Read Peter Cameron’s Afterword for the Novel ‘Totempole’
Author: William Johnson
September 23, 2014
This month, NYRB Classics is re-releasing Sanford Friedman’s 1965 novel Totempole. The novel details the romantic relationship between its protagonist Stephen Wolfe and a male North Korean prisoner of war.
Totempole is Sanford Friedman’s radical coming-of-age novel, featuring Stephen Wolfe, a young Jewish boy growing up in New York City and its environs during the Depression and war years. In eight discrete chapters, which trace Stephen’s evolution from a two-year-old boy to a twenty-four-year-old man, Friedman describes with psychological acuity and great empathy Stephen’s intellectual, moral, and sexual maturation. Taught to abhor his body for the sake of his soul, Stephen finds salvation in the eventual unification of the two, the recognition that body and soul should not be partitioned but treated as one being, one complete man.
In the afterword, written specifically for the reissue, author Peter Cameron (Coral Glynn) writes, “Totempole is an unusual gay novel: It isn’t about life in the closet, and it isn’t about coming out. It’s about the space in between those two stages of gay life, a complex and murky area that has not often been written about: coming out to oneself.”
Read Cameron’s full afterword here.