Read Christopher Bram’s Mapping the Territory.

Posted on September 30, 2009
Filed Under Book Review | 351 Comments

Queer readers no doubt will be tempted to read the most tantalizing articles in Christopher Bram’s new book first and then perhaps not get around to reading the others.  “Homage to Jimmy,” for example is a fascinating explanation of how “Gods and Monsters” grew from a personal obsession to a novel and finally, an excellent film.  “Faggots Revisited” is a surprisingly literate, unusually even-handed examination of Larry Kramer’s now-thirty-one year-old novel.  And it has a surprise ending.  “Can Straight Men Still Write?” is both intelligent and ironically humorous.  Yes skipping from one tasty morsel to the next has a certain logic to it; cockroaches instinctively eat the chips on a chocolate chip cookie first.  But–in this case–I must strongly argue against this urge.

If you don’t read Mr. Bram’s book all the way through, from beginning to end, you will be depriving yourself of a supreme pleasure.  Because Mapping the Territory scans.  From the first article, Mr. Bram demonstrates a remarkable story-telling ability.  These articles have a beginning, a middle and an end.  And they seque smoothly from one article to the next.  It is a tribute to Mr. Bram–and presumably his editor–that this queer reader frequently found himself forgetting he was reading a collection of articles.  In fact, it reads more like a literary memoir.

If you don’t read Christopher Bram’s Mapping the Territory all the way through from beginning to end, you might find yourself missing “Perry Street, Greenwich Village”–one of my favorite pieces.  Mr. Bram grew up in Virginia and this is clearly an outsider’s view of New York.  It is frequently humorous, but the humor here does not come from putting people down.  It comes from a genuine appreciation of humanity.

Every queer should read “Hearts of Stone: AIDS and the Common Reader,” and “Mapping the Territory: Gay Men’s Writing.”  These two articles present a highly intelligent, literate overview of the state of queer literature.  In “A Queer Monster,” Mr. Bram objectively examines the question of Henry James’ sexuality.

Queer readers will also enjoy, “A Sort of Friendship: Some Thoughts on Gay Marriage.”  Nice to have some intelligent input on the subject.  Mr. Bram reveals that he has been with his “boyfriend” for twenty-five years and they have no intention of getting married.  But it is Mr. Bram’s wit and humor that make this article worthwhile.

I am reluctant to go on, because I don’t want to help you pick and choose.  Instead, let me offer you this advice:  Read Christopher Bram’s Mapping the Territory from beginning to end.

Christopher Bram’s Mapping the Territory:  Selected Nonfiction is published by Alyson.


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