Table of Contents
Also on this website:
Toby Johnson's books:
GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness
GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe
THE FOURTH QUILL, a
novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil
CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story
Books on Gay Spirituality:
Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The
Dimensional Structure of
Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"
The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the "Statement of Spirituality"
You're Not A Wave
Joseph Campbell Talks about Aging
What is Enlightenment?
What is reincarnation?
How many lifetimes in an ego?
Emptiness & Religious Ideas
Experiencing experiencing experiencing
Going into the Light
Meditations for a Funeral
The way to get to heaven
Buddha's father was right
Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal
The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika
Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva
John Boswell was Immanuel Kant
The Two Loves
Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook
Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer
The Way Out by Christopher L Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson
Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry
Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr
Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois
Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson
Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low
Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman
The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman
Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor
Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine
The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada
The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook
The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther
The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel
Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak
Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez
Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr
Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman
Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano
The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo
The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar
Occam’s Razor by David Duncan
Grace and Demion by Mel White
Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso
The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery
The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass
Love Together: Longtime Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication by Tim Clausen
War Between Materialism and Spiritual by Jean-Michel Bitar
The Serpent's Gift: Gnostic Reflections on the Study of Religion by Jeffrey J. Kripal
Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion
by Jeffrey J. Kripal
The Invitation to Love by Darren Pierre
Brain, Consciousness, and God: A Lonerganian Integration by Daniel A Helminiak
A Walk with Four Spiritual Guides by Andrew Harvey
Can Christians Be Saved? by Stephenson & Rhodes
The Lost Secrets of the Ancient Mystery Schools by Stephenson & Rhodes
Keys to Spiritual Being by Adrian Ravarour
In Walt We Trust by John Marsh
Solomon's Tantric Song by Rollan McCleary
A Special Illumination by Rollan McCleary
Aelred's Sin by Lawrence Scott
Fruit Basket by Payam Ghassemlou
Internal Landscapes by John Ollom
Princes & Pumpkins by David Hatfield Sparks
Blood of the Goddess by William Schindler
Sanctity & Male Desire by Donald Boisvert
Roads of Excess, Palaces of Wisdom by Jeffrey Kripal
Evolving Dharma by Jay Michaelson
Jesus in Salome's Lot by Brett W. Gillette
The Man Who Loved Birds by Fenton Johnson
The Vatican Murders by Lucien Gregoire
"Sex Camp" by Brian McNaught
Scissors, Paper, Rock by Fenton Johnson
By Brian McNaught
446 pages, 6x9 Paperback, $24.45
Available from Amazon.com, new & used
Also available for Kindle and ebooks.
Reviewed by Toby Johnson
Brian McNaught has been one of the leading lights in gay men’s confrontation with religion and culture for decades now. A very openly gay man, formerly the Gay Community Liaison in the Boston Mayor’s office, and author of several books including On Being Gay (1988), McNaught has been a sex educator and corporate diversity consultant dealing with gay issues in the workplace. One of his ongoing roles has been as a trainer in the Sexual Attitudes Reassessment (SAR) program held annually at an Episcopal Church owned retreat camp in the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
The book, titled “Sex Camp” (with the quotations marks in the title), is a fictionalized account of what has gone on over the years at that annual summer program, only half-jokingly referred to by the staff as “sex camp” (hence the quotation marks). Part novel, part sex education documentary, the book recounts one of the week-long trainings, complete with lectures on various aspects of human sexuality (including, of course, homosexuality, transsexuality, and all the variations), verbatim presentations of participants’ sexual histories, and stories of their interpersonal relationships and clashes, both in the classroom and outside.
While reading this book would not exactly be a substitute for real sexual attitudes reassessment training, it comes awfully close. Reading about experience is never the same thing as having experience, but there are many experiences people have vicariously and/or are welcomed into by reading about them. Participating in a SAR program is something many of us will never actually do, so the account of somebody else’s participation can be quite enlightening. AND because participation in a program like this can be threatening in prospect, reading about other people’s experience can make it less intimidating.
Actually it’s surprising to discover that reading about other people’s participation can be as interesting as McNaught makes it. When I first ordered this book from Lambda Rising, I’d thought it was going to be a comedy novel; I was preparing to go up to the annual Gay Spirit Camp at Easton Mountain and thought a humorous novel would be appropriate airplane reading. I was surprised then to discover that it’s not a comedy and not exactly a novel. But it held my attention as well or better than any humorous novel. And that is precisely because it was real.
McNaught has a great way of recounting the lectures and participant interactions so that they read like a drama. The reader gets the experience of being at the church camp, hearing these talks, and seeing into the lives of the semi-fictionalized participants. The author even manages to create a certain amount of suspense and drama. The book is delightfully readable.
As a novelist myself, I have one criticism of the plot—and if this were characterized as a piece of fiction, it would be a damning criticism—and that is that the author is the first-person narrator of the book, but he recounts events in narrative style at which he is not present. You really can’t do that in a novel. It’s a serious violation of narrative voice and perspective. But it works fine in “Sex Camp” because the book straddles genres so smoothly.
A neat gimmick of the book is that the cover shows a cartoon-like sketch of the participants all lined up for a group photo, inside is a key that identifies all the characters by name, so the reader can actually see what the principles look like. And within the narrative, there is even an explanation of how this sketch came to be made. Cute!
“Sex Camp” is easy reading, pleasantly educational, and entertaining despite its length (at 450 pages, it’s a hefty volume). It’s a treat to meet Brian McNaught—as author and as character of the narrative.
If you’ve never done a SAR, if you’re going to do one for work or just personal growth, or if you’ve done such a training in the past and remember the experience with fondness, you’ll likely enjoy and benefit from reading “Sex Camp.”
Reviewed by Toby Johnson, author of The Myth of the Great Secret: An Appreciation of Joseph Campbell, Gay Spirituality, Getting Life in Perspective and other novels and books
Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.
Johnson's Lammy Award winning book
SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of
Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated
PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature
of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are
available now from Lethe
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