Knockout Narratives Sale
 
 

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores


    Recently Viewed clear list


    Original Essays | January 30, 2015

    Charles Baxter: IMG Writers and the Bottle



    Why are people so interested in drunk writers? Recently I was sent a very interesting nonfiction book, The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and... Continue »

    spacer

This item may be
out of stock.

Click on the button below to search for this title in other formats.


Check for Availability
Add to Wishlist

Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade

by

Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade Cover

ISBN13: 9780374281342
ISBN10: 0374281343
All Product Details

 

Awards

Staff Pick

Sam Steward moved between culture both high (he was a close friend of Gertrude Stein) and low (he became one of the foremost tattoo artists in the country, well before tattoos became socially acceptable, and authored several volumes of erotic fiction). He also kept detailed diaries and a "Stud File" of sexual partners, including Rudolph Valentino and Thornton Wilder. This highly readable biography gives a fascinating look into both pre-Stonewall gay culture and the mind of a man who above all else remained absolutely true to himself — no small feat at that time.
Recommended by Patrick, Powell's Books at PDX

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Drawn from the secret, never-before-seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel M. Steward, Secret Historian is a sensational reconstruction of one of the more extraordinary hidden lives of the twentieth century. An intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder, Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on, and documented these experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often very funny) detail.

After leaving the world of academe to become Phil Sparrow, a tattoo artist on Chicago's notorious South State Street, Steward worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on his landmark sex research. During the early 1960s, Steward changed his name and identity once again, this time to write exceptionally literate, upbeat pro-homosexual pornography under the name of Phil Andros.

Until today he has been known only as Phil Sparrow but an extraordinary archive of his papers, lost since his death in 1993, has provided Justin Spring with the material for an exceptionally compassionate and brilliantly illuminating life-and-times biography. More than merely the story of one remarkable man, Secret Historian is a moving portrait of homosexual life long before Stonewall and gay liberation.

Review:

"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 (Paul Cadmus) 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. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"This is a rare and important book. Secret Historian is a genuinely captivating combination of clear writing, a clean conscience, and more dirty stories than I ever imagined one life could hold." Debby Applegate, author of The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher

Review:

"The probity and expansive vision of Spring's work is a reminder that a great, outspread terrain of gay history remains to be mapped . . . One suspects there are many more stories of that time worth telling, and too few treasure-packed attics." The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"Steward was an obsessive record keeper, and his journals and his "Stud File" of thousands of encounters allow [Justin Spring] to create a remarkably full portrait of a man whose life was what Edmund White's might have been had White been born three decades earlier . . . [This] extensive documentation — and the miraculous rescue of that documentation, recounted in the books preface — left his biographer material to reconstruct an emblematic homosexual life." Benjamin Moser, Harpers

Review:

"This is a rich and exuberant biography of a man who deserves to be better known." The Economist

Review:

"Justin Spring's jaw-dropping Secret Historian reads like a novel probing a lifelong rebel's courage, creativity and ultimate sadness . . . Spring has reconstituted Steward, as Phil Andros might say, in flesh and blood and all sorts of bodily fluids." San Francisco Chronicle

Synopsis:

Drawn from the secret, never-before-seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel M. Steward, Secret Historian is a sensational reconstruction of one of the more extraordinary hidden lives of the twentieth century. An intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder, Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on, and documented these experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often very funny) detail.

After leaving the world of academe to become Phil Sparrow, a tattoo artist on Chicagos notorious South State Street, Steward worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on his landmark sex research. During the early 1960s, Steward changed his name and identity once again, this time to write exceptionally literate, upbeat pro-homosexual pornography under the name of Phil Andros.

Until today he has been known only as Phil Sparrow—but an extraordinary archive of his papers, lost since his death in 1993, has provided Justin Spring with the material for an exceptionally compassionate and brilliantly illuminating life-and-times biography. More than merely the story of one remarkable man, Secret Historian is a moving portrait of homosexual life long before Stonewall and gay liberation.

Secret Historian is a 2010 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.

