« On the Forgotten Tedium of Airports and Political Regimes | Main | On Proof that the Sun Sets Magnificently, Even Over New Jersey: A Story of (Sub)Urban Despair »




"Which is to say he was a hot guy who never married and was romantically involved with several men throughout the course of his long life". Rubbish. It could have been like that, it could have been different. There is no historical proof that Humboldt was gay. Not one letter, not one witness. Sorry, but you shouldn't mix up your phantasies with real history. Kehlmann's book is a novel, but your statement is just plain wrong.

The Gay Recluse

Frank, I'm not going to get into a back and forth about whether Humboldt was gay; a simple google search will reveal plenty of information along the lines of this:

"Alexander von Humboldt never married, and throughout his life -- he died at age 90 -- he had a series of very close relationships with other men. One of the first, formed while he was still a young man, was with a fellow student named Wilhelm Wegener. Some of von Humboldt's correspondence with Wegener survives:

"When I measure the longing with which I wait for news of you, I am certain that no friends could love one another more than I love you," von Humboldt wrote. "When I recall all the signs of your friendship, I feel tormented in the thought that I don't love you as much as your sweet impressionable soul, your attachment for me, deserve."

Years later, he wrote a similar letter to another companion, Reinhard von Haeften, saying that he had decided against making a trip across Germany:

"It would have meant seeing you six days later, and such a loss cannot be made up by anything in the whole world. Other people may have no understanding of this. I know that I live only through you, my good precious Reinhard, and that I can only be happy in your presence."

Of course there are those who dismiss this sort of thing as "typical" of men at the time, just as there are those who view being gay as a negative, and will want photographic proof of Humboldt with a cock in his mouth before admitting the obvious.

All of this, however, misses the point of the above post, which is that my problem with Measuring the World is that that Kehlmann made the character gay and then did nothing to explore what this might have meant, which is a sign of weak writing, regardless of the historical truth of the situtation. Plus he conforms to a tiresome gay stereotype -- the sexless old queen -- that again is the sign of lazy writing.


"...just as there are those who view being gay as a negative, and will want photographic proof of Humboldt with a cock in his mouth before admitting the obvious."

Well, I hate to say it, but even that delightful scenario might fail to convince those who are committed to not seeing and not knowing. One could always describe such an image as fake or "out of context."

If only all it came down to was "lazy writing." Still, you're a hero (not to mention unique) for knowing what you're talking about.

The Gay Recluse

Thanks for the kind words, C!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Gods final



A young boy wanders into the woods of Harlem and witnesses the abduction of his sister by a glowing creature. Forty years later, now working as a New York City homicide detective, Gus is assigned to a case in which he unexpectedly succumbs to a vision that Helen is still alive. To find her, he embarks on an uorthodox investigation that leads to an ancient civilization of gods and the people determined to bring them back.

In this colossal new novel from the author of The Metropolis Case, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice collides with a new religion founded by three corporate office workers, creating something beautiful, illogical, and overwhelming. Part sex manifesto, part religious text, part Manhattan noir—with a dose of deadly serious, internet inspired satire—#gods is a sprawling inquest into the nature of faith and resistance in the modern world. With each turn of the page, #gods will leave you increasingly reborn.

Praise for #gods

“#gods is a mystery, an excavation of myths, an index of modern life, a gay coming-of-age story, an office satire, a lyrical fever dream, a conspiracy. One of the most ambitious novels in recent memory—and a wild, possibly transformative addition to the canon of gay literature—it contains multitudes, and seethes with brilliance.” —Mark Doten, author of The Infernal

“Matthew Gallaway’s #gods is a novel so brilliant, so funny, so full of strange and marvelous things, I couldn’t stop writing OMG WTF I <3 THIS SO MUCH in its margins. It’s rare to find a novel that so dazzlingly reinvigorates age-old meditations on faith and f&!*ing, art and eros. Luminous, enterprising, and sublimely cheeky, #gods tells the story, the myth, the dream of the human soul in all its glorious complexity.” —Suzanne Morrison, author of Yoga Bitch

“Matthew Gallaway’s storytelling manages to be both dreamy and serious; lean and luxurious. His words carry an incantatory power of mythic storytelling where beauty and savagery wrap around each other like bright threads in a gorgeous tapestry.” —Natasha Vargas-Cooper, author of Mad Men Unbuttoned: A Romp Through 1960s America

“If the ancient gods were just like us, only more so, then the same could be said for this strange, wonderful book, in which the mundane sorrows and small triumphs of very ordinary lives glow ever so slightly around the edges, sometimes quite literally. At once an oddly romantic send-up of dead-end office culture and an offbeat supernatural procedural, #gods is terrifically weird, melancholy, sexy, and charming.” —Jacob Bacharach, author of The Bend of the World

The Metropolis Case

'It’s to the credit of Matthew Gallaway’s enchanting, often funny first novel that it doesn’t require a corresponding degree of obsession from readers, but may leave them similarly transported: the book is so well written — there’s hardly a lazy sentence here — and filled with such memorable lead and supporting players that it quickly absorbs you into its worlds.'

-- The New York Times

Music: Death Culture at Sea and Saturnine

Listen or download songs and records from my indie-rock past with Saturnine here and Death Culture at Sea here.

Music Video: Remembrance of Things Past

Watch the rock opera Remembrance of Things Past written and performed by Saturnine and Frances Gibson, starring Bennett Madison and Sheila McClear.

Video: The Chaos Detective

The Chaos Detective is a series about a man searching for 'identity' as he completes assignments from a mysterious organization. Watch the first episode (five parts) on YouTube.
Get this Bloglicious Content Delivered Directly To Your Inbox
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide
My Photo

Google Analytics