Jesse's Reviews > Our Lady Of The Flowers

Our Lady Of The Flowers by Jean Genet
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's review
Feb 12, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-in-2010
Read in January, 2010

It's been weeks now, and I've been trying to figure out something, anything to say about this novel. Oh, I liked it—very much so, as my rating surely indicates—but I keep circling around and around it, desperately searching for the detail upon which to structure and make sense of my reactions. I have to admit I still haven't found it, though there's plenty that could be rhapsodized over—the cruel beauty, the unexpected possibility of transcendence, the influential, still-avant garde style. But no, I just keep returning to a single thought:

This novel just doesn't give a damn about me.

Honestly, I can't think of another text that is so completely disregards the reader—Genet makes no concessions, doesn't even pretend to create some kind of connection between character and reader; everything is on Genet's terms, and the reader can accept that or simply fuck off. Oh, I can certainly pretend that being gay offers me some kind of "in," but that just as quickly unmasks me for what I am, a bourgeois queer as far removed from Genet's world as anything else. I can observe, I can try to keep up; I certainly can't relate.

And that's kind of the wonder and power of it: six decades on, and Genet still resists assimilation into contemporary gay culture—he'd undoubtedly mock post-Stonewall living as scathingly as he does polite French society in the first half of the 20th century. He still remains the perpetual brooding outsider. And frankly, I don't think he'd have it any other way.

"I was his at once, as if (who said that?) he had discharged through my mouth straight into my heart."
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02/15/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Good review. I loved your statement that "this novel just doesn't give a damn about me." That is something of an epiphany, don't you think?

Jesse Not sure if it's exactly an epiphany, as the issue of reader identification has been of interest to me for a while, but I can't think of another example of when I have been so blatantly challenged to grapple with the subject. It sure made for a challenging reading experience, but that's what in the end, I think, made it so powerful.

message 3: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I agree with you how sometimes a book reaches out and says "this is about me, not you." To the Lighthouse was that way for me.

David I agree, Jesse. In his writing, Genet always seems to make it very clear that he's not about to make easy armchair reading to amuse, to distract, or even to connect, emotionally or psychologically, with his readers. But for all that, he's still an amazing, fascinating writer. Although I read this book (probably) fifteen years ago, I still remember very clearly the mood and the image of the drag queen funeral procession near the beginning of this book. It's kind of a mash-up of Fellini, Fassbinder, and even Roger Corman (in my mind).

Jesse Oh, Lighthouse is definitely not that kind of book for me--I kind of dissolve almost immediately into the personality rhythms of that novel. But I realize her style often has that distancing effect on readers...

David, Fellini and Fassbinder are right on (I don't know Corman's work enough to comment). Have you seen Chant d'amour, Genet's only film? I watched it after reading this, and it's kind of jarring how unabashedly romantic it is, even if a lot of the familiar Genet trappings are in place. And Querelle, in both its book and the film forms, are queued up for the near future.

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