Secret Historian by Justin Spring
The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 8 Critic Reviews

unrated

Synopsis

Drawn from the secret, never-before-seen diaries, journals, and sexual records of the novelist, poet, and university professor Samuel M. Steward, Secret Historian is a sensational reconstruction of one of the more extraordinary hidden lives of the twentieth century. An intimate friend of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Thornton Wilder, Steward maintained a secret sex life from childhood on, and documented these experiences in brilliantly vivid (and often very funny) detail.

After leaving the world of academe to become Phil Sparrow, a tattoo artist on Chicago’s notorious South State Street, Steward worked closely with Alfred Kinsey on his landmark sex research. During the early 1960s, Steward changed his name and identity once again, this time to write exceptionally literate, upbeat pro-homosexual pornography under the name of Phil Andros.

Until today he has been known only as Phil Sparrow—but an extraordinary archive of his papers, lost since his death in 1993, has provided Justin Spring with the material for an exceptionally compassionate and brilliantly illuminating life-and-times biography. More than merely the story of one remarkable man, Secret Historian is a moving portrait of homosexual life long before Stonewall and gay liberation.

Secret Historian is a 2010 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.
 

About Justin Spring

See more books from this Author
Justin Spring is a writer specializing in twentieth-century American art and culture, and the author of many monographs, catalogs, museum publications, and books, including Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art and Paul Cadmus: The Male Nude.
 
Published August 17, 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 496 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Gay & Lesbian, Literature & Fiction, History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Secret Historian

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

A new book about Samuel Steward, “Secret Historian” by Justin Spring, reveals a little-documented strand of gay life in the middle decades of the 20th century.

Jul 25 2010 | Read Full Review of Secret Historian: The Life an...

The New York Times

See more reviews from this publication

Steward forthrightly explores every corner of the sexual universe available to him and is so unconcerned about exposure that when his lives finally collide — he’s dropped by DePaul when administrators find out that, in between seminars, he’s running Chicago’s hottest rough-trade tattoo parlor — h...

Aug 26 2010 | Read Full Review of Secret Historian: The Life an...

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

(His swerve from academia into tattooing, with its mix of physical pain and proximity to nubile male flesh, was essentially a fetish turned into a business.) Spring’s sympathetic and entertaining story of a life registers the limitations imposed on homosexuals by a repressive society, but also ce...

Apr 12 2010 | Read Full Review of Secret Historian: The Life an...

Examiner

Samuel Steward crammed more living into his 84 years, than most, juggling a handful of careers, often keeping each job a secret from his colleagues, meanwhile helping pioneer everything from tattooing to gay pornography.

Aug 15 2011 | Read Full Review of Secret Historian: The Life an...

Examiner

I can highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about gay life prior to Stonewall, or simply read the remarkable tale of a man who threw caution to the wind and lived the life he craved.

Sep 16 2010 | Read Full Review of Secret Historian: The Life an...

New York Journal of Books

See more reviews from this publication

That he ultimately became the saddest of gay stereotypes, the bitter old man without sexual appeal who lives with a dachshund in a grubby cottage, without friends or family, buying what sexual contact he can from street corner hustlers, undermines his early song of sexual liberation.

Aug 17 2010 | Read Full Review of Secret Historian: The Life an...

The Washington Post

Steward, Spring writes, "was never one for self-pity," but the "whimsical-serious" tone of Steward's own writing makes it hard to know what he really felt.

Dec 03 2010 | Read Full Review of Secret Historian: The Life an...

Lambda Literary

Toklas to writing “one-handed fiction.” But finding out how this had happened and why, or much more about him, remained a mystery—Justin Spring’s Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward solves that mystery.

Oct 13 2010 | Read Full Review of Secret Historian: The Life an...

Reader Rating for Secret Historian
87%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 101 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×