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Queer Domesticities: Homosexuality and Home Life in Twentieth-Century…

af Matt Cook

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingSamtaler
711,850,345 (4)Ingen
"Queer Domesticities" is about the ways in which queer men have made, experienced and described their homes in London. It is about how they did those things in relation to trenchant stereotypes which cast them as either sissy home boys or domestic outlaws, and in relation also to the immediate pressing contexts of the places they lived through choice or force of circumstance. Matt Cook's book takes queer history indoors and shows additional ways in which queer men orientated their sense of themselves -- behind closed doors and apart from the more public bars, clubs, cruising grounds, courtrooms, and protest and pride marches that have more often drawn our attention. In this way it casts in historical perspective the new interest in the home lives and styles of gay men which has come with legal change on civil partnerships, gay marriage and adoption and with TV and media depictions of gay men with particular domestic flair. The book rests on oral histories and unpublished diaries of relatively unknown men and on reassessments of famous and infamous figures, including artists Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, architect and romantic socialist C.R. Ashbee, early reformer George Ives, interior designer Oliver Ford, writer and editor J.R. Ackerley, 'stately homo' Quentin Crisp, playwright Joe Orton and film-maker Derek Jarman… (mere)

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What an interesting book. I’m enthusiastic because I could identify personally with a lot of the histories and the commentary, whether about upper middle-class queers in early 20th century London, or mid- and end-of-century social radicals. When I say “identify,” what I mean is that the actions, values and attitudes of the gay men that Matt Cook describes have parallels with mine. This is astonishing considering range of times, classes and demography the book covers. But because it seems so close to my reality, I think that it’s an accurate picture and worth dwelling on.
This is an academic review that uses a range of case studies to support the author’s observations about queer male life in 20th century London. Matt Cook’s observations are, in my experience, sound and thoughtful, but it’s the pictures of queer homes and households that are particularly interesting.
Cook starts with the elite home of two late Victorian/Edwardian men who turned their home into a place of unique taste and refinement, a demonstration, as Cook says, of their self-perceived sophistication and superiority. Their home is a tangible expression of their distinctness from the common taste while also normalizing their queerness. This is something that my partner and I reflect in our own home decorating choices, though unconsciously until reading this book. But yes, we strive for a demonstration of artistic good taste both as a statement of our superiority and normalcy. Until Cook put it into words, I had not considered that principle, but now it’s hard to deny it.
Cook’s observations about birth families and chosen families are equally telling, although like most gay men I’m much more aware of this in my life. The men in Cook’s case studies negotiate (in his academic language) complex relations with family members and others, sometimes bringing them closer, sometimes less close, but never severing relations entirely. It’s almost comical to think of the most radical and outrageous men of the latter part of the 20th century, like Joe Orton or Derek Jarman, going back to the parents’ home for the holidays, and reverting to their old family names and roles. Again, this is something that I and many other gay men can understand. While we want to create our own type of family and relationships, there is a state that shifts between comfort and discomfort when we enter the family home. Equally important is negotiating relationships with friends, both gay and not, changing over time as a form of chosen family, who may or may not be sexually involved, but may be part of an emotional and physical support network.
Fascinating to me, although not so much part of my direct experience, is the shift from “bedsitterland” to the queer squats and GLF. While both are specific to particular times and places in London, there are still elements that I feel I can relate to. Living in what used to be Vancouver’s queer ghetto, the idea of a densely populated neighbourhood where a marginalized population finds community in affordable, if substandard, housing seems quite natural, even desirable. I lived here in a housekeeping room as a student, and still love the sense of a shared village within a bigger city. We don’t have squats, but friends have lived in co-op housing, and negotiated the kind of personal space that Cook describes – although not as radical in their personal politics as the queer squats and GLF houses. And like London, we are losing our village to rising property costs. In all of this, we felt, and sometimes articulated, the need for community, security and identity that Cook draws out in his observations and analysis.
Cook draws on a wide range of cases to make his observations. Many of them I was vaguely aware of, such as the GLF co-ops, and the lives of high-profile queers like Orton and Jarman. But the personal detail of how they lived their lives makes those stories much more real, and humanizes them by showing points that are similar to my own life. This is a wonderful survey of queer life, and makes me feel part of a larger queer community. Now I want to read more of Cook’s research. ( )
  rab1953 | Oct 27, 2017 |
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"Queer Domesticities" is about the ways in which queer men have made, experienced and described their homes in London. It is about how they did those things in relation to trenchant stereotypes which cast them as either sissy home boys or domestic outlaws, and in relation also to the immediate pressing contexts of the places they lived through choice or force of circumstance. Matt Cook's book takes queer history indoors and shows additional ways in which queer men orientated their sense of themselves -- behind closed doors and apart from the more public bars, clubs, cruising grounds, courtrooms, and protest and pride marches that have more often drawn our attention. In this way it casts in historical perspective the new interest in the home lives and styles of gay men which has come with legal change on civil partnerships, gay marriage and adoption and with TV and media depictions of gay men with particular domestic flair. The book rests on oral histories and unpublished diaries of relatively unknown men and on reassessments of famous and infamous figures, including artists Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, architect and romantic socialist C.R. Ashbee, early reformer George Ives, interior designer Oliver Ford, writer and editor J.R. Ackerley, 'stately homo' Quentin Crisp, playwright Joe Orton and film-maker Derek Jarman

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