Nigel Collett,reviewer for the Asian Review of Books, the Tongzhi Literary Group in Hong Kong, and Fridae.asia, recently commented on Imagining Gay Paradise:
“Atkins does not make this book a chronological series of biographical tales, but intersperses them, one with the other, to bring out the way the history of such unconnected lives resonates with similar themes… His background has given him a racy, journalistic style of writing that strongly and clearly carries his narrative lines…You can read Atkins with pleasure and without having to lug a dictionary around with you.”
Collett is the author of The Butcher of Amritsar, the acclaimed biography of General Reginald Dyer who, in 1919, marched a squad of soldiers into the holy city of Amritsar, India, and shot more than 200 Indians who had gathered to hear political speeches. The incident would later propel Gandhi’s understanding of the inhuman brutality of colonialism.
You can read Nigel Collett’s entire review of Imagining Gay Paradise at fridae.asia.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.,has recommended Imagining Gay Paradise as one of five books to buy to kick off Pride Month.
It’s a bit of an odd review in that it suggests that one theme of the book is that oppressed gay men in Europe and the U.S. who sought out paradises in Southeast Asia were often tragically disappointed. But that was not true of Walter Spies, the major European character who helped transform the image of Bali into that of an aesthetic paradise, nor of the major American character, Darrell Berrigan, who thoroughly enjoyed Bangkok. Both of their lives did end tragically — Spies died due to an unjust Dutch detention and a Japanese bomb during World War II; Berrigan died at the hands of a gay hustler.
But does that mean the men were tragically disappointed in the paradises they had imagined in Southeast Asia and would have preferred to stay at home? I don’t think so. Both in fact successfully re-imagined the meaning of “home” in Southeast Asia.