Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a meditative, journalistic odyssey through the gay male subculture, Browning, a former reporter for National Public Radio, probes the roots of gay rage as he joins Queer Nation protest rallies in suburban malls and talks with health-care activist Jim Corti, who makes unauthorized drugs available to people with AIDS. Browning interviews gay men in rural Kentucky, where he grew up, and in Miami's Cuban enclave. He tours the freewheeling, resuscitated gay sexual undergrounds of Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco. He also visits safer-sex clubs, analyzes homoerotic images in the gay press and samples the ritualized gatherings of gays at Fire Island, N.Y., and at the twice-yearly ``Hollywood Boy Party'' in Palm Springs, Calif. Browning, who is gay himself, maintains that most homosexuals share a core belief: ``Our friends are our family.'' Yet he harbors doubts about whether the lifestyle of urban gays constitutes an actual culture comparable to black, Jewish or Asian-American communities. A sensitive, searching inquiry. (Mar.)
A former National Public Radio reporter who covered the AIDS epidemic, Browning has produced a biting portrait of contemporary gay society. Writing as both observer and participant, he meticulously and perceptively probes issues of queer activism, sexuality, spirituality, family, and community. In contrast to Gilbert Herdt's Gay Culture in America ( LJ 12/91), this book openly questions the existence of a gay culture in the United States. Does the urban gay lifestyle constitute a culture comparable to those of such racial and ethnic minorities as African Americans, Hispanics, and Jews, asks the author, or is it a transitory phenomenon? Browning also examines the impact of the AIDS epidemic upon the survival of gay culture. His analysis of gay society will prove a definitive resource for future research on gay culture in America. A superlative addition to gay studies collections in academic and larger public libraries.-- Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Lib., Ind.
Several gay writers have taken us on the cross-country tour of gay America, male division. Although he does that, too, Browning essays something more ambitious. Premising that sexual desire is the glue that binds very disparate men and activities into a culture, he proceeds chapter-by-chapter to examine several overlapping circles within that culture. Dante-like, Browning lets actual circle members guide him. It's an excellent strategy, although when, as in the chapter on big organized gatherings, his forays bring readers to infernal events like the Hotlanta River Expo, a rafting party with male beauty pageant, they may in turn find themselves feeling like queasy Dantes trailing Browning's Virgil. Other circles investigated, always absorbingly, are those of political activism, radical AIDS caregivers clandestinely testing drugs not yet approved by the FDA, a would-be gay celebrity, men involved in creating new gay families or integrating themselves and lovers into their original families, and comfortably gay men who live outside mainstream (white, urban) gay male society. Although his prose gets turgid when he turns philosophical, Browning illuminates the variety in gay American male life-styles more informatively than has any other writer. A must for gay studies.
From the Publisher
"The Culture of Desire is absolutely cutting edgea portrait of modern sexual politics [that] should be required reading."Armistead Maupin
"One of the most honest and provocative nonfiction books ever published on the contemporary life of gay men in America. Browning delves into not only the controversial sexuality of gay men, but also their deepest emotional strivings for community, family, and spiritual connection...This book documents our lives and examines the big question about the meaning of life, death, love, and human community."Jeffrey Escoffier, Publisher, OUT LOOK: National Lesbian and Gay Quarterly