Arnie Kantrowitz, who wrote the finest memoir of the early gay liberation movement, Under the Rainbow, has given us in Song of Myself a thoroughly delightful picaresque novel. He presents us with Daniel Dell Blake, a gay boy raised in an apple orchard, who travels to New York City to hobnob with the bohemian elite, lands in a Japanese prison camp during World War II, marries, separates, briefly attends college as a kept boy, works cleaning up in a bordello, is sent to prison on sodomy charges, assists an antiques dealer—-episode after episode in classic picaresque style, including à la Tom Jones, the possibility of incest. In so doing the innocent becomes a rascal who never loses his moral or aesthetic sense. On the way we meet dozens of fascinating characters—Chester, the sculptor; Willard, the professor; Edwin, the antiques dealer; Gordon, the doctor; Louie, the hairdresser and prison mate—in travels that take us coast to coast and from the 1930s through the 1990s. Beautifully counterpointed against this tale is Dell's obsession with Walt Whitman, which brilliantly informs the action. Song of Myself could well have been granted another Whitman title, "Song of the Open Road," because of its openness of spirit and of form.

– David Bergman, Professor Emeritus, Towson University, author of The Violet Hour: The Violet Quill and the Making of Gay Culture.

Arnie Kantrowitz was a gift to gay letters: teacher, scholar, autobiographer, activist. He is sorely missed. But he also left behind this wonderful novel. Song of Myself is not autobiographical fiction, but a spiritual American history where Arnie gave his love of Walt Whitman to a fictional gay Everyman of a different generation and wider experience. Lively, sexy, dramatic and accessible, this is popular fiction at its best."

– Christopher Bram, author, Father of Frankenstein and Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America

Creative inhibitions, the professional demands of teaching, and eventually, failing health, all prevented Arnie Kantrowitz from publishing his only novel, Song of Myself, in his lifetime. But it would be a mistake to dismiss this as a mere archival curiosity. Song of Myself is an entertaining and enlightening novel inspired by Walt Whitman's spiritual, literary, and political legacies, written by a man who was himself a leader in the gay liberation struggle, and a Whitman scholar. Song of Myself, like the poem it is named after, is a celebration of life in all of its exhilaration, pleasure, and confusion. Daniel Dell Blake is a character who lives against the backdrop of twentieth-century America, through wars and political upheaval, through the modern gay rights movement, through tragic losses from AIDS, and survival in its aftermath. Through it all, Whitman's poetry is a constant presence in Daniel's life, as it was in Kantrowitz's own life, and the lives of many queer folks who came to see Whitman as a spiritual icon. This book is an important document of post-Stonewall literary history, and a delightful blend of creative and critical texts. Arnie Kantrowitz has left all Whitman lovers a gift that should be enjoyed and celebrated.  

– Lavelle Porter, Distinguished Lecturer, Macaulay Honors College, CUNY, author of The Blackademic Life: Academic Fiction, Higher Education, and the Black Intellectual.

With his activism and his writing and teaching, Arnie Kantrowitz made history, and he also makes knowing and writing our history possible. There's a direct line from his activism, his teaching and his writing — the achievement of Under the Rainbow and his re-interpretation and resurrection of a literary history that might otherwise have continued unseen — to today, and he points the way to confronting tomorrow's challenges.

– Bill Goldstein, founding editor of the New York Times Books website; author, The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster, and the Year that Changed Literature

I'm always fascinated when novelists do history, vividly imagining the life of their characters through time and social upheaval. So I'm delighted to recommend Kantrowitz's novel. As a leader of New York's Gay Activists Alliance, Arnie inspired me to quit the closet, and now Arnie inspires me again. Thanks, Arnie!

– Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay American History, The Daring Life and Dangerous Times of Eve Adams

What an unexpected gift Arnie Kantrowitz left us in Song of Myself. Who knew that he had one more story to tell—and an epic one at that? In his protagonist Dell Blake, Arnie has created an Everyman whose life embodies a vast swath of 20th-century gay America. It's all here: small-town attacks during the Great Depression, closeted soldiering during World War II, the brutal homophobia of the McCarthy era, the stirrings of Mattachine activism, the glorious liberation of Stonewall, the fathomless devastations of AIDS. And it's all set to the expansive twang of Walt Whitman, the first audibly gay American poet. Only a scholar of Arnie's caliber could bring so much history to life. Only a mensch of Arnie's compassion could make it all so moving.

