Philip Sparrow Tells All by Samuel Steward
Lost Essays by Samuel Steward, Writer, Professor, Tattoo Artist

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At first blush, these essays may seem like gay esoterica, exemplary bits of camp. But they’re more than that. Mr. Mulderig saw fit to gather and annotate them because they are very good — a curious mix of frivolity and erudition, peacockery and restraint.
-NY Times

Synopsis

Samuel Steward (1909–93) was an English professor, a tattoo artist for the Hells Angels, a sexual adventurer who shared the considerable scope of his experiences with Alfred Kinsey, and a prolific writer whose publications ranged from scholarly articles to gay erotica (the latter appearing under the pen name Phil Andros). Perhaps his oddest authorial role was as a monthly contributor between 1944 and 1949 to the Illinois Dental Journal, an obscure trade publication for dentists, where writing as Philip Sparrow he produced a series of charming, richly allusive, and often quirky essays on a wildly eclectic assortment of topics.



In Philip Sparrow Tells All, Jeremy Mulderig has collected thirty of these engaging but forgotten columns, prefacing them with revealing introductions that relate the essays to people and events in Steward’s life and to the intellectual and cultural contexts in which he wrote during the 1940s. In these essays we encounter such famous friends of Steward as Gertrude Stein, André Gide, and Thornton Wilder. We hear of his stint as a holiday sales clerk at Marshall Field’s (where he met and seduced fellow employee Rock Hudson), of his roles as an opera and ballet extra in hilariously shoddy costumes, of his hoarding tendencies, his disappointment with the drabness of men’s fashions, and his dread of turning forty. We go along with him to a bodybuilding competition and a pet cemetery, and together we wander the boulevards of Paris and the alleys of Algiers. Throughout, Mulderig’s entertaining annotations explain the essays’ wide-ranging allusions and also highlight their gay subtext, which constituted a kind of private game that Steward played with his mostly oblivious audience of Midwestern dentists.



The first collection of any of Samuel Steward’s writings to be republished since his death in 1993, Philip Sparrow Tells All makes these lost essays available to a broad readership that Steward imagined but never actually enjoyed when he wrote them. In doing so, it takes a major step toward documenting his important place in twentieth-century gay literature and history.
 

About Samuel Steward

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Samuel Steward taught at both Loyola University and DePaul University in Chicago and ran a famous tattoo parlor on the city’s south side. His books include Dear Sammy: Letters from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos, and the Phil Andros series of erotic novels. Jeremy Mulderig is Vincent de Paul Associate Professor of English, Emeritus, at DePaul University in Chicago.
 
Published December 14, 2015 by University of Chicago Press. 264 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Gay & Lesbian, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Philip Sparrow Tells All
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Sep 25 2015

...it’s melancholic to think that Steward may have assumed his fine work would never find an appreciative audience. But the other side of that coin is imagining the glee with which he wrote essays such as “On How to Cook a Wolf” and “On Men and Their Feathers,” and relishing the chance to enjoy these subversive gems now.

Read Full Review of Philip Sparrow Tells All: Los... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer Senior on Dec 21 2015

At first blush, these essays may seem like gay esoterica, exemplary bits of camp. But they’re more than that. Mr. Mulderig saw fit to gather and annotate them because they are very good — a curious mix of frivolity and erudition, peacockery and restraint.

Read Full Review of Philip Sparrow Tells All: Los... | See more reviews from NY Times

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