Saturday, September 17, 2011

All the Boys I've Loved Before

Just a quick note tonight. I read Stan Persky's Buddy's: Meditations on Desire (New Star Books, 1991) today. Persky is a Chicago-born political philosopher, about ten years my senior, who lived and taught in Vancouver for many years but now is apparently based in Germany. (His website has the .de suffix.)

Buddy's is about what its subtitle promises: a collection of short prose pieces on love, desire, sex, mortality, and the meaning of it all. It was written during the first decade of the AIDS epidemic but touches on that topic only tangentially. Mostly Persky describes a few of the young men he was involved with erotically during the Eighties, men who'd fit roughly into the trade category, plus his friendships with some of his gay male peers. Unfortunately he tries to cast his lads as incarnations of the god Cupid, even though he seems to admit in the book's epilogue that the conceit doesn't work very well. There are the predictable references to Plato's dialogues on love and sex, plus Montaigne and a few other exemplars.

Not at all a bad book, but I had hoped it would go deeper. His asides about his writings on politics intrigued me more, so I looked him up online. Turns out that not only was he a co-editor of Flaunting It!, the anthology of writings from the lamented Toronto gay liberation magazine The Body Politic (no wonder his name sounded familiar to me) but he knew and has written about various poets, including Jack Spicer and Robin Blaser. (He quotes "When I Pay Death's Duty," a wonderful poem of Blaser's, at some length in the book. It appeared in Donald Allen's historic anthology The New American Poetry [Grove Press] in 1960.)
I looked at Persky's website, which includes a lot of his writing. I'll probably spend more time in its archives, but for now I'll just mention his review of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, with which I find myself in agreement, particularly his speculations about why Klein annoyed so many reviewers. (I'd only add that I also suspect as a factor boys' annoyance when a girl is too damn smart, smarter than they are.) I also liked his review of Chris Hedges's Empire of Illusion: again, Persky seems to notice the same things that bother me about Hedges, even when I agree with his main points. There's also a review, which I'll read tomorrow (tomorrow is another day!) of Marjorie Garber's new book The Use and Abuse of Literature, which I bought when it first appeared but haven't read yet. So many books, so little time ...