Sunday, January 20, 2019

392. Must Gays Hate Catholicism?

More good news:  I have received the author's copies for my new novel, The Eye That Never Sleeps, and so can sign copies for whoever requests it.

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Did you ever have a friend who at times acted like your enemy, or an enemy who at times became your friend?  The Eye That Never Sleeps tells the story of just such a friendship.  The fourth title in my Metropolis series of historical novels set in nineteenth-century New York, it will be released on May 2.

Hired by the city’s bankers to track down and apprehend the thief who is plundering their banks, private detective Sheldon Minick develops a friendship with his chief suspect, Nicholas Hale, an elegant young man-about-town who is in every way the sober Methodist detective’s opposite. They agree to a truce and undertake each to show the other the city that he knows and values.  Further adventures follow, including a cancan, a gore-splattered slaughterhouse, and a brothel with leap-frogging whores.  But when the truce ends, the inevitable finale comes in the dark midnight vaults of a bank.

This is not a standard detective story.  Sheldon Minick is a bit scared of women, wears elevator heels to add to his height, and loves to belt out Methodist hymns at church (though he leaves the praying to his wife).  He is fascinated by Nicholas Hale, who is young, dapper, free-spending -- a risk-taker, deft with women, bisexual.

Available now only from the publisher, Black Rose Writing, or from the author.

15% discount from the retail price ($18.95), if you pre-order now. The book will be shipped on May 2.  For my other books, see BROWDERBOOKS below, following the post.

              Must Gays Hate Catholicism?

         Yes, my partner Bob was pretty vocal about his antipathy to Catholicism.  His diary entries in the late 1980s sizzle with resentment and hate of the Church.  Consider this entry, no location given, January 16, 1986:

The indifference of the Catholic Church to human needs revolts my sense of integrity and fair play.  I view the Catholic Church as the greatest force of oppression in this country.  It stinks with the weight of its hatreds and the sheer bulk of its hideous decrees and doctrines.  It is astonishing that some of the world’s finest art and music has been born within the perimeters of the vicious and perverse scope of Peter’s almighty Church.  This evening my heart cries sadly over the infinite ills wrought by the Pope and his despicable crew.

         This shocked me when I first read it, and I’m not even Catholic.  This is not the rant of an enraged Protestant, for Bob was a committed atheist, hostile to religion in all its forms.  If he focused on Catholicism, it’s because the Pope and the archbishop of New York were tangible targets he could aim at.  But regarding Catholicism I want to say to him simply this: “You never saw Chartres cathedral.”  For the beauty of that cathedral – the sculpture at the portals, and especially the stained glass that seems to float in space – implies a faith that is supremely spiritual.  For me, such beauty transcends any misdeeds – and historically, there were many -- committed by the Church.  

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I would also cite the Gregorian chants, which for me have a purity and simplicity that convey the very essence of faith, a spirituality that surpasses reason and takes the listener into a realm of unquestioning devotion.

          But Bob was not so taken, even though he acquired and listened to Gregorian chants, and loved Bach’s Mass in B Minor, which he introduced me to.  Listen to his entry of August 19, 1987:

My loathing of the C. Church knows no bounds.  I am disdainful of and repulsed by all it represents.  The mythology of Big Daddy, J.C., and the Spook is incredulous. The extent to which the C. Church has perpetrated this nonsensical rubbish is appalling.  But of course it can only appeal to pea-brains or the mentally retarded, the mentally inept.  It should all be deposited inn a garbage can, where it assuredly belongs.  Shit on all of it!

         To dismiss devout Catholics as “pea-brains” or “mentally retarded” is of course ridiculous, but to understand Bob’s anger, we must dig deeper.  This was the late 1980s, and AIDS was raging unchecked, devastating the gay community.  Stoking Bob’s ire were the pronouncements of John O’Connor, Cardinal Archbishop of New York, who insisted that homosexual acts were contrary to natural law and intrinsically immoral.  O’Connor joined with the Salvation Army and other organizations in challenging an executive order from Mayor Ed Koch requiring all city contractors, including religious organizations, to provide services on a non-discriminatory basis with respect to, among other things, sexual orientation.  And they were successful; in time, the order was struck down by the courts.

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An AIDS protest in 1988: ACT-UP at FDA headquarters in Maryland, demanding greater access to drugs under investigation.

