George Sylvester Viereck: “Each by Strange Wisps to Strange Abysses Drawn”

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Sweet is the highroad when the skylarks call,
When we and Love go rambling through the land.
But shall we still walk gayly, hand in hand,
At the road’s turning and the twilight’s fall?
Then darkness shall divide us like a wall,
And uncouth evil nightbirds flap their wings;
The solitude of all created things
Will creep upon us shuddering like a pall.

This is the knowledge I have wrung from pain:
We, yea, all lovers, are not one, but twain,
Each by strange wisps to strange abysses drawn;
But through the black immensity of night
Love’s little lantern, like a glowworm’s, bright,
May lead our steps to some stupendous dawn.

George Sylvester Viereck, The Wanderers

A controversial figure in America in the first-half of the twentieth century, George Sylvester Viereck was a multi-sided figure who gained fame as a journalist and neo-romantic poet; he also earned equal infamy as a publicist for pro-German causes. Born in Munich in December of 1884, he was  the first-born son of Louis Viereck, a member of the Reichstag who was imprisoned in 1886 for attending socialist meetings, and  San Francisco-born Laura Viereck, Louis’s first cousin. The family emigrated to the United States in 1896 and, five years later, Viereck’s father became an American citizen.

George Viereck studied at the City College of New York where he graduated in 1906. While still in college, he published, with the help of literary critic Ludwig Lewisohn, his first collection of poems in 1904. Viereck’s  next collection, “Nineveh and Other Poems” published in 1905, brought him national fame. Several poems in this collection were written in the style of the Uranian movement, a movement of primarily gay male artists and philosophers in the English-speaking world from the 1870s to the 1930s. 

From 1907 to 1912, Viereck developed a profound identification with Germany and became fascinated with all aspects of the German culture and people. In 1907, he published a vampire novel, “The House of the Vampire”, which was not only one of the first psychic-vampire stories but, also,  one of the first known homosexual vampire novels. Viereck, in 1908, published his best-selling “Confessions of a Barbarian”, a collection of personal narratives on subjects such as morals, art, and both German and international culture. Viereck was invited in 1911 to lecture on American poetry at the University of Berlin. Due to his ardent support of Germany and pacifism during the period of estranged Anglo-German relations leading up to World War I,  he was later expelled from several organizations and social clubs. 

Outspoken in his views against America’s involvement in World War I, George Viereck founded and became editor of the German-sponsored magazine “The Fatherland”, which argued the German cause. He was later arrested and served time in a Washington D.C. jail, during which period his son George Jr. died as a  combat casualty of the first world war which Viereck had vigorously opposed.  In August of 1918, a mob stormed Viereck’s  Mount Vernon home: and, in the following year, he was expelled from the Poetry Society of America. In 1919, Viereck wrote the book “Roosevelt”, a psycho-analytical study of Theodore Roosevelt and his attitude on matters of international interest, which was published by New York City’s Jackson Press.

After the end of the war, Viereck traveled throughout Europe and America interviewing many notable personalities, including Sigmund Freud, George Bernard Shaw, Adolf Hitler, Henry Ford, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Benito Mussolini, and Albert Einstein, among others.  In 1924, he published a collection of poetry, entitled “The Three Sphinxes and Other Poems”; the collection’s poem “Slaves” would be quoted several times in the 1968 psycho-thriller film “Twisted Nerve” and be the inspiration for its title. 

George Viereck became a well-known supporter of National Socialism and a regular apologist for Germany. In 1933, he again met Hitler, who had become Germany’s leader, and gave a speech in 1934 at New York’s Madison Square Garden to an audience of twenty thousand in which he supported National Socialism without its antisemitism. In 1941 George Viereck established his own publishing house, Flanders Hall, in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, but was eventually indicted by the government for a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Convicted in 1942 for failing to register with the U. S. State Department as a National Socialist agent, he was imprisoned from 1942 to 1947. 

In 1952, Viereck’s “Men Into Beasts”, a general memoir of the loss of dignity, brutality, and the situational homosexuality and rape he witnesse in jail, was published by Fawcett Publications. This book was shortly followed by two more works: the 1952 “Gloria: A Novel” and the 1953 “The Nude in the Mirror”. Between 1906 and 1953, he published twenty-three works in the genres of theater plays, poetry, works of fiction, and works of political discussion and criticism. 

