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In this honest and compelling collection of autobiographical essays, poet Jonathan Holden writes about sex, baseball, and summer camp; about parents who keep their distance; about the mistakes of adolescence; and about the national romance with guns. Most of all, however, he writes about the realities of having a twin brother who is gay and the excruciating pains he took to avoid being mistaken "for a fairy." Illustrating his points with his own poems, Holden creates a book that is not only a critique of homophobia (his gay problem and ours) but a wider questioning of American cultural values.
We live in Sparta rather than Athens, Holden says, where the terror of homosexuality compels boys to lead distorted lives. Striking a low-keyed but insistent note of social criticism against the militarized, anti-poetic place where we live--one that so often seems to be a great, crass high school with overindulged appetites for sex and aggression, instead of a place where learning or the inner life can honestly thrive--Holden questions the ethos of this place where most boys consider such arts as dance or piano too dangerous to practice. His challenge to the American machismo ethic and its aesthetic correlative uncovers fascinating questions about the gender assumptions we have regarding sports and the arts.
In Guns and Boyhood in America, Jonathan Holden succeeds in creating an eloquent rendering of the dramas and dilemmas of an American boyhood in prose and poetry, while allowing us to overhear a finely worded lover's quarrel with America.
Jonathan Holden is the author of poetry collections including Against Paradise, American Gothic, and most recentlyThe Sublime, recipient of the 1995 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry. Currently he is University Distinguished Professor and Poet-in-Residence, Kansas State University.