Tuesday, September 13, 2005


I'm not quite done reading Cures: A Gay Man's Odyssey, but I think I'm ready to pick it apart.

First, I like the word "odyssey," but probably couldn't have spelled it if the book cover wasn't right here. I don't know for sure that I would call this story an odyssey, though I suppose it was subjectively. It's not really a story of someone having adventures, though I have no doubt there were many adventures to be had in the New York gay scene in the '60s. In fact, it's implied that he had some of them. But they're not central to this book.

Central to the book, as you can tell by the title, is therapy. Psychoanalysis to a lesser extent, but psychological explanations in general--Erikson's developmental stages Freud's ideas of repression and displacement, etc. The author, Martin Duberman, debunks a lot of the conclusions psychology came to over the years about homosexuality, but he totally buys psychology. It's his primary lens for everything. I find that interesting in a refreshing way, in that he was able to reject the conclusions of a field whose methodology he considers valid. It's almost like he thinks psychologists aren't using their toolbox properly. I also found it a little tiresome, because he spends a lot of time quoting his diary, in which he delves a lot.

I don't think I would recommend this book as a casual read, though I think I would strongly recommend it to someone who had a specific interest in the topic. It's just not compelling enough to stand on its own--he repeats the same patterns in his life, and fills much of his time with his work as an historian and civil rights and anti-war activist. All of those things are not merely related, but reflected in the prose. Still, it's almost unfathomable to me how the world thought--and often still thinks--about people, and he relates many of these circumstances very well.

Also I disagree with him about promiscuity (meaning, I think but am not certain, also infidelity) being fine and dandy just because it's natural. We restrict a lot of natural urges for the good of society, and I think it's important not to say that just because we once thought homosexuality was sick, but we were wrong, does not mean that it's wrong to demand any restriction on sexual behavior by society.

But I'm not arguing well, possibly because my wrist hurts. This is all for now.

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