a blast. And yes, toilet humor is universally funny and also universally frowned upon.
I've also just started reading Mrs. Astor's New York and noticed this rather interesting entry in the index:
anglophilia 5-6 ,130-1, 142, 240; bad taste of 3; coaches, passion for 6;
coats of arms, fondness for 63; Dutch origins, pride in 158-159;
exclusivity, thirst for 7-8, 10-11, 27, 87, 121, 149, 150, 156, 194, 211,
218; extravagance of 176; genealogy, interest in 156-157; Greek shawls,
vogue for 6, 141; hauteur of 5; Hungarian bonnets, vogue for 6, 141;
incoherence 8, 26-27; luxury, anxiety about 97, 104; neighorhoods as symbols
of 67; ostentation 3, 21, 84, 97, 210; parvenu, dread of, 8, 24, 27, 63,
150, 156, 180, 184-185, 187; perimeter of, 5; polo 6; press attention to 21;
pretensions of 3; public interest in 6; 7, 11-12; tiaras, fondess for 3;
wealth an 60, 98; yachting 6
Thursday, May 01, 2003 ::: Today's post has a fascinating article about the culture of accident runners, a vocation apparently unique to the District of Columbia. These people comb police reports and arrive at the scene of car accidents, offering their services to help those obtain the best reimbursement and treatment from their insurance companies.