Uit: City Boy
“I had constant daydreams of meeting Susan Sontag and Paul Goodman. I don’t know why I focused on them — maybe because they were so often mentioned in the Village Voice and the Partisan Review but even by Time. He’d written Growing Up Absurd, the bible of the sixties, now largely forgotten (I never read it in any event). How could I have worshipped a man whose work I didn’t know? I guess because I’d heard that he was bisexual, that he was a brilliant therapist, and that he was somehow for the young and the liberated. I read his astonishing journal, Five Years, published in 1966, a groundbreaking book in which he openly discussed paying men for sex and enjoying anonymous sex in the meatpacking district. Today that would seem unremarkable, perhaps, but for a husband and a father back then to be so confi ding, so shameless, was unprecedented, especially since the sex passages were mixed in with remarks on culture and poetry and a hundred other subjects.
Sontag was someone I read more faithfully, especially Against Interpretation and even individual essays as they were published.
New York, in short, in the seventies was a junkyard with serious artistic aspirations. I remember that one of our friends, the poet Brad Gooch, wanted to introduce us to his lover, who’d become an up-and-coming Hollywood director, but Brad begged him not to tell us that he worked as a director since Hollywood had such low prestige among us. That sort of reticence would be unthinkable today in a New York that has become enslaved by wealth and glitz, but back then people still embraced Ezra Pound’s motto, “Beauty is difficult.”
We kept asking in 1972 and 1973 when the seventies were going to begin . . .
Then again we had to admit the sixties hadn’t really begun until the Beatles came over to the States in 1964, but after that the decade took on a real, definite personality — protest movements, long hair, love, drugs, a euphoria that turned sour only toward the end of 1969. Of course for Leftists the decade began with the Brown v. Board of Education decision and ended with Nixon’s resignation in 1974.”
Edmund White (Cincinnati, 13 januari 1940)