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As the title denotes, each image of a person with AIDS is captioned with his or her own words and signature. Howard's juxtaposition of both images and words lends a special power and specific meaning to the collection: images are given a distinctive human voice, words a distinctive human face.
Each image tells a story, but the story is that of a singular life facing a singular death. Using a focused lens and realistic frame, Howard presents candid portraits of persons in ordinary surroundings engaged in daily activities. Light creates mood in this pictorial display of the entire range of human emotion.
This book is about fifteen people with AIDS whose words and images record what is happening to their bodies and spirits as they confront the reality and contemplate the mystery of certain death. Nicholas and Bebe Nixon set out to describe honestly and compassionately what it is to have AIDS; what it does to families and friends; why it is the most devastating social and medical issue of our time.
The photographs are characteristic of Nixon’s "serial portraits"--stark and formal close-ups or shallow-focused medium shots of immobile subjects taken at intervals of weeks and months with an 8 x 10 view camera. They are accompanied by comments culled from subjects’ conversations and letters by Bebe Nixon, a science journalist.
Gustave Aschenbach, renowned German scholar and historian, reaches a crisis in his previously austere and celibate life. Exhausted from the pressures and the seemingly sterile quality of his aesthetic endeavors, he seeks respite and pleasure. Through a series of misadventures, he eventually arrives in the summer city of Venice, a city he knows and has always longed to visit again.
The reader observes the progressive moral alteration in the rigidly self-controlled man as he succumbs to his long repressed desire to experience the types of passion that art, rather than reason, allows. His transformation extends to the worship of a beautiful young boy--Aschenbach's vision of a doomed Greek god.
As Aschenbach becomes progressively obsessed with his longing, he assumes the role of a lover gone amok. Venice is under siege by a plague, and given the chance to escape--and to warn his object's Polish family of his knowledge about the dangers facing them all--he chooses to take the ultimate risk of death rather than give up his passionate obsession.
This sonnet sequence, found in part III of the poetry collection, A Long Sound, opens with the narrator preparing to date her music teacher's son, a man she has had a crush on since age twelve. Now she is eighteen, "damaged goods" according to her mother, and about to embark on a date.
In the second sonnet, the narrator's date begins to ply her with alcohol, and by the third sonnet, she numbly acquiesces to his advances. Drunk and in a blackout by the fourth sonnet, she re-lives the emotional and physical pain of her recent abortion, an event her whole family "was in on."
In the fifth sonnet, she wakes in her date's immaculate Buick as he drives her home and asks imperiously if she "does this sort of thing often." The sixth sonnet is both touching and horrifying-she recalls that, in spite of the man's disdain, she was so hungry for love that she wished he would kiss her good night.
Returned to the house she "hated," she mourns the "sore night" of the abortion, a memory she cannot erase with alcohol and sex. In the final sonnet, the narrator--chided, belittled, and abused by both her mother and her date--experiences a moment of awful clarity. This is the beginning of her recovery, a revelation recognized in retrospect.
Ashdown, a beautiful but bleak manor on the English coast, is the main setting of this story. Initially, a group of university students including Sarah Tudor, Gregory Dudden, Robert, and Terry reside at Ashdown. Some of these same students return there years later as either patients or staff when the building is converted into the Dudden Clinic where individuals with all sorts of sleep disorders are treated.
Sarah is a disturbed young woman suffering from narcolepsy. She is sometimes unable to differentiate her dreams from the experiences of real life. Robert is infatuated with her and will do literally anything to please her. Gregory is Sarah’s first lover, later a psychiatrist in charge of the sleep clinic, and finally a man gone mad who decides to self-experiment. Dr. Cleo Madison is a sleep psychologist whose true identity is a surprise. In this novel, reality appears more surrealistic than most dreams.
This collection's first section contains eight poems that address AIDS. "Inventory," a listing of the author's acquaintances who have died of AIDS, catalogs a variety of responses to this illness. Other poems are stark portraits of death in progress ("Waste Not," "Photo") as well as evidence of the love and coping skills a diagnosis of AIDS elicits ("Althea," "In Time of Plague," "Sonnet Positive"). "The Review" ironically compares a popular movie about AIDS to its reality: in the movie, family members do not flinch from kissing their infected son.