George Viereck’s literary works after his release from prison were not very successful, except for his “Men Into Beasts”, which would become one of the first original titles of 1950s gay novels. In 1955, he suffered a series of mild strokes and ceased his writing. George Sylvester Viereck died in March of 1962 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, of a massive cerebral hemorrhage at the age of seventy-seven. 

Note: An interesting read on the emotional and psychological development of Viereck’s life, and his perception of his own sexuality, is Phyllis Keller’s “George Sylvester Viereck: The Psychology of a German-American Militant” from the MIT Press. It can be found at the JSTOR site: https://www.jstor.org/stable/202443

David Levithan: “Every You, Every Me”

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“I thought about the word ‘profile’ and what a weird double meaning it had. We say we’re looking at a person’s profile online, or say a newspaper is writing a profile on someone, and we assume it’s the whole them we’re seeing. But when a photographer takes a picture of a profile, you’re only seeing half the face… It’s never the way you would remember seeing them. You never remember someone ‘in profile.’ You remember them looking you in the eye, or talking to you. You remember an image that the subject could never see in a mirror, because you are the mirror. A profile, photographically, is perpendicular to the person you know.” 

― David Levithan, Every You, Every Me

Born in Short Hills, New Jersey in 1972, David Levithan is an American fiction author, who has written works which feature strong male gay characters. After graduating from Millburn High School in 1990, he received an internship at Scholastic Corporation, a multinational publishing and media company, where he was edited the young-adult novel series “The Baby-Sitters Club”. Levithan is still an editorial director at Scholastic and is also the founding editor of PUSH, an imprint of Scholastic focused on new authors. 

Levithan acknowledged his style of writing, both humorous and affecting, was influenced by the works of author Judith Viorst, known for her humorous observational poetry and children’s literature. The majority of Levithan’s work is in the young-adult category, of which several have been adapted for film. He collaborated with writer Rachel Cohn on the 2006 novel “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist’, which was adapted into the 2008 feature film directed by Peter Sollett. David Levithan’s 2012 novel “Every Day” was adapted into a romantic fantasy drama, of the same name, and was released in 2018. A second collaboration between him and Cohen produced the 2007 novel “Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List”, a best-friends relationship story of two apartment neighbors, one gay male and one heterosexual female. This novel was adapted into a film directed by Kristin Hanggi, best known for her 2009 Broadway musical “Rock of Ages”, and released in 2015 at the Outfest Film Festival. 

David Levithan/s first novel specifically for adults was the 2011 “The Lover’s Dictionary”. The novel was inspired by the alphabetical order of entry of words in the book “Words You Need to Know” shich was sitting on his desk. The “Dictionary” is told entirely through alphabetically arranged dictionary entries, both brief and concise and  without chronological order, that reveal the two characters joyful but struggling relationship. 

Levithan has edited, along with Billy Merrell, the 2006 anthology “The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Other Identities”. He was also a collaborative author with Ned Vizzini for the 2021  graphic novel “Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel”, illustrated by Nick Betozzi, known for his Alternative Comics series “Rubber Necker”..

Christopher Isherwood: “A Single Man”

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“Staring and staring into the mirror, it sees many faces within its face – the face of the child, the boy, the young man, the not-so-young man – all present still, preserved like fossils on superimposed layers, and, like fossils, dead. Their message to this live dying creature is: Look at us – we have died – what is there to be afraid of?

 It answers them: But that happened so gradually, so easily. I’m afraid of being rushed.” 

—Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man

Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel “A Single Man” is considered by many to be his finest achievement. When it first appeared, it shocked many with its frank, sympathetic, and moving portrayal of a gay man in maturity. The novel,  which was Isherwood’s favorite of his own work, depicts one day in the life of George, a middle-aged gay Englishman who is a professor at a Los Angeles University. He is an outsider in every way, and his internal reflections and interactions with others reveal a man who loves being alive despite everyday injustices and loneliness. George, unable to cope with the sudden death of his younger partner Jim, encounters different people who give him insight into the possibilities of being alive and human in the world. 

