Catalogue


How to be gay /
David M. Halperin.
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, c2012.
description
viii, 549 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
ISBN
9780674066793 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
Subjects
subject
More Details
imprint
Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, c2012.
isbn
9780674066793 (alk. paper)
contents note
B+ could try harder -- Diary of a scandal -- History of an error -- American falsettos -- Gay identity and its discontents -- Homosexuality's closet -- What's gayer than gay? -- The queen is not dead -- Why are the drag queens laughing? -- Culture and genre -- The passion of the crawford -- Suffering in quotation marks -- The beauty and the camp -- Mommie queerest -- Gay family romance -- Men act, women appear -- The sexual politics of genre -- Tragedy into melodrama -- Bitch baskets -- Gay femininity -- Gender and genre -- The meaning of style -- Irony and misogyny -- What is gay culture? -- Judy Garland vs. identity art -- Culture vs. subculture -- Queer forever -- Endnotes -- Acknowledgments -- Index.
catalogue key
8549892
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2012-08-01:
In 2000, the University of Michigan course catalog listed a class to be taught by Halperin (history & theory of sexuality, Univ. of Michigan; How To Do the History of Homosexuality), titled "How To Be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation." Halperin found himself attacked in the press both from the left (for perpetrating unflattering stereotypes) and the right (for attempting to recruit and convert straights to the joys of the gay). In fact, the course did neither, but examined the evolution of the social and cultural (as opposed to sexual) orientation of gay men in modern North American society. This book, with the same provocative title, serves both as an apologia and an amplification of that course. Halperin parses the pop culture of movies, music, style, camp, drag, and those totemic figures known as gay icons, to reveal the dirty little secret that many gay people may not wish to hear: there's a hard little kernel of truth behind the stereotypes. VERDICT Not exactly the light read that the title implies, this thoroughly researched work is nevertheless more accessible than the typical scholarly tome. Recommended for serious readers interested in the sociology and psychology of human sexuality and gender politics.-Richard J. Violette, Greater Victoria P.L., B.C., Canada (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2012-06-11:
Rather than the how-to guide his title suggests, Halperin (Saint Foucault), a professor of the history and theory of sexuality at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, offers a response to the controversy surrounding a class he taught there in 2000. While conservatives charged Halperin with "initiating" straight students into a new sexual orientation, some gay rights advocates saw him as reinforcing hurtful stereotypes. This long-delayed answer proves to be not a polemic but an attempt to unpack his basic observation that there's far more to gay male American identity than a same-sex preference. Halperin interprets gayness through traditional pop culture preoccupations like golden age Hollywood, opera, and Broadway musicals, focusing on Joan Crawford (in particular her role in Mildred Pierce) and Faye Dunaway's notoriously over-the-top portrayal of the star in Mommie Dearest. Identifying the source of the camp appeal exerted by these ostensibly serious films, Halperin asks why gay men continue to be drawn to coded representations of their experience. He arrives at an apologia for such cliched signposts of gayness in an era of domestic partnerships and Born This Way. Halperin persuasively defuses charges of misogyny lobbed against gay male culture, but may alienate some by too narrowly defining his vision of what that culture should be. Nonetheless, this book should appeal to specialists and general readers alike with its academically rigorous but accessible argument. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Appeared in Choice on 2012-12-01:
How does a nondominant culture transmit to the next generation its values, its norms, and its very cultural identity? What complications arise if the dominant culture actively attempts to subvert the nondominant culture and prevent said transmission? These are the questions that Halperin (Michigan) asks in this sociological review, which grew out of a course he offered in which these topics were discussed. While the study specifically only covers the subculture--or, more, accurately, subcultures--of gay men, there are many inferences that can be drawn for lesbian, transgender/transsexual, and bisexual subcultures. Parallels can be seen with the unsuccessful suppressions of various indigenous cultures around the world. How does a gay man know what is fabulous? What makes him connect with Judy Garland or Elizabeth Taylor? What makes him an interior decorator? Of course, not all gay men fit these stereotypes. But, there is still some indefinable thing that sets gay men apart--and it is not just sexual orientation. How this "indefinable thing" is transmitted across generations and across various ethnic and religious cultures, and how it is projected or not into the dominant culture, are questions well worth thought and discussion. This book provides a great starting point. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. S. J. Stillwell Jr. University of Arizona
Reviews
Review Quotes
David M. Halperin has written what might be called an archaeological study of gay culture. His excavation is a veritable public service to anyone who's ever wondered why a Lady Gaga-or Judy Garland-holds a place in the LGBT community that isn't quite the same among their heterosexual counterparts. Still, the very specter of 'gay identity' in a world where, for many, integration is viewed as the ultimate civil-rights victory, inevitably sparks controversy… His exhaustive exploration of the icons and idiosyncrasies associated with gay identity holds up a floor-length mirror to an entire subculture.
