In 2004, Benderson's lengthy erotic memoir Autobiographie érotique, about a nine-month sojourn in Romania, won the prestigious French literary prize, the Prix de Flore. The book was published in the United States (Tarcher/Penguin) and the United Kingdom (Snow Books) in 2006 under the title The Romanian: Story of an Obsession.
Benderson's book-length essay, Toward the New Degeneracy (1997), looks at New York’s Times Square, where rich and poor once mixed in a lively atmosphere of drugs, sex, and commerce. Benderson argues that this kind of mingling of classes has been the source of many modern avant-garde movements, and he laments the disappearance of that particular milieu. His novel User (1994) is a lyrical descent into the world of junkies and male hustlers. He is also the author of James Bidgood (Taschen, 1999), about the maker of the cult film Pink Narcissus.
A book-length essay by Benderson, "Sexe et Solitude," about the extinction of urban space and the rise of the Internet, was published in French in 1999. A collection of his essays, published under the title "Attitudes," appeared in French in 2006. These essays, along with "Sexe et Solitude" and "Toward the New Degeneracy," were printed in America in a nonfiction anthology of Benderson's writings entitled "Sex and Isolation" (University of Wisconsin Press, 2007), which was cited as one of the 10 best university press books of the year by the magazine "Foreword." The year 2007 also saw the publication in French (Editions Payot & Rivages) of a new novel by Benderson called "Pacific Agony," a caustic satire of life in America's Pacific Northwest, as well as Benderson's personal illustrated encyclopedia of the 60s and 70s, "Concentré de contreculture" (Editions Scali), published in French only. The novel "Pacific Agony" was published in English by Semiotext(e)/MIT in fall 2009.
Benderson's shorter literary efforts have been published in Between C & D, 3:AM Magazine, American Letters and Commentary, Men on Men and Flesh and the Word. As a journalist, he has written on squatters for the New York Times Magazine, boxing for the Village Voice, unusual shelters for nest, and film, books, and culture for various other publications, including "Paris Vogue," "Vogue Hommes," French "GQ," "Libération," Out, The Stranger, New York Press, BlackBook magazine, and Paper. He has translated several books of French origin, including Virginie Despentes' novel Baise Moi (which was later adapted into a controversial film); the writers Robbe-Grillet, Pierre Guyotat, Sollers, Benoît Duteurtre, Grégoire Bouillier, Philippe Djian, Martin Page and Nelly Arcan; and, though it is quite far away from his usual subject matter, the autobiography of Céline Dion. In 2007, his translation of Tony Duvert's "Le bon sexe illustré" (Good Sex Illustrated) was released by Semiotext(e)/MIT. A second book by Duvert he has translated, entitled "Diary of An Innocent," was released by the same publisher in 2009. His translation of David Foenkinos's novel, "Delicacy," has been released in December 2011 by Harper Perennial.
Benderson is the literary executor of the deceased novelist, Ursule Molinaro. He is mentioned in Frédéric Beigbeder's most recent book, Windows on the World. In 2006, he became a publishing associate at Virgin Books USA and later worked developing projects and editing proposals for the literary agent David Vigliano. He has taught at the maverick ranch college, Deep Springs, on three separate occasions. He currently writes a humorous monthly column, in French, for the magazine, "Têtu." For his French publisher he has recently completed a book about the future interfacing of biology and technology and the notion of The Singularity, as developed by Ray Kurzweil. The book is called "Transhumain" and was published by Editions Payot & Rivages in late October 2010. Unlike many people of his generation, Benderson is fascinated by computers and digital culture and could be called an "early adopter" of new technological devices.
I first read Bruce Benderson‘s novel User a couple of years after its debut in 1995. Stirring, seductive prose sucked me right into this exhaustive portrayal of urban prostitution and drug addiction in early 1990‘s Times Square. From the first page, a soiled, silken procession of words rendered me weak-kneed, incapable of pulling out until long after its final avian image had flown. Reading it again ten years later confirmed my original feelings. This is a remarkable novel.Further Readings:
Benderson shows us that everyone is a user and is used as well. To be used is not always to be abused. At times, it benefits the used more than the user. Sometimes, both parties benefit, sometimes neither. There is the temptation to wonder who benefited more in the making of this novel, Benderson or those who were used as the basis of its characters.
It was in late March of 2007, that I went to a celebration for the Romanian writer Ruda Popa at the Russian restaurant Samovar in Manhattan. The friend I was to meet there didn‘t make it. Upstairs in the salon, I took a seat at the white U-shape made of long tables pushed together. I could not avoid noticing the garish makeup of the 60-or-so-year-old woman who sat next to me. Adroit with a worn down pencil, she calculated her way through several puzzles in a small Sudoku book. Her cloying perfume mingled mercilessly in my head with the mind-altering shot glasses of vodka I downed as they were offered to me on silver trays. As soon as the guest of honor finished talking, she sighed and pushed her chair back away from the table. I recognized Bruce Benderson sitting on the other side of her. I had heard him read years before during one of the many readings hosted by C. Bard Cole in the East Village. This time I introduced myself and we spent the next several hours together talking about all manner of things including his desire not to be labeled gay and the sad fact that his new novel, Pacific Agony would probably not be published in English. Benderson‘s caustic yet cavalier wit did not disappoint. --Rob Stephenson, The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered
The Romanian: Story of an Obsession by Bruce Benderson
Reading level: Ages 18 and up
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Tarcher (February 2, 2006)
Amazon: The Romanian: Story of an Obsession
Winner of the 2004 Prix de Flore-one of France's most distinguished literary prizes-a wildly romantic, true-life love story
History follows a trail of sputtering desire, often calling upon the delusions of lovers to generate the sparks. If it weren't for us, the world would suffer from a dismal lack of stories," writes Bruce Benderson in this brutally candid memoir.
"What astonishes and intrigues is Benderson's way of recounting, in the sweetest possible voice, things that are considered shocking," wrote Le Monde. What's so shocking? It's not just Benderson's job translating Céline Dion's saccharine autobiography, which he admits is driving him mad; but his unrequited love for an impoverished Romanian in "cheap club-kid platforms with dollar signs in his squinting eyes," whom he meets while on a journalism assignment in Eastern Europe.
Rather than retreat, Benderson absorbs everything he can about Romanian culture and discovers an uncanny similarity between his own obsession for the Romanian (named Romulus) and the disastrous love affair of King Carol II, the last king of Romania (1893-1953). Throughout, Benderson-"absolutely free of bitterness, nastiness, or any desire to protect himself," wrote Le Monde-is sustained by little white codeine pills, a poetic self-awareness, a sense of humor, and an unwavering belief in the perfect romance, even as wild dogs chase him down Romanian streets.
More Spotlights at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Lists/Gay Novels
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