About the Author

Justin Spring is a writer specializing in twentieth-century American art and culture, and the author of many monographs, catalogs, museum publications, and books, including Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art and Paul Cadmus: The Male Nude.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

motomama, January 12, 2011 (view all comments by motomama)
I couldn't put this down - Spring meticulously researched Steward and provides us with an interesting look into an extraordinary man and a great look at what gay life may have been like for people prior to the Stonewall era. The facts that Steward collected on all his "studs" made for fun reading, as well as the stories of those individuals he went into more detail about. I loved reading about Steward's interest in tattooing and how he became the "official" tattoo artist for Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels. The Kinsey Institute is lucky to have all this stuff. A wonderful book.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
davekingwriter, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by davekingwriter)
Justin Spring's biography of scholar/novelist/tattoo artist/renegade Samuel Steward is the year's most surprising and subtle biography.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
Catherine Johnson, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Catherine Johnson)
Justin Spring's book on the remarkable life of Sam Steward is a fun read, but also an extensively researched and well-written work of 20th century American history.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 4 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374281342
Publisher:
Farrar Straus Giroux
Subject:
Authors, American -- 20th century.
Author:
Spring, Justin
Subject:
Poets, American -- 20th century.
Subject:
Artists, Architects, Photographers
Subject:
Gay Studies
Subject:
Specific Groups - Male Gay Studies
Subject:
Biography - General
Subject:
Gay and Lesbian-General
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20100831
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 16 Pages of Black-and-White Ill
Pages:
496
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in

Related Subjects

Biography » Artists, Architects, and Photographers
Biography » Literary
Featured Titles » Literature
Gay and Lesbian » Fiction and Poetry » General
Gay and Lesbian » History and Social Science » History and Biographies
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Gay Studies
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 496 pages Farrar, Straus and Giroux - English 9780374281342 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Sam Steward moved between culture both high (he was a close friend of Gertrude Stein) and low (he became one of the foremost tattoo artists in the country, well before tattoos became socially acceptable, and authored several volumes of erotic fiction). He also kept detailed diaries and a "Stud File" of sexual partners, including Rudolph Valentino and Thornton Wilder. This highly readable biography gives a fascinating look into both pre-Stonewall gay culture and the mind of a man who above all else remained absolutely true to himself — no small feat at that time.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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 (Paul Cadmus) 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. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "This is a rare and important book. Secret Historian is a genuinely captivating combination of clear writing, a clean conscience, and more dirty stories than I ever imagined one life could hold."
"Review" by , "The probity and expansive vision of Spring's work is a reminder that a great, outspread terrain of gay history remains to be mapped . . . One suspects there are many more stories of that time worth telling, and too few treasure-packed attics."
"Review" by , "Steward was an obsessive record keeper, and his journals and his "Stud File" of thousands of encounters allow [Justin Spring] to create a remarkably full portrait of a man whose life was what Edmund White's might have been had White been born three decades earlier . . . [This] extensive documentation — and the miraculous rescue of that documentation, recounted in the books preface — left his biographer material to reconstruct an emblematic homosexual life."
"Review" by , "This is a rich and exuberant biography of a man who deserves to be better known."
"Review" by , "Justin Spring's jaw-dropping Secret Historian reads like a novel probing a lifelong rebel's courage, creativity and ultimate sadness . . . Spring has reconstituted Steward, as Phil Andros might say, in flesh and blood and all sorts of bodily fluids."
"Synopsis" by ,

Drawn from the secret, never-before-seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel M. Steward, Secret Historian is a sensational reconstruction of one of the more extraordinary hidden lives of the twentieth century. An intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder, Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on, and documented these experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often very funny) detail.

After leaving the world of academe to become Phil Sparrow, a tattoo artist on Chicagos notorious South State Street, Steward worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on his landmark sex research. During the early 1960s, Steward changed his name and identity once again, this time to write exceptionally literate, upbeat pro-homosexual pornography under the name of Phil Andros.

Until today he has been known only as Phil Sparrow—but an extraordinary archive of his papers, lost since his death in 1993, has provided Justin Spring with the material for an exceptionally compassionate and brilliantly illuminating life-and-times biography. More than merely the story of one remarkable man, Secret Historian is a moving portrait of homosexual life long before Stonewall and gay liberation.

Secret Historian is a 2010 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.

spacer
spacer
  • back to top

FOLLOW US ON...

     
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.