Second Life: Bruce Hainley Selects

by Bruce Hainley
Date Published: August 25, 2011

For our Second Life series, we work with writers and publishers to present selected essays, magazines, ephemera, and other previously published material that is out of print or hard to find, giving it a second life online. Our contributing editor Bruce Hainley starts us off with two out-of-print books from his personal library.

1. Peter James,  Down Under: To Glorify the Australian Lifesaver, 1985.

I’ve spent much of the summer thinking about AIDS and what I assume is called ‘the politics of barebacking’. I know. Super fun-tastic. The photographs of Peter James solarize the sweet antithesis of all of that, although, if I were to put his work through the theoretical paces it deserves, I’d point out that he captures the male body in the sunset of its innocence, re: AIDS, when, in a desperate attempt to escape a virus, men, as depicted in popular culture (i.e., on the level of the imaginary), put all their attention into girding themselves with gym regimes and juicing on steroids for grander, quicker results. Instead, James dazzles by showing spare, panther-like physiques at work, blithely unaware of portraying any encroaching poignancy, right at the moment when bubble butts were Rambo-ized–sadly, necessarily–into buns of steel. Not quite innocence, really. I mean, these are pictures of lifeguards.

Click here for an excerpt, courtesy of the author.

2. Boyd McDonald, “Star of Stars” from Cruising the Movies: A Sexual Guide to Oldies on TV, 1985.

Geoff Dyer’s recent takedown of Michael Fried’s prose style in The New York Times fascinated for many reasons, not the least of which is that it should serve as a wakeup call for anyone who still thinks that those who practice what’s often disparaged as belles lettres can’t pack some serious heat when it comes to, well, thinking. New forms, new grammars, provide the only way to express new ideas. Not that Dyer would be one of my belletristic paradigms of choice. For that, I’d turn to Jamaica Kincaid on gardening, Renata Adler on political media, and George W. S. Trow on just about anything—or to Boyd McDonald, who dedicated his life to tracking the blunt textures, fractal abrasions, and wayward odors of men encountering men in public bathrooms, Marines barracks, greasy pit stops, and just about anywhere else they happen to pop up. I’m tempted to state something like, “Foucault drools”…but, um, not now. Grindr just pinged me.

Click here for an excerpt, courtesy of publishers Larry Mitchell and Felice Picano. 
Bruce Hainley is the author of No Biggie, Foul Mouth, and, with John Waters, Art–A Sex Book.  A contributing editor of Artforum and East of Borneo, he teaches in the MFA Program at Art Center College of Design.  The fifth (and most recent) issue of Pep Talk is dedicated to his work.