cover image The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, and Then Some 1976–1988

The Rest of It: Hustlers, Cocaine, and Then Some 1976–1988

Martin Duberman. Duke Univ., $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8223-7070-3

Historian Duberman’s dry third memoir, after Cures (1992) and Midlife Queer (1996), covers “the most painful years” in the author’s life, a decade “replete with repetitive angst over unresponsive lovers” and broken friendships and political alliances. Duberman flips between two tracks in his reporting of a period in his life that spans from the death of his mother in 1977 to the establishment of CUNY’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in 1991. Parts of the book cover Duberman’s personal life; he shares generally self-deprecating stories about his romantic failures and his hospitalization for depression against a backdrop of gay culture, activism, academics, and politics in Reagan-era Manhattan. This section demonstrates Duberman’s historian bona fides in its retrospective and critical depiction of the social complexities of the decade. On the second track, which focuses on his professional life, he launches an aggressive, and much more self-aggrandizing, defense of his academic work. In particular, Duberman creates an extended narrative of his experience writing a biography of actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson (1898–1976), traveling the world for research and maintaining authorial integrity despite the interference of Robeson’s son, who sponsored the project. Even Duberman’s most personal prose retains a distant and academic tone, as if he is pulling out the same lens to look at himself that he would use for any other subject. As a result, Duberman comes across as both withdrawn and exposed. The cumulative effect is odd and enticing. (Mar.)