Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Winter 2002-2003

Back Catalogue

A chance for readers to dust off a favourite older volume that’s given them pleasure and to share their enthusiasm with the rest of us.

A Queer Reader, edited by Patrick Higgins

reviewed by Andy Armitage

Each section of this invaluable resource is prefaced with a historical overview of what is to come – and what is to come is a collection of quotes, long and short, from people of that time.

It’s split chronologically, from antiquity to the present day (well, as far as 1993, anyway, when this was first published, with the paperback that I have published in 1994), and is rich with fact and comment.

In its way it celebrates homosexuality through the ages, and presents what may come as surprises to some readers, such as the romantic attachment between Danny Kaye and Laurence Olivier.

Kaye “effectively insinuated himself into Olivier’s intimate life”, we read in an excerpt from Donald Spoto’s Laurence Olivier: A Biography (1991): “All this and the fact of the affair would perhaps remain unremarkable had not Olivier written a letter to Vivien [Leigh] in 1961, weakly describing as transitory and unimportant the sexual intimacy between himself and Kaye.”

Spoto goes on to tell us that the affair was “certainly everything Vivien suspected and far more than Olivier admitted. She was singularly unamused when she saw photographs taken at one riotous all-male gathering at the Caribbean home of Noël Coward. Kaye and Olivier had performed impromptu song-and-dance duets, dressed alternatively as bride and groom.”

Space doesn’t permit a fuller review of this potpourri of a romp through homosexuals and what people have said about them, with source material from Michelangelo’s Sonnets, from Plato’s Symposium, from Gay News, from speeches in the House of Lords, from graffiti in Pompeii and from the poems of W. H. Auden – to name but a few.

A fascinating and rewarding tour de force.

URI of this page :
Created : Sunday, 2003-01-12 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
Brett Humphreys :