Thursday, December 1, 2011

What is keeping

It is rare when I find a portrait
of anyone which suits me, as op-
posed to a blogger's requisites.
This approximate contemporary of
Laurent probably floated up from
the well of Flickr™ into one or
another of those strata where I
search for characterisation of a
phrase in this pursuit. And now
it comes to the page to address 
a timely purpose.

Novembr' au revoir.

I heard from a literature student
that he had never read any gay fic-
tion. He is of a generation - the
one we indelicately call, the pres-
ent one - which will never discover
gay fiction as mine did, and by
whose experience whatever is writ-
ten today will be shaped materially.

A number of us, one could almost go
so far as to say, discovered fiction
through gay fiction. That is, we dis-
covered the close reading of imagin-
ative texts through the application,
at an early age, of incentives which
the present generation finds being
met in non-literary terms, all about
it. We didn't know anything, at 11,
19, 27. Surely, there was Classicism.
But that was not about us, we knew.

Harmful as my ignorance was, I still
value the surprises it sequestered.
Somehow, in the same correspondence,
the subject of one's first kiss was
raised. This is why that portrait is
valid to me in ways which nothing I
have read - from Melville to Cunning-
ham - has captured; and this, I know,
is a test that many people apply to
red mug, blue linen. I am grateful.

The single most formative experience
in my college life was not that first
kiss, which did happen there, between
terms. It was another, which happened
the previous Spring. A professor of
history called my bluff on reading the
founding masterpiece of biographical
psychology, in his course in the High
Renaissance, furiously chewing me out
for negligence with - it rings in my
ears to this day - a labour of love.
I was earning grades with him in the
revoltingly prosperous range which is
enough for a Princetonian to acquit
himself without breaking a real sweat.
For my final paper, I raked my way
through his own benchmark work on Ital-
ian rhetoricians; turning, in effect,
straight upon him. His comment was, 
"you have a fine sensitivity to texts."
This was my introduction to the kiss,
which is to say, the thing of oneself.

We do some rough and tumble here with-
out much citing of its predicate, and
I owe this youth an answer for his in-
terest. This portrait shows an exer-
cise of consciousness by someone made 
intimate to us by the act. We have a 
nature which assimilates an articula-
tion of caring as a caring for us.
We know this is the basis of a can-
ard, rooted in unease, that we are 
sensitive. It is, rather, that we 
are aware we have a bond with that 
being, which none of us needs to 
hear explained. We know we can watch 
the day go down; and we know what is
when we do. Many people do. We are 
the ones who are fond of each other 
for it.

What is gay fiction?


Herman Melville
op. cit.

Michael Cunningham
Flesh and Blood
  pp. 130-131 et passim
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995©

Erik Erikson
Young Man Luther
  A Study in Psychoanalysis
  and History
Norton, 1958©

Jerrold E. Seigel
Rhetoric and Philosophy
  in Renaissance Humanism:
  From Petrarch to Valla
Princeton University Press, 1968©

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