The most recent issue of Monumenta Nipponica contains a detailed and carefully written review of my book Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Japanese Modernist Literature (University of Minnesota Press, 2011). The review was by Michelle Mason, an associate professor of Japanese literature at University of Maryland. She writes:
Angles convincingly argues that despite occasional borrowing from and homage to Edo-period notions of nanshoku (male-male sexuality), these three artists [discussed in the book, namely MURAYAMA Kaita, 村山槐多 EDOGAWA Ranpo 江戸川乱歩, and INAGAKI Taruho 稲垣足穂] were very much products of their particular historical moment. Specifically, amid the ascendency of heteronormative models of sexuality and an ever-increasing pathologization of male-male attraction and eroticism, they grappled and experimented with, queered, and challenged the aesthetic, medico-scientific, and social trends of their day. One strength of this study is that the lives and textual productions of the men it investigates are richly contextualized within Japanese and Western literary movements, dominant and popular sexological discourses, and trends in print and visual culture. The work also presents an assortment of imported and indigenous terminology and associations that intersect and transform in novel ways to configure modern Japanese conceptualizations of beautiful boys, male-male eroticism, and modern aesthetics…. Anyone reading to the end is rewarded with a rich rendering of an extremely important historical and cultural inheritance, which, as Angles compellingly argues, profoundly informs and inspires current Japanese understanding of male-male desire.
Click here for the entire review.
Click here to read about the book on Amazon.
和田三造 WADA Sanzō (1883-1967)
「南風」 South Wind (1907)
東京国立近代美術館 The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
油彩・キャンバス・Oil on canvas
151.5 × 182.4cm
This poster shows one of Riga’s most famous public monuments, the statue of Lenin’s riflemen. The monument is controversial since it commemorates a group of soldiers who fought on the side of the Bolsheviks, tried to establish Soviet rule in Latvia, and eventually became Lenin’s personal bodyguards. Today, some Latvians think the monument should be removed because of its Soviet links, but some think it should stay. Ironically, the Museum of the Occupation of Riga, which documents Nazi and Soviet wrongdoings in Latvia, is right next door.
The reason I like it so much is the homosocial, perhaps even homoerotic quality of the strong, tall, powerful, bold men standing together in camaraderie—qualities so often repeated in Soviet propaganda. When I visited Riga last year, I was surprisingly touched by this statue and spent quite a while looking at it.
Here is another photo from Flickr, taken in 2006 by Swishphotos.
In fall 2012, University of Minnesota Press will be publishing two books by one of Japan’s most important poets, TAKAHASHI Mutsuo 高橋睦郎. One is my translation of Twelve Views from the Distance 『十二の遠景』, a sumptuously beautiful book first published in 1970. This book describes Takahashi’s troubled, impoverished early life in rural, southern Japan and the ways that his family’s fortunes intersected with the rise of the Japanese empire and World War II. Takahashi’s friend, the novelist MISHIMA Yukio 三島由紀夫, lauded the book with these words.
It is magnificent that in this book, Twelve Views from the Distance, the poet Mutsuo Takahashi has managed to achieve firm prose that, while unmistakably the work of a poet, shines with a black luster much like a set of drawers crafted by a master of old. This book is a magnificent collection of sensations and of memories, much like the toys we might find in a dark closet.
The other forthcoming book by Takahashi is a reissue of Hiroaki Sato’s translation Poems of a Penisist, which brings together much of Takahashi’s most important early poetry, much of which deals with existentialist themes and homoerotic material. This collection includes the long poem Ode (頌 Homeuta), which the publisher Winston Leyland has called “the great gay poem of the 20th century.” It is said that Allen Ginsberg was so impressed by this collection of poetry that he personally lobbied Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights Books to publish more of Takahashi’s work.