Monday, August 29, 2005

Eaten by a Bear, and Other Comforts

Despite a fairly significant amount of downtime over the weekend, I don't feel like I've made forward progress in my goals. Sadly, when I think about why I feel that way, I realize that my goal is to get all these books read. You know, the ones I'm planning to read. Now, somehow that doesn't seem very life-affirming; get it done, cross them off the list, and everything will be fine.

I spent most of the weekend rereading. A little of Expecting Adam, which really had an impact on me the first time I read it, but which a more skeptical second reading is revealing as more of a good read than maybe the gospel I took it for. I feel a little gullible for buying wholesale into th whole thing; not that I disbelieve it, but a healthy skepticism makes you evaluate how well everything ties together, and whether you REALLY had those thoughts before those other things happened. Anyway, it's still well written, and I'm sorry to lose my excited first reaction, but I have.

Mostly, though, I was reading The Clan of the Cave Bear. Linden and I used to sit around and talk about what we thought would happen in the next sequel to come out. What basic element of civilization would she discover next? She's tamed animals--will she domesticate crops? She invented the sewing needle. Next? Discover the wheel, perhaps? Anyway, it was really soothing to read. I'm kind of skimming--there are a lot of descriptive passages that I've enjoyed in the past, but this time I'm just skimming through the story. It's so soothing and reassuring. A childhood favorite, despite, you know, the sex.

Now that I'm back to the commute, though, I'm reading my Commute Book, which is currently Cures. This is a memoir of a gay man who spent the fifties alternately cruising bars and bath houses and in therapy trying to get "cured" of his homosexuality. It's told in a very matter-of-fact manner, very like sitting down and having someone outline his life for you, going into detail when necessary to make the point. It also does a good job of evoking the social environment of the time--not just the facts, but the sense that not only is heterosexuality the norm, so is monogomy, and that this is a big part of the problem.

But I sort of feel like he does his story a disservice when he discusses some of these topics. He presents very clearly the objective and subjective facts of his life at the time, but he doesn't do much tempering of the subjective part through a modern lens.

I might be misreading my own reasons for being thrown off, but I think it's because he doesn't sort out some of the jumbled mixed-messages there were in the fifties. He equates the perceived wrongness of homosexuality and the perceived wrongness of promiscuity together. And of course, at the time, for him, they were all mixed up. But I think, whether or not both of them had equal validity, in modern times it's worth trying to work out how they were separate things.

I'm working through about seven library books right now. Wish me luck.

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