Saturday, February 04, 2006

Excellent literary stuff

in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books. Some of it's available online for free: Coetzee on Garcia Marquez, an excellent long essay by John Banville on Philip Larkin, a particularly good piece by Daniel Mendelsohn (definitely one of my favorite critics, his memoir The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity is a book I found immensely appealing) on Brokeback Mountain. Mendelsohn's central critique is of the reviewers' tendency to describe the film as a love story or a story of universal human emotions rather than as "a tragedy about the specifically gay phenomenon of the 'closet'—about the disastrous emotional and moral consequences of erotic self-repression and of the social intolerance that first causes and then exacerbates it." The essay concludes with this paragraph:

The real achievement of Brokeback Mountain is not that it tells a universal love story that happens to have gay characters in it, but that it tells a distinctively gay story that happens to be so well told that any feeling person can be moved by it. If you insist, as so many have, that the story of Jack and Ennis is OK to watch and sympathize with because they're not really homosexual—that they're more like the heart of America than like "gay people"—you're pushing them back into the closet whose narrow and suffocating confines Ang Lee and his collaborators have so beautifully and harrowingly exposed.

Other good stuff too but not online, most notably a great essay by Luc Sante on the photography and the occult exhibit at the Met (which closed on Dec. 31, but Sante says what I thought too, which is that the pictures are on the whole better appreciated in the catalog than at the museum because of small image size and galleries evilly thronged with people).

A modest addendum: would it kill the editors of this publication to assign a few pieces each week to female reviewers?!?

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