– Michael Schiavi, Ph.D., author of Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo

On the journey to himself, Kantrowitz's lovable but conflicted Ulysses sails a picaresque odyssey across the shifting seas of queer America from World War II to AIDS.  Dan Blake, an aspiring poet, boasts the same qualities as this novel: dry wit, a smartass sense of humor, and a gift for sympathetic yet bemused observation rendered in vivid, aphoristic language.  His inner life is as colorful as his real-world misadventures, from surviving a Japanese POW camp to becoming a sex slave.  His one comfort is Walt Whitman, whose poetry and persona stimulate both his sometimes mystical imagination and his randy groin.  Believing that Walt proves "there is some mysterious connection between loving men and creating poems," Dan sleeps his way around the globe until he understands and accepts the destination he didn't know he was heading for.

– James M. Saslow, Professor emeritus, City University of New York, author of Ganymede in the Renaissance: Homosexuality in Art and Society, The Poetry of Michelangelo: An Annotated Translation, and Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts.

With Arnie's death many of us wondered what would become of the fictional memoir he'd left behind but not published. Thanks to Larry Mass's devotion, the memoir has been saved and is now published. It will, I feel sure, take its rightful place as both an unusual account of growing up gay in the pre-Stonewall years, as well as a unique rendering of the early years of the LGBTQ+ movement. Congratulations to all concerned!

– Martin Duberman, Professor Emeritus of History, Lehman College, Founder, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at CUNY

Song of Myself is a witness's tale to our gay history. One that is compelling and filled with unheard voices. As Dan wanders this county and lives through the depression, World War II, and the AIDS epidemic, he has Whitman as his guide and companion. Kantrowitz treats us to an honest portrayal of these two distinct beings in all their evolving complexities. A colorful and welcomed read.

– Victor Bumbalo, author, playwright, founder and president of the Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Foundation

Song of Myself is superb Bildungsroman that captures the joys and angsts of coming out in the past century, a past that's suddenly becoming too relevant to those of us feeling our oats today. The frankness of the prose, the lyricism of the emotions, and the artistry of the totality, make us mourn Kantrowitz's absence even more than many of us already have. This stalwart LGBTQI activist, who penned the very first post-gay-lib autobiography, Under the Rainbow, is hopefully now sitting high above us upon his very own cloud, hobnobbing with his inspiration, Mr. Whitman, comparing beards and their literary accomplishments.

– Brandon Judell, Lecturer at the City College of New York, Dept. of Theatre and Speech

There's been an eerie void in the LGBTQ community since Arnie Kantrowitz' voice was silenced by Covid in 2022. Yet the compelling voice that graced his classic memoir Under the Rainbow: Growing Up Gay has returned with renewed energy in his posthumously published novel, Song of Myself: A Gay Man's Odyssey of Self-Discovery.

The book's protagonist, Daniel Dell Blake, sets out from his childhood home, rural upstate New York, in search of a place where he could safely live and love as a gay man in a homophobic world. But before he reaches home, he must endure the episodic highs and lows of a transformative journey. His only constant companion is a copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass that had been gifted to him as a child by an intuitive librarian. Throughout his long journey, it will be Whitman's poetic celebration of his homoeroticism that serves as Daniel's north star.

Kantrowitz, who has been credited with introducing gay literature into the academic curriculum at City University of New York, and who early on established the gay self-identify in Whitman's poetry, provides the reader with a view of what life was like for LGBTQ people during the dark days when secrecy was a necessary survival tool in a homophobic world. The story travels through a time period of over fifty years: making stops in Greenwich Village with its pre-war Bohemian culture, the horrors of  World War II, the suffocating prejudices of the 1950s, into the pulse of psychedelic New York City, where Daniel resides at the Chelsea Hotel, to witnessing up close the Stonewall riots and the early days of gay liberation, and then painfully through the tragic losses of the AIDS crisis. But whatever challenges Daniel encounters, Whitman's voice continues to speak to his soul, especially concerning the importance of celebrating the beauty of one's sexuality.

A poet himself—and with his expert knowledge of Whitman's poetry—Kantrowitz has crafted a work of high art. His novel is essential reading for anyone who appreciates a memorable journey to self-realization courageously taken by an unflappable traveler.

– Maryann Feola, Professor Emerita, The City University of New York, author, The Geography of Shame: A Fictionalized Memoir

The author has written such an honest memoir style book that it astounded me. It is about the life and struggles of a gay man who travels across the country in an effort to find love and understand his place in the world. He expresses his affinity to Walt Whitman and allows the dead writer to guide him. This is a poignant story filled with heartbreak, compassion and the central character's longing to be part of a culture that just keeps offering only confusion, rejection and physical battering. It is Daniel Dell Blake's persistence to bring kindness with him to each encounter that is the key to understanding his ultimately successful journey.

– Barb302 on Library Thing

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