         Bob’s fight with religion could take on a very personal aspect.  Writing in his favorite restaurant, the Hunan Spring, in an entry dated 8 p.m., May 13, 1987, he tells how, on Mother’s Day, he told his widowed mother, a good churchgoing Lutheran, (1) that her husband had not been a Christian, which she denied vigorously, having given him a Christian burial; and (2) that the idea of no sex before marriage had now been thrown out, which provoked another explosive response on her part, as she declared that such a notion was not right.  But Bob was correct.  His father was a ”closet atheist” who had introduced his son to the works of the freethinkers Robert Ingersoll and H.L. Mencken, both of them hostile to religion.

         After recording the explosive Mother’s Day events of May 13, Bob adds an impression at the restaurant:

At an adjacent table is a Christian or perhaps Jewish cluck “pontificating” on the divine/mystical/supernatural.  Her hair is shaped like a mushroom; her voice is very domineering and “authoritative.”  Her companion seems to be a rather wispy, basically in-agreement guy, and, oh, darling, the conversation is everything they both deserve.  The mutual (almost, not quite, since the gal predominated) conversation went on to the so remarkable, h-m-m, concern for belief and faith.  --  Same thing, no?  The cackling gal sounds like she needs a good, resounding fuck from her so-concerned (that word again) companion!  They have sat there for 45 minutes, blabbing without intelligence about the unknown. ---  Such an utter waste!

Then, shortly later, he announces that “the demented pair has left.”  He anticipates going tomorrow with a friend to Coney Island, where he anticipates “Infinity.  Air.  Possibilities.”  Clearly, his Infinity has nothing of divinity.

         Are his anti-Catholic fulminations irrelevant today, given the more gay-friendly attitude of the Church, and the more enlightened mindset of the laity?  Not at all.  “Renewed Hostilities Torment Gay Workers in Catholic Churches” is the title of a front-page article in the New York Times of Sunday, December 30, 2018.  It relates a series of incidents:

·      How an openly gay layman working for a Catholic church in San Diego arrived at the church office for work and found two words spray-painted on the wall: No Fags. 
·      How after Mass on another occasion, a stranger had swung a punch at the same gay layman, who when threats against him multiplied, finally quit his job. 
·      How in Chicago a priest burned a rainbow flag and led parishioners in a “prayer of exorcism.”  

Fueling some of these incidents is renewed public awareness of sexual abuse by hundreds of Catholic priests.  If Bob were alive today, he would hate both the Church and those trying to purify it.  His rants would thunder across the pages of his journal, with an abundance of four-letter words. 

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Anti-gay demonstrators in San Francisco in 2008.  
Scenes like this fed Bob's fury.

        From the fulminations in his diaries, one might think that Bob in those years – the 1980s – was fast becoming a cranky old oath-prone codger devoid of humor, tolerance, and compassion.  On the contrary, he was sensitive, perceptive, and especially appreciative of the magic of New York, the Village, and his two vacation islands, Monhegan and Nantucket.  And he savored Chopin played by Rachmaninoff, as well as opera, theater, and all the cultural richness of New York, supplemented by that of Boston and Washington.  Also, he had the gift of friendship.  His journals record numerous experiences shared with friends of both sexes whose friendship he treasured.  And unlike me, he rarely swore; in moments of anger or frustration, when I would say “Shit!” or something worse, he would say “Sugar!”  But he was also a determined idealist, and time and again humanity let him down.  He deplored the banality of life all around him.  His attitude could indeed be called elitist, but it was passionately felt.  His diatribes expressed a profound sense of waste, an awareness of what might have been but wasn’t, the hurt and grief of loss.

         If Bob on the subject of religion, and especially Catholicism, bothers you, wait till you hear him on the subject of Mom; American motherhood may never be the same. .

Coming soon: My Bawdy, Genteel Dinner Party, and Who Can Come and Who Can't.  (To give us a break, before my partner Bob's journal entries demolish American motherhood.)


All books are available online as indicated, or from the author.

1.  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World (Mill City Press, 2015).  Winner of the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  All about anything and everything New York: alcoholics, abortionists, greenmarkets, Occupy Wall Street, the Gay Pride Parade, my mugging in Central Park, peyote visions, and an artist who made art of a blackened human toe.  

If you love the city (or hate it), this may be the book for you. An award winner, it sold well at BookCon 2017 and 2018, and at the Brooklyn Book Festival 2018.


"If you want wonderful inside tales about New York, this is the book for you.  Cliff Browder has a way with his writing that makes the city I lived in for 40 plus years come alive in a new and delightful way. A refreshing view on NYC that will not disappoint."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Bill L.

