JOHN SAFRAN'S CONTROVERSIAL BOOK REVIEW
John Safran is a brave man. His last TV series, Race Relations, which questioned Jewish tradition (specifically, the tradition that says he should marry a Jewish girl, despite his attraction towards non-Jewish Asian girls), landed him the title of least-popular-Jew-among-other-practicing-Jews in the heavily Jewish populated suburb where he lives. The series was hilarious and insightful and important and I'd imagine that the people who agree with this largely outnumber the people who don't, so we should really just appreciate his willingness to live in close proximity with the people he's most likely to divide, I guess.
John writes for us occasionally. He also occasionally writes for other publications who sometimes deem whatever he's written for them to be too far-out or challenging for their readers. In this instance it's a review of a book by a right wing homosexual about blood swapping, and we're happy to be able to share it with you here.
Blood Brotherhood and Other Rites of Male Alliance by Jack Donovan and Nathan F. Miller
Review by John Safran
Jack Donovan is a very right wing homosexual. He's bright, sincere and so idiosyncratic it's hard to know where to begin. His first book, Androphilia, was subtitled Rejecting the Gay Identity, Reclaiming Masculinity, and railed against rainbow flags and lisps. He's also a contributing editor to Alternative Right, an online magazine seen by many detractors – and supporters – as white supremacist. For this audience Donovan declares his homosexuality, then argues the case for accepting gays in the military and for welcoming gay workmates (the non-lispy ones, at least).
Now comes Blood Brotherhood, his contribution to the gay marriage debate.
Donovan thinks men, including gay men, are instinctual warriors. They like to fight and build things. To woo a woman, men temporarily suppress this instinct and become romancers. Flowers, snuggles, and white-frosted wedding cake. But this isn't man's natural state. So the question is: if two men want to commit, why go through with all this gay woman stuff?
Nevertheless, he likes the idea of a commitment ceremony. It solemnises honour, respect and watching each other's back.
So if not a wedding, what?
Donovan proposes an alternative rite: a blood pact. Yes, as in opening a vein and mixing blood with your boyfriend.
A wedding is a knight and a maiden. A blood pact is a knight and a knight.
Blood Brotherhood is a survey through history, mythology, and literature, uncovering these bloody rites of male alliance. The bulk of the anthropological research comes from his co-writer – and fellow gay against gay culture – Nathan F. Miller.
The introduction tells gay couples to use this book as a "toolbox for the imagination." Choose one of the rites or mix and match your own!
There are fairly simple ones. Shaolin monks in 17th century China "pricked their fingers, and mixing blood with wine, drank it and swore an oath of brotherhood."
For something more flamboyant, perhaps plan your big day around the initiation rite of the Mala Vita, an Italian criminal organisation: "the leader of the band and the novitiate both made wounds in their chests, and then they sucked and drank each other's blood."
If you're a right wing homosexual environmentalist you are catered for too. The Timorese drank blood from a bamboo container, then hung it on a freshly planted tree, vowing "If I be false, and not a true friend, may blood issue from my mouth, ears, and nose as it does from this bamboo."
The European and Asian rites were to prove courage and devotion; to say this bond is serious; we are kindred spirits in a conspiracy.
The African rites are all this, plus divine threat. Break the oath and there will be voodoo retribution. In Uganda men cut their stomachs and roll coffee beans in the wounds. They then feed each other the beans. Sleep with your blood brother's wife and the bean will swell up and kill you.
Blood Brotherhood makes a pretty convincing case that men are instinctual cutters. Throughout history everyone was doing it, unaware everyone else was doing it too. The blood chugging enemies of Alexander II King of the Scots weren't to know the nomads in Borneo had been smoking blood across the equator for an eon before them.
But this isn't just anthropology, it's advocacy. In a chapter trying to get gay Christians onboard he connects some interesting dots. When Christ held up the bread and wine at the Last Supper and told the apostles, "Take, eat. This is my body. And this is my blood of the new covenant," what was that, if not a blood pact?
Couples have over 30 rituals from which to choose. Each is given about five pages, so you feel like you're cascading through sidebars in a National Geographic.
The best bit of the book is the far too short ending. Donovan takes part in a ritual with his compadre of ten years, identified only as LGV.
They decide on tattoos. And if that sounds like a cop-out after all the Ugandan stomach gouging and Tanzanian liver eating, you don't know Jack.
He is inspired by those 18th century seamen who had tattooed initials, not their own. Historians think some of these tattoos are coded evidence of homosexual attachment between sailors.
Like the men at sea, Donovan and LGV will hand tattoo each other, using an improvised tool of dowel, string, and needle, dulling the pain with whiskey. Donovan considers total authenticity, using soot and urine for ink. He then decides against this, not for health reasons, but because his tattooed friends tell him the ink won't last as long as the professional stuff.
Donovan and his partner cut themselves and mix their blood in with the ink. They share the needle. We are helpfully told this method can only be employed with home tattooing "because no conscientious professional tattoo artist will mix blood into his ink at a place of business."
The warnings, for this and the other rites, are casual and reluctant: "I want to make it clear that no medical professionals or professional tattoo artists were consulted" – and are sometimes followed by a goad: "heeding warnings is hardly in the spirit of things, is it?"
I rang a doctor friend for her view of gay men cutting themselves open and mixing blood. She was apoplectic, screaming a word never mentioned in the book, AIDS. Half an hour later, still stewing, she texted me a two word review: "stupid book."
All this slicing and dicing can distract from Donovan's broader point: Men, both straight and gay, need to man up. Effeminacy is corrosive to the individual and a Western civilisation largely built on masculine instincts.
Jack Donovan is an iconoclast. In Blood Brotherhood, and in his wider work, he has fresh and truthful reflections on modern masculinity.
If you're a fairly politically central person, your enjoyment – even tolerance - of his work depends on how much you can look past peccadilloes to get to truths. Does having pro-White sympathies exclude you from a place at the table? How annoyed are you that some nut with HIV might follow through with Donovan's suggestions?
Unlike other writers encouraging irresponsible behaviour, like Anton LaVey (The Satanic Bible), Abbie Hoffman (Steal This Book) and Jim Goad (Answer Me!), Donovan's work is a non-ironic and satire free affair. Nevertheless I found myself reading, and enjoying, Blood Brotherhood as an ironic provocation, like Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, regardless of Donovan's intent.
Besides, how many people are really going to follow this guide? Despite his passion, when it comes to opening a vein, I think Jack Donovan may find himself to be the only gay in the village.