Toward the New Degeneracy
1998 Lambda Award Nominee
by Bruce Benderson
EP 2: BRUCE BENDERSON asks, in his non-fiction book, TOWARD THE NEW DEGENERACY, AN ESSAY: “What’s missing from the American underground? Not publicity or funding, but vital links to the culture of poverty.” Bruce Benderson, novelist and commentator, takes you on a philosophical and personal journey into new and old bohemia. His last stop is vanishing Times Square, where middle class thrill-seekers used to have contact with underclass dealers and hustlers. In this book-length essay, written in the tradition of the old-style manifesto, Benderson seeks to “restore id to the creative act.” His perverse yet courageous goal is to invent a “new degeneracy.” Degeneracy was nominated for the 1998 Lambda Literary Award, and Rolling Stone included the book on their 1998 “Original Hot List” with a glowing review. The Rolling Stone writes: “A call to arms for everyone looking to break out of the middle class, this essay by Bruce Benderson, a novelist and a veteran of the gay-liberation movement, gives a rousing history of bourgeois hatred of the poor and other ‘degenerates,’ then recommends that anyone serious about becoming an artist kiss off the pursuit of security and feed on the chaotic, alienated energy of the urban underclass. Benderson decries the homogenization of culture as the ‘Disney class’ swallows the adjacent classes, and obliterates their perspectives.” Rivages Poche also issued the book in a French edition.
BRUCE BENDERSON is the author of several works of fiction, including Pretending to Say No; User, a lyrical descent into the world of junkies and male hustlers, which The Los Angeles Times called “unmistakably brilliant” and The Romanian: Story of an Obsession (Penguin, 2006). TOWARD THE NEW DEGENERACY: AN ESSAY is now in its second printing, paperback, June 1997, 64 pp., sewn, bound and printed in Italy, with a two-color cover, and a black and white photograph of the author on the frontispiece.