Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Literary Tuesday

I know, I hear you asking, Literary Tuesday? Where's my smut?

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.


  1. Now why would we think that you were writing about yourself? There are absolutely no similarities between your life and Steward's at all! *grin*

    Will have to check it out. Especially if you've given it your stamp of approval.

  2. Luv2suk,

    I just got up to the part in which he sucked off Oscar Wilde's old lover. It's scandalous.

  3. Sign me up for The Breeder's Book Club. Your plugs (uh...so to speak) will likely become more sought-after than Oprah's. (I'm trying to walk away from that one "as is"...to just...leave it alone...)

    Not only have you recommended a book but you give us all the chance to recreate your B. Dalton encounter at our local bookstores. 'Preesh!

  4. Throb, buddy,

    No, I'm pretty sure Oprah's will be more sought-after. But I do my part.

  5. This should be great. I look forward to knowing more about the man. Steward, writing as Phil Andros, wrote porn that formed my desires and stoked my desire for a world I had never experienced. He certainly influenced the path I have taken. He should be required reading for all gay men who like erotica. Hot and Literary. H’mmm---that has a familiar ring around here…..

  6. FelchingPisser,

    I got another chapter in this morning. It's a great book so far!

  7. Thanks for proving yet again that you are the most literate blogger around....as well as one of the most enticing. Thanks for the suggestion.

  8. PJ,

    I'm a man of many things. Too many books is one of them. I hope you enjoy this one.

  9. There is a reason that the biggest sexual organ is the brain. Thank you for again showing us that smart, and literary, is sexy!

    As a lover of the printed word, not to mention sex, I have already placed my order.

  10. GH Fan,

    So true, so true. Come rub my brain a little. Yeah. Right there. You know how to stroke that gray matter, huh, boy?

  11. I ordered this on kindle and have been enjoying it, but I find myself wondering if the printed copy includes any of the photos Steward took, or his paintings. Kindles are great, but this may be a book that's better in print.