"To read No Place for Normal: New York is to enter into Cliff Browder’s rich and engaging sixty years of adult life in New York. Yes, he delves back before his time – from the city’s origins to the 19th Century that Ms. Trollope and Mr. Dickens encounter to robber barons and slums that marked highs and lows of the earlier Twentieth Century. But Browder has lived such an engaged and curious life that he can’t help but cross paths with every layer and period of society. There is something Whitmanesque in his outlook."  Five-star Amazon customer review by Michael P. Hartnett.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

2.  Bill Hope: His Story (Anaphora Literary Press, 2017), the second novel in the Metropolis series.  New York City, 1870s: From his cell in the gloomy prison known as the Tombs, young Bill Hope spills out in a torrent of words the story of his career as a pickpocket and shoplifter; his brutal treatment at Sing Sing and escape from another prison in a coffin; his forays into brownstones and polite society; and his sojourn among the “loonies” in a madhouse, from which he emerges to face betrayal and death threats, and possible involvement in a murder.  Driving him throughout is a fierce desire for better, a persistent and undying hope.

For readers who like historical fiction and a fast-moving story.


"A real yarn of a story about a lovable pickpocket who gets into trouble and has a great adventure.  A must read."  Five-star Amazon customer review by nicole w brown.

"This was a fun book.  The main character seemed like a cross between Huck Finn and a Charles Dickens character.  I would recommend this."  Four-star LibraryThing review by stephvin.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

3.  Dark Knowledge (Anaphora Literary Press, 2018), the third novel in the Metropolis series.  Adult and young adult.  A fast-moving historical novel about New York City and the slave trade, with the sights and sounds and smells of the waterfront. 

New York City, late 1860s.  When young Chris Harmony learns that members of his family may have been involved in the illegal pre-Civil War slave trade, he is appalled.  Determined to learn the truth, he begins an investigation that takes him into a dingy waterfront saloon, musty old maritime records that yield startling secrets, and elegant brownstone parlors that may have been furnished by the trade.  Since those once involved dread exposure, he meets denials and evasions, then threats, and a key witness is murdered.  What price must Chris pay to learn the painful truth and proclaim it?


"A lively and entertaining tale.  The writing styles, plot, pace and character development were excellent."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by BridgitDavis.

"At first the plot ... seemed a bit contrived, but I was soon swept up in the tale."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by snash.

"I am glad that I have read this book as it goes into great detail and the presentation is amazing.  The Author obviously knows his stuff."  Four-star LibraryThing early review by Moiser20.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

4.  The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series, tells the story of a respectably raised young man who chooses to become a male prostitute in late 1860s New York and falls in love with his most difficult client.

What was the gay scene like in nineteenth-century New York?   Gay romance, but women have read it and reviewed it.  (The cover illustration doesn't hurt.)


"At times amusing, gritty, heartfelt and a little sexy -- this would make a great summer read."  Four-star Amazon customer review by BobW.

"Really more of a fantasy of a 19th century gay life than any kind of historical representation of the same."  Three-star Goodreads review by Rachel.

"The detail Browder brings to this glimpse into history is only equaled by his writing of credible and interesting characters.  Highly recommended."  Five-star Goodreads review by Nan Hawthorne.

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

5.  Fascinating New Yorkers: Power Freaks, Mobsters, liberated Women, Creators, Queers and Crazies (Black Rose Writing, 2018).  A collection of posts from this blog.  Short biographical sketches of people, some remembered and some forgotten, who lived or died in New York.  All kinds of wild stuff, plus some stuff that isn't quite wild but fascinating.  New York is a mecca for hustlers of every kind, some likable and some horrible, but they are never boring.

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"Fascinating New Yorkers by Clifford Browder was like sitting down with a dear friend and catching up on the latest gossip and stories. Written with a flair to keep the reader turning the pages, I couldn't stop reading it and thinking about the subjects of each New Yorker. I love NYC and this book just added to the list of reasons why, a must read for those who love NYC and the people who have lived there." Five-star NetGalley review by Patty Ramirez, librarian.

"Unputdownable."  Five-star review by Dipali Sen, retired librarian.

"I felt like I was gossiping with a friend when reading this, as the author wrote about New Yorkers who are unique in one way or another. I am hoping for another book featuring more New Yorkers, as I couldn't put this down and read it in one sitting!"  Five-star NetGalley review by Cristie Underwood. 

Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

©   2019   Clifford Browder   

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