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Gay Bar  By  cover art

Gay Bar

By: Jeremy Atherton Lin
Narrated by: Jeremy Atherton Lin
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Publisher's Summary

As gay bars continue to close at an alarming rate, a writer looks back to find out what’s being lost in this indispensable, intimate, and stylish celebration of history. 

In the era of Grindr and same-sex marriage, gay bars are closing down at an alarming rate. What, then, was the gay bar? Set between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London, Gay Bar takes us on a time-traveling, transatlantic bar hop through pulsing nightclubs, after-work dives, hardcore leather bars, gay cafes, and saunas, asking what these places meant to their original clientele, what they meant to the author as a younger man, and what they mean now.

In prose as exuberant as a hit of poppers and as dazzling as a disco ball, Atherton Lin conjures the strobing lights and the throbbing music, the smell and taste of tangles of male bodies, the rough and tender anonymous encounters, the costumes and categories—twink, top, masc, queen, tweaker, tourist, voyeur, exhibitionist—all the while tracking the protean aesthetics of masculinity and gayness. Along the way, he invites us to go beyond the simplified gay bar liberation mythology of Stonewall and enter the many other battlefields in the war to carve out space in which to exist, express, and love as a gay man.

Elegiac, sexy, and sparkling with wry wit, Gay Bar is at once a serious critical inquiry into how we construct ourselves through the spaces we inhabit and an epic night out to remember.

©2021 Jeremy Atherton Lin (P)2021 Little, Brown & Company
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: LGBTQ+

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Gay Bar : A Review

I loved his voice tone and narration. I thought the book itself was an interesting take on the anthropological/social aspect of gay bars through the lens of his life/a memoir about his life. My only issue was that to me personally it wasn’t marketed as a memoir (or I didn’t know it was?) and that it was only going to focus on LA/NYC/LDN bars which obviously is because the writer will only write about places he experienced and visited. It was a very entertaining listen and one of the best nonfiction books I’ve experienced this year.

7 people found this helpful

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Boring!!

Wow, how could a book about this topic be as boring as this?! The narrator is boring and I wouldn't call it a "performance", but it's more like someone reading his thesis. I don't know if the author is the reader, but I'm too bored to care. Apparently, the only thing the author went out for is to have sex. In the bars. In my decades of going to gay bars, I never went out to have sex in the bar. For sure, I met people and hooked up with them, but not in the bar. Most of the time going out was for the company, meeting new people, catching up on gossip and just having some laughs. Also, relaxing in the company of like-minded people.

2 people found this helpful

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Flashes of brilliance but mostly tedious

The first chapter starts out amazing, Interesting with lots of insight, but the two chapters that follow are pure yammer. I had great hopes for something extraordinary here, at least some understanding and hindsight into gay culture and how it's evolved into the modern era of how we now socialize via internet apps. Gay bars were a big part of how I learned socialize as a gay man on many levels and not just for sex. Feels unbearable to continue.

2 people found this helpful

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Gay Culture

Great book about how the gaybar has contributed to gay culture, and the impact the loss of the gaybar can negatively impact young gays in the future.

1 person found this helpful

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Part memoir, part sociological study, all good

I enjoyed the book overall. I like both memoir and social science nonfiction, and this was both. The performance was good as well. I disagreed with one of the author's statements at one point, but this is a solid book, good story, good research, and important topic.

1 person found this helpful

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OKAY ..BUT SLOW

Struggled to visit, wud have referred
another reader.
jumped around too much,hard to stay
concetrated...

1 person found this helpful

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Tricky to get through

I'll start by saying that I think Lin is a decent writer. I think he has a good grip on his vocabulary (my goodness, the number of times I had to look up definitions) and I think he knows how to set a scene. I liked the tidbits of history associated with each bar.

One criticism I have is that Lin has trouble blending the history with the memoirs. Other reviewers have had similar criticisms about experiencing a whiplash of sorts when Lin goes from describing pivotal moments in "gay bar history" to suddenly diverting to steamy scenes in a bathroom. I think this book has a bit of an identity crisis; had it been solely a collection of memoirs retelling interactions with patrons whom Lin meets at gay bars, I would have enjoyed it more.

One of the main reasons I had difficulty with this book was that I could not relate to his numerous, and frankly excessive, stories of sexual escapades in these gay bars and picking up guys with his partner. At the risk of sounding prudish, I started rolling my eyes with every blowjob or one-night stand; it started to feel like Lin was flattering himself. It started to feel like Lin was equating gay bars to just places to hook up. To his credit, Lin is self-aware; he knows that he personally went to gay bars for the thrill, for the sex, to be noticed, etc. I know guys who have that same mindset, but I know plenty more who do not. There are plenty of gay bars which have seedy back rooms and breed risky sexual behaviors (which Lin shares enough about), but even then, there are many men who frequent gay bars simply to be around people, strike a conversation, and feel a sense of community that perhaps they were denied in their past.

As a gay Asian-American man who frequents gay bars, I also wish he wrote more on how his Asian identity affects his experiences in these predominantly non-Asian spaces. I really liked his stories of encounters with his Asian elders at gatherings and how their expectations and views of him are separate from his sexual orientation. I liked the almost flippant way he acknowledged microaggressions regarding his race, how a guy told him that he had something "oriental" about him, which he then clapped back by saying how that word was for rugs and not people. I wanted more of that.

TL;DR: I think the book is okay. I wish Lin had picked if the book would be a memoir or a historical reference but not both. I wanted less sex and hookups, and more conversations about the other facets of gay identity, intersectionality, and culture. Overall, I just don't identify with the "We" in the title, and I'm sure plenty of other LGBTQ+ individuals do not either.

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the story

it was just the story. I thought it would me more informational about the history of gay bars and where they went. instead of his sexual escapades.