Fear not. Today I'd like to share the tale with you of a deeply sexual man . . . a literary man, and a teacher. A man who began having sex with other men early in his life, and found it so thrilling and erotic that he devoted an entire secret life to it that he obsessively documented in his personal files and diaries. A creative artist who fucked his way through hundreds upon hundreds of men over the decades as he chronicled his sexual escapades in obsessive detail.
Wait, why do you think I'm talking about myself?
One of Breeder's Readers whom I can now claim as an acquaintance, Justin Spring, has written a biography that's hitting the shelves today. Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is a look at a little-known but pivotal figure in gay American history. As Publisher's Weekly says:
Life in the closet proves boisterous indeed in this biography of an iconic figure of the pre-Stonewall gay demimonde. Steward (1909–1993) was an English professor, a novelist who wrote both well-received literary fiction and gay porn, a confidant of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder, a furtive but exuberant erotic adventurer whose taste for sailors, rough trade, and violent sadomasochism endeared him to sex researcher Alfred Kinsey; later in life, he became Phil Sparrow, official tattoo artist of the Oakland, Calif., Hell's Angels. Spring fleshes out this colorful story by quoting copiously from his subject's highly literate journals and sex diaries—his Stud File contained entries on trysts with everyone from Rudolph Valentino to Rock Hudson—which afford an unabashed account of Steward's erotic picaresque and the yearnings that drove it. (His swerve from academia into tattooing, with its mix of physical pain and proximity to nubile male flesh, was essentially a fetish turned into a business.) Spring's sympathetic and entertaining story of a life registers the limitations imposed on homosexuals by a repressive society, but also celebrates the creativity and daring with which Steward tested them.I downloaded the first two chapters of the book as a sample on my iPad and thoroughly enjoyed them; I can't wait to purchase the book today and find out what happens next. Steward's life leaps from one erotic escapade to the next, it seems, and I'm fascinated to see how he became connected with many of the literary names of the early twentieth century, as well as his strange relationship with Alfred Kinsey. The New York Times recently published an article on the work that only whetted my appetite for more.
I hope my not-so-subtle plug for a new friend's work is urging you to run to your local bookseller or your online vendor of choice to purchase what looks like a fascinating document about a man obsessed with documenting his sexual yearnings.
And honestly, I don't know why you thought I was talking about myself. Sheesh. You guys.