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Gay Bar: Why We Went Out

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Gay Bar is a sparkling, richly individual history of enclaves in London, San Francisco and Los Angeles. There is a sense of indifference that jars with my experience of ordinary, workaday gay London, where people dress casually and are fallible. Jeremy Atherton Lin's Gay Bar: Why We Went Out is an interesting juxtaposition of sociology and personal memoir focused on gay bars.

The subtitle of this book “why we went out” feels especially poignant when considering why he and his long term partner 'Famous' went to bars to make friends, view the “scene” and have sex with other men. Those people and that nightlife seemed so very far away from me and Minneapolis but it was the feature I always turned to first.

This is, of course, fine - I love memoirs and have enjoyed similar books where facts and statistics are mixed with stories from the author's own encounters - however, what we saw in this book was really quite vulgar and over detailed descriptions of the author having all kinds of sex in gay bars with his partner, which was not at all what I was expecting going into this book, and a lot of these scenes felt rather gratuitous. I really valued how candidly and explicitly he describes his experiences and what a positive example this gives of how sex is a part of Lin's own evolving sense of being a gay man and how an open long term relationship can work. With numerous think pieces and essays asking if gay bars are still necessary, I’m not sure this book answers the question; but it doesn’t have to.

But in urban centers around the world, they are closing, a cultural demolition that has Jeremy Atherton Lin What was the gay bar? Starting out in San Francisco and duly referencing queer literary icon Allen Ginsberg, Lin later moves to London and explores the scene there.He values the bars as arenas of egalitarianism, even if the would-be skinheads he encounters in East End hangouts are often guilty of “homosexual chicanery”, passing for hooligans because they like the wardrobe; in a critique of the post-industrial economy, he blames consumer culture for redefining identity as a commodity and co-opting gay men as “experts in leisure and aesthetics”, prized because they have cash to spend on frippery. Gay Bar, the debut of Jeremy Atherton Lin, won the National Book Critic's Circle award for autobiography.

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