Art historian and critic Lord (Mythic Giacometti, 2004, etc.) recounts his life as a gay GI in World War II.
The author presents himself as utterly ordinary, “average of height, weight, build, unremarkable, in short, in every outward aspect.” That unremarkable nature proved useful, for Lord was living a dangerous life in those days—and, as he notes, even today, “parents in Dallas, Dijon, or Dar es Salaam hardly hope that their kids will grow up to live in sin with same-sex partners.” Understanding his own inclinations early on, Lord shipped out to the European theater in various combat-support roles. An intelligent writer capable of holding a conversation in French, he found himself interviewing and processing displaced persons. Moreover, no thanks to the interventions of a sympathetic colonel with a penchant for calling him “baby,” he also earned a reputation for having “a unique faculty for antagonizing your superiors,” as one officer growls. Lord recounts scrapes with GIs who were progressive in all ways but the amatory. Of more interest to cultural historians, he relates travels through wartime France that afforded him meetings with Pablo Picasso, Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein, the latter two confessing a fondness for Ulysses S. Grant. (“We quite prefer him to Lincoln,” Miss Toklas pronounced.) The author writes with occasional archness, much irony and good humor, but this is no Catch-22. By his account, which takes many dark turns, it is clear that he and other gay soldiers on the battlefield did as much as anyone to win the war.
A timely, artfully written memoir of one man's war.