I’ve talked before about the massive influence that Gregory Woods’ book, Articulate Flesh: Male Homo- eroticism in Modern Poetry had on my thinking about my Jacobiad trilogy.
He conceptualizes that we might think of the male body as it is represented in poetry via Greco-Roman mythological figures.
What I admired about the book from the start was that it did not flinch away from the sexual, and how graphically the body can be represented in the poetry of both openly gay poets and heterosexual poets. It would have been easy for him to shy away from talking about the explicit ways that the teenager’s ass is admired (and lusted after) by the older man in some poetry. By the way, one of Woods' points is also that the male form is eroticised by authors who identify as heterosexual in many of the same explicit ways that homosexual writers celebrate the body.*
As you can see from my own work, I also think the idea of considering the erotics through the lens of Greco-Roman mythology is ingenious. At the core of each of my novels is this consideration, though if you read Woods’ book, you’ll see that that I have moved the divisions around. I think that perhaps this movement mirrors more closely the way that eroticism occurs in the abused male.
I was young when I encountered it. Still young enough that I looked up nervously whenever anyone passed by the aisle in Barnes and Noble where I was reading the book, trying to decide if I was brave enough to buy it. The copy I have currently was lovingly read nearly cover to cover in that aisle before I got up "enough stroke," as a friend of mine from that time would say, to take it to the counter and purchase it. That act of tiny bravery lead to the strength to buy Naked Lunch, which eventually lead to the strength to pic up Dennis Cooper books, and the rest is history. Because of that the book will always hold a special place in my heart. But beyond that, it is a brilliant piece of theorizing.
In many ways, chapter 1, "The Male Body," is the bedrock on which my entire career so far is built.
Woods has another book which I haven’t had a chance to read, yet, called, A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition (1999). It seems every bit as interesting to me. I realize that reclamation projects are not as interesting to some, perhaps, in an age where people are actively fighting against labeling their sexuality, which can lead to questioning the need for labelled sexuality within/as literary genres. I think, though, that these kinds of projects are incredibly useful and important.
In personal news, still plugging ahead on 3rd novel. The publisher and I both agree that summer-ish of next year is a very attainable goal, so pencil me in for your summer reading next year, won't you?
Massive family vacation coming up. Those are always somewhat treacherous waters. My attitudes and political leanings differ so greatly from most of my family that tensions arise often. The area is rich in wineries and distilleries, though, so I plan on exploring. I will try to get some pictures for you.
As always, thank you for your support, and for supporting indie presses. See you next month!
*= I'd quote from the book, but I want people to go out and buy copies as to help Woods in some small way for all he's done--hence the reason this month's entry seems more like a commercial than a critical examination of the text