David M. Halperin has written what might be called an archaeological study of gay culture. His excavation is a veritable public service to anyone who's ever wondered why a Lady Gaga-or Judy Garland-holds a place in the LGBT community that isn't quite the same among their heterosexual counterparts. Still, the very specter of 'gay identity' in a world where, for many, integration is viewed as the ultimate civil-rights victory, inevitably sparks controversy... His exhaustive exploration of the icons and idiosyncrasies associated with gay identity holds up a floor-length mirror to an entire subculture.
[Halperin] provocatively argues that when it comes to defining what it means to be a homosexual man, sex is overrated'¦ Culture matters more'¦ [How To Be Gay] is never a bore'¦ [It] explores a fundamental kind of gay sensibility'¦ Halperin teases an enormous amount out of [a] scene [in Mildred Pierce], including the sense of 'glamour and abjection' gay audiences find in [Joan] Crawford, and how the film packages the 'transgressive spectacle of female strength, autonomy, feistiness and power.' '¦Halperin works up to an argument (impossible to summarize here) about how the film evokes a 'dissident perspective' on the very idea of romantic love. He is articulate about many other things in this book, including how gay men often find more resonance in straight cultural artifacts than in gay ones. His funny shorthand for this is: 'Why would we want Edmund White, when we still have The Golden Girls?" '¦He is excellent, too, on how classical tragedy is nearly always about men, or fathers and sons'¦ Dozens of similar arguments are rehearsed in How To Be Gay. Halperin even neatly mows down hipster irony in the face of the kind of gay male irony that defines camp. It's a kaleidoscopic book that at its base breaks with what the author calls 'the Brokeback Mountain crowd.' He urges gay men to take their so-called femininity out of 'homosexuality's newly built closet,' to see it plainly and to give it affirmative interpretations.
How To Be Gay makes for as fun a viewing companion [to Mildred Pierce and Mommie Dearest] as it does a rigorously intelligent read'_¦ Whether you're well-versed in all things gay or tend to avoid pop divas at all costs, How To Be Gay offers a fresh perspective on what we call gay culture, why so many of us love what we love and why we're afraid to talk about it. Thankfully, as Halperin notes in his conclusion, gay male culture isn't going anywhere'as long as there's a straight culture to appropriate for our own ends.
How To Be Gay is...written by a gifted thinker and writer who has come to see that there is not just a political and sexual gay culture (its foundational event the rioting outside the Stonewall Inn in 1969), based on gay identity rather than sensibility, but also a nonsexual gay culture, based on modes of feeling and expressive artifacts.
How To Be Gay makes for as fun a viewing companion [to Mildred Pierce and Mommie Dearest] as it does a rigorously intelligent read...Whether you're well-versed in all things gay or tend to avoid pop divas at all costs, How To Be Gay offers a fresh perspective on what we call gay culture, why so many of us love what we love and why we're afraid to talk about it. Thankfully, as Halperin notes in his conclusion, gay male culture isn't going anywhere--as long as there's a straight culture to appropriate for our own ends.
How To Be Gay is not an instruction manual, nor is it a 'learning to love yourself' self-help guide. Rather, Halperin's book is an intervention against those who trumpet the 'death of gay culture' (which he argues has been declared for over 40 years now) now that widening tolerance and greater visibility of gays in the media should make Judy Garland, show tunes, and drag queens obsolete… Halperin's fresh re-evaluation of the theory and practice of camp is one of his most fascinating insights… Halperin makes a case for camp as politically subversive and a case study for the complicated structure of gay identification… One gets the sense that Halperin anticipates his greatest detractors to not be social conservatives (though he has been their pariah in the past), but instead to be other gay men who fear the essentialism of acknowledging the role a distinct gay culture plays in shaping gay identity… Halperin narrates the history of this masculine reaction against gay culture, culling from his own memories in the 70s of how newly 'liberated' gay men appropriated the machismo of biker culture, mustaches, and construction worker clothing to combat the stereotype of the pathetic queens and fairies of the previous generation. This is a valuable history lesson to readers from subsequent generations given that these signifiers of '70s gay masculinity are now considered in the campy light of The Village People, and thus part of the gay culture from which today's champions of machismo and normality try to distance their selves. How To Be Gay deserves a wide audience beyond academia, especially among today's youth generation who come out in a climate more accepting of same-sex coupling, but still very much phobic and censorious of gay culture.
