Secret Histories, by Justin Spring,is the first major biography of the academic/novelist turned tattoo artist and gay male erotic writer Samuel Steward(1909-1993).Steward was an exceptionally brilliant man who taught in several western colleges at a time when to disclose one's sexuality would have been cause for immediate termination. He wound up at Loyola University in Chicago where he had a good career at the same time he began an epistolary relationship with Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas that ultimately resulted in their meeting in Europe on several occasions;he also had a number of interesting liaisons, including with Thornton Wilder.
All this while writing several fairly well- received, if not blockbuster hit novels.Steward also worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on his sex research , but it was his early 1960's decision to abandon the world of academia for a postion as tattoo artist in one of the rougher sections of Chicago under the name Phil Sparrow, as well as his beginning to write erotic novels with an S& M theme under the name Phil Andros,while still publishing under the name Samuel Steward , that goes to the core of this book.
Although Steward in some sense resembled his literary hero J Huysmans, the author of Against the Grain,La-Bas, and several other richly ornate novels of 19h century French decadence,Steward himself ultimately rejected the decadent and mystical in favor ofa forthright, no- nonsense acknowledgement of his own sexuality. It was this confessional honesty and his search for the healing power of truth, believes the author, that sets him apart from others.
Steward died in semi-obscurity in a shabby overcrowded bungalow in Oakland, Californa.surrounded by vast quantities of material in boxes on the floor.,
This book should ideally be read in conjunction with the one volume introductory autobiographical work penned by Steward, and perhaps his Phil Andros novels.
The World PEN author festival concluded a few weeks ago, a marvellous assemblage of talent with only a few missing,because of volcanic ash.Unfortunately, one of our favorites, Laszlo Krasznahorkai, the great Gogolian Hungarian author,was not able to make the trip.
At a session on the Future of Reading after Twitter, blogs and Kindle, Sergei Sokolovskiy, A Russina poet/essayist, gave his own slant on just what the future holds for us. His POV: that 100 years from now humans may no longer be the dominant species on the planet.Instead, that distinction may belong to sapient bacteria, who as of this juncture, are not known for their reading habits.
NB As of this date, according to the latest sscientific criterai, bacteria occupy a larger portion of the biomass of the earth than we do.With a right-leaningand property -oriented Supreme Court, could they use the power of eminent domain to evict our unicellular friends from the biomass?
Don't think too long on this one.