The Penguin Book of International Gay Writing

Mark Mitchell, Editor, David Leavitt, Introduction by
Mark Mitchell, Editor, David Leavitt, Introduction by Viking Books $27.95 (608p) ISBN 978-0-670-85369-4
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
Paperback - 608 pages - 978-0-14-023459-6
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Leavitt and Mitchell co-edited last year's The Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories, and now Mitchell assembles 46 pieces of fiction and nonfiction in translation by 41 writers from Europe, Asia and Latin America. As before, the authors-famous and little-known, contemporary and ancient-are not necessarily gay, but do depict a broad range of homosexual experience. Many of the names are expected and welcome: Gide, Mishima, Cocteau, Puig. Wisely, Mann's ""Death in Venice"" is reprinted in its entirety (in a fine new translation by David Luke). By contrast, more than three-quarters of the entries are excerpts from longer works and thus suffer from a sense of incompleteness. In addition, a provocative thread running through many pieces dwells on the carnal fulfillment men find with boys, most notably in an excerpt from Tony Duvert's When Jonathan Died, about a man's physical relationship with a sexually precocious pre-adolescent. Also represented are Barthes, Balzac, Boccaccio, Yourcenar and Camus. Plato attests to the normalcy of homosexual desire. Freud deconstructs one of Leonardo's childhood memories to explore the Italian's homosexuality. Erotic responses to the martyrdom of St. Sebastian and to Christ occur several times, and an appreciation of sadomasochism is traced in several works, including the writings of the Marquis himself. Most rewarding are two short stories debuting in English: ""An Angel at Orsay,"" by Patrick Drevet about a sensual encounter in the Musee d'Orsay, and ""Mona,"" by Cuban Reinaldo Arenas. In the latter, Leonardo surfaces once again, this time as a lascivious Mona Lisa. (Feb.)
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