Out/Lines: Underground Gay Graphics From Before Stonewall Compiled by Thomas Waugh (Arsenal Pulp)
I hesitated to review Out/Lines: Underground Gay Graphics From Before Stonewall, a collection of pornographic drawings of and for gay men. I'm not particularly gay and I'm definitely not a dude. Then again, I've been accused of fag-hagging and am down with dicks. And ultimately, the fact that I spent the better part of my day absorbing the text and poring over its 200 figures is a testament to Out/Lines' virtues, outside of its function as an overt turn-on.

Thomas Waugh compiled the collection, which features drawings by both famous figures like Tom of Finland and unknown artists. His text fleshes out historical context, positing opinions on how social and political climates manifest in the artwork. There are chapters on each major contributor, including biographical clues and notes on individual style.

The drawings, naturally, take up the bulk, and are at turns funny, disturbing, and touching. Many are cartoon strips or narrative sequences, usually involving supposedly straight men being tricked, tempted, or forced into homosexual acts. One of the most brutal images features a group of Roman soldiers gang-raping a man and leaving him limp on the side of the road, cum running out of every body hole. Other images are tender depictions of romantic embraces; fantastically rendered, reckless orgies; or lusty, voyeuristic freezes.

Waugh walks the reader through these images, pointing out the relationships between them, and theorizing on their significance. It is smartly written, but never alienating, and he has a charming habit of book-ending his chapters as though they're sexual sessions, with a drop in formality, and a chummy "Whew, that was intense. Okay, here we go again..."

There is plenty of pleasure to be had through simply flipping through Out/Lines for the pictures, and it would function brilliantly as an amusing coffee table accessory. That the essays are also excellent--illuminating the drawings with increasing vividness, and suggesting varied interpretations--is icing on the cake. MARJORIE SKINNER