[How To Be Gay is] an attempt to unpack [Halperin's] basic observation that there's far more to gay male American identity than a same-sex preference. Halperin interprets gayness through traditional pop culture preoccupations like golden age Hollywood, opera, and Broadway musicals, focusing on Joan Crawford (in particular her role in Mildred Pierce) and Faye Dunaway's notoriously over-the-top portrayal of the star in Mommie Dearest. Identifying the source of the camp appeal exerted by these ostensibly serious films, Halperin asks why gay men continue to be drawn to coded representations of their experience. He arrives at an apologia for such clichéd signposts of gayness in an era of domestic partnerships and Born This Way. Halperin persuasively defuses charges of misogyny lobbed against gay male culture.
How To Be Gay is a sheer pleasure to read and utterly thoughtful too: it is pedagogical in the most provocative sense. David Halperin's acute attention to gay male sensibility provides a great case study in how sexuality takes shape as such, finding anchors for the expression of its pleasures and its dramas. A genuinely profound contribution to the scholarship on kitsch, camp, and melodrama, this book is also its own command performance of a gayness it wants to extend to its readers as a kind of friendly and exciting disturbance.
How To Be Gay posits that 'gayness' is not simply the act of two men having sex but a mode of perception that must be learned from'and shared by'other gay men. Halperin homes in on, among many topics, the yin and yang of gay male existence: the beauty and the camp.
What is marvelous is Halperin's rich analysis of many aspects of this gay cultural life, showing the distinctive ways it makes use of straight culture... This is not meant to be a coffee-table book, encyclopedia or 'how-to manual': these already exist. It is rather an erudite meditation by one of the world's leading queer theorists. It provokes, sparkles and bristles with ideas, claims, defenses and the kind of epigrams...that would make for great seminar discussions... This is a great book, it will generate heated debate.
How To Be Gay makes for as fun a viewing companion [to Mildred Pierce and Mommie Dearest] as it does a rigorously intelligent read'¦ Whether you're well-versed in all things gay or tend to avoid pop divas at all costs, How To Be Gay offers a fresh perspective on what we call gay culture, why so many of us love what we love and why we're afraid to talk about it. Thankfully, as Halperin notes in his conclusion, gay male culture isn't going anywhere'"as long as there's a straight culture to appropriate for our own ends.
How To Be Gay is not an instruction manual, nor is it a 'learning to love yourself' self-help guide. Rather, Halperin's book is an intervention against those who trumpet the 'death of gay culture' (which he argues has been declared for over 40 years now) now that widening tolerance and greater visibility of gays in the media should make Judy Garland, show tunes, and drag queens obsolete'¦ Halperin's fresh re-evaluation of the theory and practice of camp is one of his most fascinating insights'¦ Halperin makes a case for camp as politically subversive and a case study for the complicated structure of gay identification'¦ One gets the sense that Halperin anticipates his greatest detractors to not be social conservatives (though he has been their pariah in the past), but instead to be other gay men who fear the essentialism of acknowledging the role a distinct gay culture plays in shaping gay identity'¦ Halperin narrates the history of this masculine reaction against gay culture, culling from his own memories in the 70s of how newly 'liberated' gay men appropriated the machismo of biker culture, mustaches, and construction worker clothing to combat the stereotype of the pathetic queens and fairies of the previous generation. This is a valuable history lesson to readers from subsequent generations given that these signifiers of '70s gay masculinity are now considered in the campy light of The Village People, and thus part of the gay culture from which today's champions of machismo and normality try to distance their selves. How To Be Gay deserves a wide audience beyond academia, especially among today's youth generation who come out in a climate more accepting of same-sex coupling, but still very much phobic and censorious of gay culture.
