Confessions of a Jewish Wagnerite
Confessions of a Jewish Wagnerite by Lawrence D. Mass
In 1981, Lawrence Mass was a 35-year-old physician, writer and gay activist living in New York City. On his living-room wall, among other opera memorabilia, there were five pictures of Richard Wagner, one of them a drawing by Mass himself. While researching what would become the first feature article on the epidemic that later became known as AIDS, the author had the first confrontation of his adult life with overt anti-Semitism, an incident he was completely unprepared to deal with psychologically. As AIDS spread, and every sexually active gay man was forced to confront his own mortality, the need to understand the even-greater depths of fear touched by the incident became urgent, and Mass began to face the reality that his life had been dominated by internalized anti-Semitism, even as he came to grips with his gay identity. A series of self-contained autobiographical essays, Confessions examines a vast panorama of events, issues and personalities in the worlds of identity politics, AIDS and the arts. As it probes the interconnectedness of gay, Jewish and musical cultures in post-World War II America, against a backdrop of resurgent anti-Semitism, it reveals one human being's quest for personal and spiritual identity. From his adolescent infatuation with Wagner to his friendship with the great-grandson of the composer and his life-partnership with a fellow gay activist and Jewish-American writer, confessions of a Jewish Wagnerite is the story of that voyage of discovery.