“A Single Man” was adapted into the drama film of the same name in 2009. It was the directorial debut of fashion designer Tom Ford, and starred Colin Firth who, for his role in the film, was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award. Matthew Goode plays Jim, his partner, seen in flashback sequences. Shot in twenty-one days, the film premiered on the 11th of September, 2009, at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, where it won the festival’s third annual Queer Lion Award, and then entered the film festival circuit. It had an initial limited run in the United States in December of 2009, and began its wider release in the early part of 2010. 

Brian Catling: “Gravity Filled the Moment”

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“One solitary tear crept through the scars of his face, through the diagrams of constellations and the incised maps of influence and dominion. A liquid without a name, it being made of so many emotions and conflicts, each cancelling the other out until only salt and gravity filled the moment and moved down through his expression.” 

—-Brian Catling, The Vorrh

James Baldwin: “Giovanni’s Room”

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“For I am—or I was—one of those people who pride themselves in on their willpower, on their ability to make a decision and carry it through. This virtue, like most virtues, is ambiguity itself. People who believe that they are strong-willed and the masters of their destiny can only continue to believe this by becoming specialists in self-deception. Their decisions are not really decisions at all—a real decision makes one humble, one knows that it is at the mercy of more things than can be named—but elaborate systems of evasion, of illusion, designed to make themselves and the world appear to be what they and the world are not. This is certainly what my decision, made so long ago in Joey’s bed, came to. I had decided to allow no room in the universe for something which shamed and frightened me. I succeeded very well—by not looking at the universe, by not looking at myself, by remaining, in effect, in constant motion.” 

—James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

Henri Cartier-Bresson: “Visually Preceived Forms”

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“To take photographs is to hold one’s breath when all faculties converge in the face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.
To take photographs means to recognize—simultaneously and within a fraction of a second—both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers

Richard Avedon: “The Force of It Grows So Strong”

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“I always prefer to work in the studio. It isolates people from their environment. They become in a sense. . .symbolic of themselves. I often feel that people cone to me to be photographed as they would go to a doctor or a fortune teller- to find out how they are. So they are dependent on me. I have to engage them. Otherwise there is nothing to photograph. The concentration has to come from me and involve them.

Sometimes the force of it grows so strong that sounds in the studio go unheard. Time stops. We share a brief, intense intimacy. But it is unearned. It has no past. . .no future. And when the sitting is over- when the picture is done -there is nothing left except the photograph. . .the photograph and a kind of embarrassment. They leave. . .and I don’t known them. I have hardly heard what they have said.

If I meet them a waek later in a room somewhere, I expect they won’t recognize me. Because I don’t feel I was really there. At least the part of me that was. . .is now in the photograph. And the photographs hava a reality for me that the people don’t. It is through the photographs that I know them. Maybe it is in the nature of being a photographer. I am never really implicate. I don’t have to have any real knowledge. It is all a question of recognitions.”

Richard Avedon

 

Robert Fulford: “Form and Order”

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“The anthropologist Clifford Geertz says that humans are ‘symbolizing, conceptualizing, meaning-seeking’ animals. In our species, he says, ‘the drive to make sense out of our experience, to give it form and order, is evidently as real and as pressing as the more familiar biological needs.’ To Geertz, a human being is an organism ‘which cannot live in a world it is unable to understand.”
Robert Fulford, The Triumph of the Narrative

 

Susan Sontag: “A Man Lives Through His Face”

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“Women do not simply have faces, as men do; they are identified with their faces. Men have a naturalistic relation to their faces. Certainly they care whether they are good-looking or not. They suffer over acne, protruding ears, tiny eyes; they hate getting bald. But there is a much wider latitude in what is esthetically acceptable in a man’s face than what is in a woman’s. A man’s face is defined as something he basically doesn’t need to tamper with; all he has to do is keep it clean. He can avail himself of the options for ornament supplied by nature: a beard, a mustache, longer or shorter hair. But he is not supposed to disguise himself. What he is “really” like is supposed to show. A man lives through his face; it records the progressive stages of his life. And since he doesn’t tamper with his face, it is not separate from but is completed by his body – which is judged attractive by the impression it gives of virility and energy.”
Susan Sontag