The second section addresses coming out as a Lesbian ("In the Duchess"), domestic violence ("Beatings"), and Lesbian sexuality and relationships ("Hunger" and "Want"). "My Body" is another effective "list" poem, a catalog of the female body and how its physical dimension becomes the visual history of a life "healed and healed again."
The final eight poems examine the difficult relationship between a daughter and her dying mother. The book comes full circle as the "swift river" (death from AIDS) of the book's opening poem becomes the "cold river" the speaker now swims in, a metaphor for internalizing a mother's "bitter edge" as well as the accumulated deaths of friends and lovers ("Cold River").
"To Spirit," "Journey," and "Here" regard the daughter's deathwatch over her mother. The remaining five poems serve to balance loss and hope, especially "Legacy," in which the narrator accepts how age is transforming her own body into her mother's, "her scared eyes shining in triumph."
Walt Koontz (Robert De Niro) is a retired security officer, cited for his heroism, and now living alone in an unsavory apartment building on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He regards his neighbors with contempt, especially the "faggot" upstairs, Busty Rusty, (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a transvestite and singer/piano player at a popular drag club. During a drug-related shoot-out with an upstairs neighbor, Walt attempts to help, but suffers a stroke that leaves him with paralysis of his right side and significant speech impairment. Walt's status as hero is radically changed. His friends become awkward around him.
Walt refuses to leave the apartment building for treatment. His doctor (Mahdur Jaffrey) recommends singing lessons to improve his speech. Walt reluctantly seeks help from Rusty. The relationship between a bigot and a drag queen is an unlikely one that begins with mutual loathing and considerable stereotyping on both sides. Eventually each is forced to renegotiate his own prejudices.
Summary:This collection of twenty-seven images was culled from an exhibition featuring seventy-five individuals with AIDS photographed over a ten-month period in the late 1980s. Solomon’s project recalls the work of photographers such as Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans who chronicled the devastation of rural America during the Great Depression. However, Solomon eschews the spontaneity of documentary photography for the formality of portraiture so that the figure itself is always at the center of the picture plane. Ranging in format from single full-figures to group images, from dramatic close-up facial shots to nearly abstract still-lifes, these images capture the humanity of the diverse persons affected by AIDS.
In fourteenth century France, a 15 year old virgin, Blanche, levitates in church and nine months later gives birth to a daughter named Bonne. When Bonne is only 12 years old, Blanche is burned alive along with other "sinners" in a church. Bonne becomes a professional breast-feeder or "wet nurse." Her breast milk never stops flowing and seems to have restorative powers.
She finds herself catapulted from outcast to saint despite a series of catastrophes. When her town of Villeneuve is under siege and starving, she breast feeds not just children but many of the townspeople as well, asking only to listen to the individual's life story in exchange for her milk. Bonne's fate becomes deeply entangled with the lives of three friends: Godfridus (a chaste sculptor who goes mad), Hercules Legrand (a dwarf), and Radegonde Putemonnoie (a wealthy pregnant widow who hires Bonne).
This is a rich and diverse anthology of poetry and of prose extracts, both fictional and non-fictional, about becoming a parent. It is organized into three chronological sections: "First Stirrings," about becoming and being pregnant (or of having a pregnant partner: the father’s perspective is refreshingly well-represented throughout), "The Welcoming," about labor and birth, and bringing home the newborn, and "Now That I am Forever With Child," about being the parent of an infant.
Each section contains a cross-section of views, from, for instance, Elizabeth Spires’s languid letter to the fetus inside her to Rosemary Bray’s candid account of her ambivalence about being pregnant; from Julianna Baggott’s thoughts on the Madonna and child, and A. S. (Antonia Susan) Byatt ’s rather frightening description of giving birth in a British hospital in the 1960s, to Hunt Hawkins’s sad poem about holding his dying newborn daughter; and from Jesse Green’s memoir as a gay parent adopting a son to Kate Daniels’s prayer for her children.
The anthology ends with the powerful poem by Audre Lorde that gives its title to the book’s last section. Lorde encapsulates the astonishing change of focus and identity at the heart of becoming a parent.