How To Be Gay is not an instruction manual, nor is it a 'learning to love yourself' self-help guide. Rather, Halperin's book is an intervention against those who trumpet the 'death of gay culture' (which he argues has been declared for over 40 years now) now that widening tolerance and greater visibility of gays in the media should make Judy Garland, show tunes, and drag queens obsolete... Halperin's fresh re-evaluation of the theory and practice of camp is one of his most fascinating insights... Halperin makes a case for camp as politically subversive and a case study for the complicated structure of gay identification... One gets the sense that Halperin anticipates his greatest detractors to not be social conservatives (though he has been their pariah in the past), but instead to be other gay men who fear the essentialism of acknowledging the role a distinct gay culture plays in shaping gay identity... Halperin narrates the history of this masculine reaction against gay culture, culling from his own memories in the 70s of how newly 'liberated' gay men appropriated the machismo of biker culture, mustaches, and construction worker clothing to combat the stereotype of the pathetic queens and fairies of the previous generation. This is a valuable history lesson to readers from subsequent generations given that these signifiers of '70s gay masculinity are now considered in the campy light of The Village People, and thus part of the gay culture from which today's champions of machismo and normality try to distance their selves. How To Be Gay deserves a wide audience beyond academia, especially among today's youth generation who come out in a climate more accepting of same-sex coupling, but still very much phobic and censorious of gay culture.
How To Be Gay engages many of the foundational questions-and dogmas-of queer studies… What, Halperin wants to know, is gay culture? …Halperin is plying his own twist on the familiar idea that by aligning themselves with certain forms-flamboyance, abject glamour, exaggerated femininity-gay men implicitly challenge the uptight codes of a patriarchal culture… Gay culture, for Halperin, isn't really attached to any given person's experience; rather, it's a set of tactics, adopted behaviors, and strategies imbricated in a much larger social field… Frivolity, irony, superficiality, inauthenticity, flamboyance, snobbishness, exquisite taste: How To Be Gay works hard to unpack the stereotypical characteristics of gay male culture and succeeds in demonstrating how the taint of pathology and the rise of a post-Stonewall ethos of hypermasculine self-determination conspire to shut down a frank inquiry into the persistence of such 'faggy' traits.
How To Be Gay is not an instruction manual, nor is it a 'learning to love yourself' self-help guide. Rather, Halperin's book is an intervention against those who trumpet the 'death of gay culture' (which he argues has been declared for over 40 years now) now that widening tolerance and greater visibility of gays in the media should make Judy Garland, show tunes, and drag queens obsolete'_¦ Halperin's fresh re-evaluation of the theory and practice of camp is one of his most fascinating insights'_¦ Halperin makes a case for camp as politically subversive and a case study for the complicated structure of gay identification'_¦ One gets the sense that Halperin anticipates his greatest detractors to not be social conservatives (though he has been their pariah in the past), but instead to be other gay men who fear the essentialism of acknowledging the role a distinct gay culture plays in shaping gay identity'_¦ Halperin narrates the history of this masculine reaction against gay culture, culling from his own memories in the 70s of how newly 'liberated' gay men appropriated the machismo of biker culture, mustaches, and construction worker clothing to combat the stereotype of the pathetic queens and fairies of the previous generation. This is a valuable history lesson to readers from subsequent generations given that these signifiers of '70s gay masculinity are now considered in the campy light of The Village People, and thus part of the gay culture from which today's champions of machismo and normality try to distance their selves. How To Be Gay deserves a wide audience beyond academia, especially among today's youth generation who come out in a climate more accepting of same-sex coupling, but still very much phobic and censorious of gay culture.
How To Be Gay engages many of the foundational questions'"and dogmas'"of queer studies'¦ What, Halperin wants to know, is gay culture? '¦Halperin is plying his own twist on the familiar idea that by aligning themselves with certain forms'"flamboyance, abject glamour, exaggerated femininity'"gay men implicitly challenge the uptight codes of a patriarchal culture'¦ Gay culture, for Halperin, isn't really attached to any given person's experience; rather, it's a set of tactics, adopted behaviors, and strategies imbricated in a much larger social field'¦ Frivolity, irony, superficiality, inauthenticity, flamboyance, snobbishness, exquisite taste: How To Be Gay works hard to unpack the stereotypical characteristics of gay male culture and succeeds in demonstrating how the taint of pathology and the rise of a post-Stonewall ethos of hypermasculine self-determination conspire to shut down a frank inquiry into the persistence of such 'faggy' traits.
Halperin rejoices in the growing acceptance of homosexuality in mainstream society, although he's quick to point out that homophobia is still potent. He doesn't want gay culture to be lost as assimilation increases. It's a legitimate concern, and he makes his case forcefully.
How To Be Gay celebrat[es] the sharp-elbowed camp culture that many now consider obsolete... How can someone be gay without having seen Mildred Pierce or The Wizard of Oz ? To answer that, you first have to know what such movies have to do with being gay. Halperin observes, as others have before him, that gay boys often display stereotypical tastes long before sex enters the picture. As he points out, sexuality is the area where gay men differ least from straight men...Gay taste is something more singular, probably linked to incipient feelings of dissimilarity from one's peers...Halperin is right to defend the old rituals and the lingo and body language that go with them...So long live camp, and all the other cultural pursuits that gay people have traditionally embraced. Perhaps the historic devotion to theatre, opera, high fashion, and other venerable disciplines will wither away, but it seems likely that many gay kids will still feel the trauma of difference and go on seeking refuge in artier spheres. Halperin speaks of a 'tension between egalitarian ethics and hierarchical aesthetics' in gay taste; he sees it as a snobbery not of class but of knowledge, open to all who can hold their own. It stands in opposition to a society that joins egalitarian aesthetics--the notion that the perfect cultural product appeals to all--to an economic system whose inequalities become more glaring by the day. Gay culture's long memory, its arch sympathy for fading worlds, is a check against the razing of the past.
[Halperin] provocatively argues that when it comes to defining what it means to be a homosexual man, sex is overrated'_¦ Culture matters more'_¦ [How To Be Gay] is never a bore'_¦ [It] explores a fundamental kind of gay sensibility'_¦ Halperin teases an enormous amount out of [a] scene [in Mildred Pierce], including the sense of 'glamour and abjection' gay audiences find in [Joan] Crawford, and how the film packages the 'transgressive spectacle of female strength, autonomy, feistiness and power.' '_¦Halperin works up to an argument (impossible to summarize here) about how the film evokes a 'dissident perspective' on the very idea of romantic love. He is articulate about many other things in this book, including how gay men often find more resonance in straight cultural artifacts than in gay ones. His funny shorthand for this is: 'Why would we want Edmund White, when we still have The Golden Girls?" '_¦He is excellent, too, on how classical tragedy is nearly always about men, or fathers and sons'_¦ Dozens of similar arguments are rehearsed in How To Be Gay. Halperin even neatly mows down hipster irony in the face of the kind of gay male irony that defines camp. It's a kaleidoscopic book that at its base breaks with what the author calls 'the Brokeback Mountain crowd.' He urges gay men to take their so-called femininity out of 'homosexuality's newly built closet,' to see it plainly and to give it affirmative interpretations.
David M. Halperin has written a monumental work'_¦ In detail, the book explores the emotional and personalized subjectivity in describing what is at the core of gay culture and the innermost feelings of what it is to be 'gay.' '_¦It is Halperin's intent to create a serious dialogue, though there are many smiles to be had at the same time, while absorbing the process. How To Be Gay is both enlightening and refreshing in the personal discovery of self or for lack of a better phrase, the perfect way to understand the how, what, where and why 'to turn your inner-gay on.'
How To Be Gay engages many of the foundational questions'and dogmas'of queer studies'_¦ What, Halperin wants to know, is gay culture? '_¦Halperin is plying his own twist on the familiar idea that by aligning themselves with certain forms'flamboyance, abject glamour, exaggerated femininity'gay men implicitly challenge the uptight codes of a patriarchal culture'_¦ Gay culture, for Halperin, isn't really attached to any given person's experience; rather, it's a set of tactics, adopted behaviors, and strategies imbricated in a much larger social field'_¦ Frivolity, irony, superficiality, inauthenticity, flamboyance, snobbishness, exquisite taste: How To Be Gay works hard to unpack the stereotypical characteristics of gay male culture and succeeds in demonstrating how the taint of pathology and the rise of a post-Stonewall ethos of hypermasculine self-determination conspire to shut down a frank inquiry into the persistence of such 'faggy' traits.
What is marvelous is Halperin's rich analysis of many aspects of this gay cultural life, showing the distinctive ways it makes use of straight culture… This is not meant to be a coffee-table book, encyclopedia or 'how-to manual': these already exist. It is rather an erudite meditation by one of the world's leading queer theorists. It provokes, sparkles and bristles with ideas, claims, defenses and the kind of epigrams…that would make for great seminar discussions… This is a great book, it will generate heated debate.
David M. Halperin has written what might be called an archaeological study of gay culture. His excavation is a veritable public service to anyone who's ever wondered why a Lady Gaga'"or Judy Garland'"holds a place in the LGBT community that isn't quite the same among their heterosexual counterparts. Still, the very specter of 'gay identity' in a world where, for many, integration is viewed as the ultimate civil-rights victory, inevitably sparks controversy'¦ His exhaustive exploration of the icons and idiosyncrasies associated with gay identity holds up a floor-length mirror to an entire subculture.
How To Be Gay , with its teasing title, asks whether there might be such a thing as gay culture that resides neither in our genes nor in our psyches. By insisting on gayness as a social form, the book offers an important provocation to contemporary queer criticism that resists the specification of identity. One could ask for no better guide through the complexities of late twentieth-century American gay male culture.