 

Frederick Franck: “Nothing Escapes the Eye”

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“When drawing a face, any face, it is as if a curtain after curtain, mask after mask, falls away.. until a final mask remains, one that can no longer be removed, reduced. By the time the drawing is finished, I know a great deal about that face, for no face can hide itself for long. But although nothing escapes the eye, all is forgiven beforehand. The eye does not judge, moralize, criticize. It accepts the masks in gratitude as it does the long bamboos being long, the goldenrod being being yellow.”
Frederick Franck, The Zen of Seeing

Tom Wolfe: “The Present We Know is Only Movies of Our Past”

 

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“A person has all sorts of lags built into him Kesey is saying. Once the most basic is the sensory lag, the lag between the time your senses receive something and you are able to react. One-thirtieth of a second is the time it takes if you are the most alert person alive and most people are a lot slower than that…. You can’t go any faster than that… We are all doomed to spend the rest of our lives watching a movies of our lives – we are always acting on what has just finished happening. It happened at least 1 30th of a second ago. We think we are in the present but we aren’t. The present we know is only a movies of the past and we will really never be able to control the present through ordinary means.”
Tom Wolfe, The Electrid Kool-Aid Acid Test, 1968

 

Erik Pevernagie: “A Fleeting Moment Can Become an Eternity”

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“A fleeting moment can become an eternity. From a past encounter everything may disappear in the dungeon of forgetfulness. A few furtive flashes or innocent twinkles can survive, though. Some immaterial details may remain marked in our memory, forever. A significant look, a salient colour or a unforeseen gesture may abide, indelibly engraved in our mind.”
Erik Pevernagie

 

Christopher Fowler: “Rilled with Mistifying Figures”

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“It was true that the city could still throw shadows filled with mystifying figures from its past, whose grip on the present could be felt on certain strange days, when the streets were dark with rain and harmful ideas.”

Christopher Fowler, Ten Second Staircase 

Hermann Hesse: “A Flowing River of Faces. . .Which All Came and Disappeared”

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“He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha, instead he saw other faces, many, a long sequence, a flowing river of faces, of hundreds, of thousands, which all came and disappeared, and yet all seemed to be there simultaneously, which all constantly changed and renewed themselves, and which were still all Siddhartha.”

-Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Tom Robbins: “Flesh is Water. Stones are like Bones. Satisfied. Patient.”

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“Bones are patient. Bones never tire nor do they run away. When you come upon a man who has been dead many years, his bones will still be lying there, in place, content, patiently waiting, but his flesh will have gotten up and left him. Water is like flesh. Water will not stand still. It is always off to somewhere else; restless, talkative, and curious. Even water in a covered jar will disappear in time. Flesh is water. Stones are like bones. Satisfied. Patient. Dependable. Tell me, then, Alobar, in order to achieve immortality, should you emulate water or stone? Should you trust your flesh or your bones?”

–Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Nicholas Christopher: “It Was a Riveting Face”

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“After seeing it on the street, I was afraid I had only imagined it: a still, luminous face with a silvery sheen. Finely hewn, with a long, straight nose and a wide mouth, it was nearly identical to another face, which I had photographed years before. Not on a person, bu on the fragment of a frieze I found in some ruins near Verona, The frieze, which depicted a band of musicians, had once been shadowed beneath a cornice high on the temple of Mercury, god of magic. Belonging to one of the musicians, it was a riveting face – like a puzzle that could not be solved.”

― Nicholas Christopher

Charles McKay: “The Opinions That Governed Ages That Fled”

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“Let us not, in the pride of our superior knowledge, turn with contempt from the follies of our predecessors. The study of the errors into which great minds have fallen in the pursuit of truth can never be uninstructive. As the man looks back to the days of his childhood and his youth, and recalls to his mind the strange notions and false opinions that swayed his actions at the time, that he may wonder at them; so should society, for its edification, look back to the opinions which governed ages that fled.”
Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds