Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Some days the ethics of being a literary critic, while unambiguous, still pinch. Say your allegiances lie squarely within the gay community. You actively advocate for and advance arts of, by, for the LGBTQ community. You're assigned to review the nonfiction work of Emma Donoghue, best known as a fiction writer who not only happens to be a lesbian, but who locates queer identities centrally in much of her work.

You feel confident this will be a sympathetic review because you've enjoyed much of her fiction, even associate one of her short stories ('The Dormition of the Virgin'), "the diary of a nerdish English student on a mini-break pilgrimage to Florence," with an all-time high of personal contentment, the recollection still sweet of lolling around a Roman piazza as the sun set, reading her well-turned little tale as the crowd cleared out. You needed absolutely nothing more from life at that moment.

Given all that, a review would be just fine, a hoot. You sign on. You're pleased. That is, until you read the book. Inseparable is lacking and you are obliged to say so. This review, because it's critical, was hard to write. Still, I'm pleased to suggest that I may be the minority opinion. So don't just take my word for it. Read Kathryn Harrison on the matter as well. Even better, read for yourself and decide.