[A] weighty, thought-provoking tome... Halperin explores notions of gay male identity and stereotypes, wondering what has shaped gay behavior and whether it's a reaction against the hetero-normative society into which we're born.
What is marvelous is Halperin's rich analysis of many aspects of this gay cultural life, showing the distinctive ways it makes use of straight culture'_¦ This is not meant to be a coffee-table book, encyclopedia or 'how-to manual': these already exist. It is rather an erudite meditation by one of the world's leading queer theorists. It provokes, sparkles and bristles with ideas, claims, defenses and the kind of epigrams'_¦that would make for great seminar discussions'_¦ This is a great book, it will generate heated debate.
What is marvelous is Halperin's rich analysis of many aspects of this gay cultural life, showing the distinctive ways it makes use of straight culture'¦ This is not meant to be a coffee-table book, encyclopedia or 'how-to manual': these already exist. It is rather an erudite meditation by one of the world's leading queer theorists. It provokes, sparkles and bristles with ideas, claims, defenses and the kind of epigrams'¦that would make for great seminar discussions'¦ This is a great book, it will generate heated debate.
David M. Halperin has written a monumental work... In detail, the book explores the emotional and personalized subjectivity in describing what is at the core of gay culture and the innermost feelings of what it is to be 'gay.' ...It is Halperin's intent to create a serious dialogue, though there are many smiles to be had at the same time, while absorbing the process. How To Be Gay is both enlightening and refreshing in the personal discovery of self or for lack of a better phrase, the perfect way to understand the how, what, where and why 'to turn your inner-gay on.'
David M. Halperin has written a monumental work'¦ In detail, the book explores the emotional and personalized subjectivity in describing what is at the core of gay culture and the innermost feelings of what it is to be 'gay.' '¦It is Halperin's intent to create a serious dialogue, though there are many smiles to be had at the same time, while absorbing the process. How To Be Gay is both enlightening and refreshing in the personal discovery of self or for lack of a better phrase, the perfect way to understand the how, what, where and why 'to turn your inner-gay on.'
[Halperin] provocatively argues that when it comes to defining what it means to be a homosexual man, sex is overrated… Culture matters more… [How To Be Gay] is never a bore… [It] explores a fundamental kind of gay sensibility… Halperin teases an enormous amount out of [a] scene [in Mildred Pierce], including the sense of 'glamour and abjection' gay audiences find in [Joan] Crawford, and how the film packages the 'transgressive spectacle of female strength, autonomy, feistiness and power.' …Halperin works up to an argument (impossible to summarize here) about how the film evokes a 'dissident perspective' on the very idea of romantic love. He is articulate about many other things in this book, including how gay men often find more resonance in straight cultural artifacts than in gay ones. His funny shorthand for this is: 'Why would we want Edmund White, when we still have The Golden Girls?" …He is excellent, too, on how classical tragedy is nearly always about men, or fathers and sons… Dozens of similar arguments are rehearsed in How To Be Gay. Halperin even neatly mows down hipster irony in the face of the kind of gay male irony that defines camp. It's a kaleidoscopic book that at its base breaks with what the author calls 'the Brokeback Mountain crowd.' He urges gay men to take their so-called femininity out of 'homosexuality's newly built closet,' to see it plainly and to give it affirmative interpretations.
David M. Halperin has written what might be called an archaeological study of gay culture. His excavation is a veritable public service to anyone who's ever wondered why a Lady Gaga'or Judy Garland'holds a place in the LGBT community that isn't quite the same among their heterosexual counterparts. Still, the very specter of 'gay identity' in a world where, for many, integration is viewed as the ultimate civil-rights victory, inevitably sparks controversy'_¦ His exhaustive exploration of the icons and idiosyncrasies associated with gay identity holds up a floor-length mirror to an entire subculture.
How To Be Gay engages many of the foundational questions-and dogmas-of queer studies... What, Halperin wants to know, is gay culture? ...Halperin is plying his own twist on the familiar idea that by aligning themselves with certain forms-flamboyance, abject glamour, exaggerated femininity-gay men implicitly challenge the uptight codes of a patriarchal culture... Gay culture, for Halperin, isn't really attached to any given person's experience; rather, it's a set of tactics, adopted behaviors, and strategies imbricated in a much larger social field... Frivolity, irony, superficiality, inauthenticity, flamboyance, snobbishness, exquisite taste: How To Be Gay works hard to unpack the stereotypical characteristics of gay male culture and succeeds in demonstrating how the taint of pathology and the rise of a post-Stonewall ethos of hypermasculine self-determination conspire to shut down a frank inquiry into the persistence of such 'faggy' traits.
