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Search - Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade

Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade
Secret Historian The Life and Times of Samuel Steward Professor Tattoo Artist and Sexual Renegade
Author: Justin Spring
Drawn from the secret, never-before-seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel M. Steward, Secret Historian is a sensational reconstruction of one of the more extraordinary hidden lives of the twentieth century. An intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilde...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780374281342
ISBN-10: 0374281343
Publication Date: 8/17/2010
Pages: 496
Rating:
  • Currently 4.6/5 Stars.
 4

4.6 stars, based on 4 ratings
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback, Audio CD
Members Wishing: 6
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korri avatar reviewed Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade on + 5 more book reviews
Last night, as I was thinking about my own career trajectory (or lack thereof), I read this line--

'whatever his previous failures as a literary novelist and man of letters, he might yet establish himself as a brilliant writer of homosexual smut.'

--and giggled to myself as I thought, 'That's what I want to do when I grow up!'

Samuel Steward was a fascinating man. It boggles the mind that his life could have stayed an obscure footnote in the biographies of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Tolkas or appear only in uncatalogued letters held by university archives were it not for Justin Spring. Samuel Steward was a non-conformist who taught college by day and hosted orgies and a makeshift tattoo parlor in his flat at night. He was friends with literary and artistic luminaries, kept diaries and photographs of his sexual encounters for Alfred Kinsey, and published literary fiction and homosexual erotica.

I'm intrigued by Steward as he's presented through his diaries and letters: self-aware, introspective, erudite, self-depreciating and self-aggrandizing by turns. The sense of loneliness, of Trägheit, that was a constant companion throughout his life was offset by the fact that he lived with a devil may care attitude--submitting a Ph.D. dissertation that tangentially speculated about Cardinal Newman's homosexuality, sending salacious stationary with pornographic stories through the mail in the midst of 1950s repression, teaching by day and tattooing by night, etc. Here is a brash, brave legacy well worth reading.


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