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Beneath the Skin: The Collected Essays
Synopses & Reviews
When John Rechy broke out in 1963 as the bestselling author of City of Night, his novel about the underworld of gay male prostitution, he became a source for provocative commentary on sex, homosexuality, and culturally transgressive literature for publications as varied as the New York Times, The Nation, the Advocate, and Forum. Beneath the Skin collects more than four decades of the author's outspoken essays—many never before reprinted and almost none ever appearing previously in book form. Rechy holds forth on topics ranging from the birth of the sexual liberation movement, the rise of Anita Bryant, and the emergence of AIDS to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and last year's repeal of sodomy laws. Beneath the Skin also includes pieces on gay and lesbian authors such as Gore Vidal, Jack Kerouac, Christopher Isherwood, Carson McCullers, and Elizabeth Bowen, and non-gay figures like Philip Roth, William T. Vollman, and Joyce Carol Oates, as well as essays on Madonna, Tom Cruise, Eminem, Liberace, Marilyn Monroe, and the gay silent film star Ramon Novarro.
"A boost in Rechy's literary visibility following the 2002 biography Outlaw makes the time ripe for this career-spanning collection of essays. Broken into four sections, the anthology organizes its pieces generally by decade (though the first section covers the period 1958 to 1979) with occasional afterthoughts. Though one of the goals is to demonstrate Rechy's versatility beyond the homosexual themes (from AIDS to homosexuality in film) that made him famous, too many of the wider-ranging pieces are not especially noteworthy. Eminent exceptions include reportage from 1970 on the army's battle against soldiers protesting the Vietnam War and a 2003 tribute to the late Kathleen Winsor (Forever Amber), while the opening chapter on Rechy's childhood roots in the Mexican immigrant culture of El Paso illuminates a milieu that has shaped his writing. Rechy tends to be more energetic and persuasive when he turns to queer subjects; one prominent homophobic attack on his first novel, City of Night, still rankles 40 years later and is the subject of two articles. This isn't an ideal introduction to Rechy — his fiction better serves that purpose — but it will give those familiar with him much to think about and to feel, including perhaps regret that he hasn't done more of the journalistic writing that, at its best, highlights his powers of observation." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The bestselling author of the groundbreaking "City of Night," his 1963 novel about the underworld of gay male prostitution, collects more than four decades of his outspoken essays on topics ranging from the birth of the sexual liberation movement to the emergence of AIDS to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
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