Filled with thought-provoking ideas and hypotheses. Halperin doesn't shy away from controversy here, nor does he bow to stereotypes.
Halperin parses the pop culture of movies, music, style, camp, drag, and those totemic figures known as gay icons, to reveal the dirty little secret that many gay people may not wish to hear: there's a hard little kernel of truth behind the stereotypes.
[Halperin] provocatively argues that when it comes to defining what it means to be a homosexual man, sex is overrated...Culture matters more...[How To Be Gay] is never a bore...[It] explores a fundamental kind of gay sensibility...Halperin teases an enormous amount out of [a] scene [in Mildred Pierce], including the sense of "glamour and abjection" gay audiences find in [Joan] Crawford, and how the film packages the "transgressive spectacle of female strength, autonomy, feistiness and power." ...Halperin works up to an argument (impossible to summarize here) about how the film evokes a "dissident perspective" on the very idea of romantic love. He is articulate about many other things in this book, including how gay men often find more resonance in straight cultural artifacts than in gay ones. His funny shorthand for this is: "Why would we want Edmund White, when we still have The Golden Girls?" ...He is excellent, too, on how classical tragedy is nearly always about men, or fathers and sons...Dozens of similar arguments are rehearsed in How To Be Gay. Halperin even neatly mows down hipster irony in the face of the kind of gay male irony that defines camp. It's a kaleidoscopic book that at its base breaks with what the author calls "the Brokeback Mountain crowd." He urges gay men to take their so-called femininity out of "homosexuality's newly built closet," to see it plainly and to give it affirmative interpretations.
[A] provocatively titled critical cri de coeur...To summarize Halperin's ambitious book is tricky, but think of it as an exploration of the tension between the official Pride Parade, celebrating post-Stonewall gay identity, and the Drag March, celebrating pre-liberation gay culture...Halperin is at his best when critiquing the current assimilationist model of gay-rights activism, with its denial of any cultural interests or aesthetic points-of-view that hint of femininity or campiness or of the "stereotypically gay." His cultural history of how this attitude emerged in the 1970s will be surprising to those who view the gay-rights movement as a consistently positive progression; Halperin argues convincingly that as butch masculine styles became ever more mandatory, both for attracting sexual/romantic partners (no femmes, no fats!) as well as earning political credibility, the push toward conformity lead to the "euthanasia of traditional gay male culture." ...How To Be Gay is intellectually rigorous [and] entertaining...Halperin demonstrates that those gays who do still identify with Bette and Joan, drag and drapes, Auntie Mame and Annie Lennox have something important to contribute to our ever more homogenous world.
David M. Halperin has written a monumental work… In detail, the book explores the emotional and personalized subjectivity in describing what is at the core of gay culture and the innermost feelings of what it is to be 'gay.' …It is Halperin's intent to create a serious dialogue, though there are many smiles to be had at the same time, while absorbing the process. How To Be Gay is both enlightening and refreshing in the personal discovery of self or for lack of a better phrase, the perfect way to understand the how, what, where and why 'to turn your inner-gay on.'
I've always been a big fan of Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, and Doris Day. Though it was a secret, shameful love. David Halperin's wonderful, wildly ambitious masterpiece has given me the courage to come out about it. And even tell the golden daffodils. As Halperin eloquently explains, desire into identity will not go, even with plenty of poppers and lube. What's more, the dignified, proper, and very particular gay identity really doesn't deserve the giddy, gushing, world-grabbing gay sensibility. And vice versa.
How To Be Gay makes for as fun a viewing companion [to Mildred Pierce and Mommie Dearest] as it does a rigorously intelligent read… Whether you're well-versed in all things gay or tend to avoid pop divas at all costs, How To Be Gay offers a fresh perspective on what we call gay culture, why so many of us love what we love and why we're afraid to talk about it. Thankfully, as Halperin notes in his conclusion, gay male culture isn't going anywhere-as long as there's a straight culture to appropriate for our own ends.
How To Be Gay posits that 'gayness' is not simply the act of two men having sex but a mode of perception that must be learned from-and shared by-other gay men. Halperin homes in on, among many topics, the yin and yang of gay male existence: the beauty and the camp.
Distinguished scholar David Halperin's long-awaited manifesto delivers on its promise. Macho, faggy, queeny, butch diva, opera-swilling, Broadway-loving, gourmet, sex-fascinated, beauty-appreciated, love-desiring, rough trade, high art, race- and class-inflected but not exclusive, generationally-situated but not entirely, intellectual, open-hearted, politically-minded, leather chaps! Mary!
Distinguished scholar David Halperin's long-awaited manifesto delivers on its promise. Macho, faggy, queeny, butch diva, opera-swilling, Broadway-loving, gourmet, sex-fascinated, beauty-appreciating, love-desiring, rough trade, high art, race- and class-inflected but not exclusive, generationally situated but not entirely, intellectual, open-hearted, politically minded, leather chaps! Mary!
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, June 2012
Library Journal, August 2012
New York Times Book Review, August 2012
Guardian UK, September 2012
Kirkus Reviews, September 2012
Booklist, October 2012
Choice, December 2012
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
A pioneer of LGBTQ studies dares to suggest that gayness is a way of being that gay men must learn from one another to become who they are. This book traces gay men's cultural difference to the social meaning of style.
Main Description
No one raises an eyebrow if you suggest that a guy who arranges his furniture just so, rolls his eyes in exaggerated disbelief, likes techno music or show tunes, and knows all of Bette Davis's best lines by heart might, just possibly, be gay. But if you assert that male homosexuality is a cultural practice, expressive of a unique subjectivity and a distinctive relation to mainstream society, people will immediately protest. Such an idea, they will say, is just a stereotype-ridiculously simplistic, politically irresponsible, and morally suspect. The world acknowledges gay male culture as a fact but denies it as a truth. David Halperin, a pioneer of LGBTQ studies, dares to suggest that gayness is a specific way of being that gay men must learn from one another in order to become who they are. Inspired by the notorious undergraduate course of the same title that Halperin taught at the University of Michigan, provoking cries of outrage from both the right-wing media and the gay press, How To Be Gay traces gay men's cultural difference to the social meaning of style. Far from being deterred by stereotypes, Halperin concludes that the genius of gay culture resides in some of its most despised features: its aestheticism, snobbery, melodrama, adoration of glamour, caricatures of women, and obsession with mothers. The insights, impertinence, and unfazed critical intelligence displayed by gay culture, Halperin argues, have much to offer the heterosexual mainstream.
Main Description
No one raises an eyebrow if you suggest that a guy who arranges his furniture just so, rolls his eyes in exaggerated disbelief, likes techno music or show tunes, and knows all of Bette Davis's best lines by heart might, just possibly, be gay. But if you assert that male homosexuality is a cultural practice, expressive of a unique subjectivity and a distinctive relation to mainstream society, people will immediately protest. Such an idea, they will say, is just a stereotype'ridiculously simplistic, politically irresponsible, and morally suspect. The world acknowledges gay male culture as a fact but denies it as a truth. David Halperin, a pioneer of LGBTQ studies, dares to suggest that gayness is a specific way of being that gay men must learn from one another in order to become who they are. Inspired by the notorious undergraduate course of the same title that Halperin taught at the University of Michigan, provoking cries of outrage from both the right-wing media and the gay press, How To Be Gay traces gay men's cultural difference to the social meaning of style. Far from being deterred by stereotypes, Halperin concludes that the genius of gay culture resides in some of its most despised features: its aestheticism, snobbery, melodrama, adoration of glamour, caricatures of women, and obsession with mothers. The insights, impertinence, and unfazed critical intelligence displayed by gay culture, Halperin argues, have much to offer the heterosexual mainstream.
Table of Contents
B+ Could Try Harder
Diary of a Scandalp. 3
History of an Errorp. 33
American Falsettos
Gay Identity and Its Discontentsp. 69
Homosexuality's Closetp. 82
What's Gayer Than Gay?p. 88
The Queen Is not Deadp. 109
Why are the Drag Queens Laughing?
Culture and Genrep. 129
The Passion of the Crawfordp. 149
Suffering in Quotation Marksp. 186
The Beauty and the Campp. 201
Mommie Queerest
Gay Family Romancep. 223
Men Act, Women Appearp. 242
The Sexual Politics of Genrep. 260
Tragedy into Melodramap. 282
Bitch Baskets
Gay Femininityp. 301
Gender and Genrep. 322
The Meaning of Stylep. 355
Irony and Misogynyp. 376
What Is Gay Culture?
Judy Garland versus Identity Artp. 401
Culture versus Subculturep. 421
Queer Foreverp. 432
Notesp. 459
Acknowledgmentsp. 527
Indexp. 535
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem