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Margery Kempe

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This tale of romantic obsession chronicles two relationships that take place in disparate worlds, separated by 500 years. The story of failed saint Margery Kempe's physical passion for Jesus mirrors the tale of the narrator's adoration of a young man.

204 pages, Paperback

First published November 1, 1994

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About the author

Robert Glück

26 books24 followers
Born in Cleveland, poet, fiction writer, editor, and New Narrative theorist Robert Glück grew up there and in Los Angeles. He was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Edinburgh, the College of Art in Edinburgh, and the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a BA. He also studied writing in New York City workshops with poet Ted Berrigan and earned an MA at San Francisco State University.

With Bruce Boone and other writers, Glück co-founded the New Narrative movement in San Francisco in the early 1980s. Glück’s experimental work—typically prose—infuses L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E theory with queer, feminist, and class-based discourse while exploring issues of autobiography and self. In his essay “Long Note on New Narrative,” which appeared in Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative (2004), Glück stated, “We were thinking about autobiography; by autobiography we meant daydreams, nightdreams, the act of writing, the relationship to the reader, the meeting of flesh and culture, the self as collaboration, the self as disintegration, the gaps, inconsistencies and distortions, the enjambments of power, family, history and language.”

Glück’s poetry includes the collection Reader (1989) and, with Bruce Boone, the collaboration La Fontaine (1981). His fiction includes the story collection Denny Smith (2003) and the novels Jack the Modernist (1995) and Margery Kempe (1994). Glück’s work has been selected for numerous anthologies, including The Faber Book of Gay Short Fiction (1992), Best American Erotica 2005, and Lust for Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker (2006). He has received a California Arts Council Fellowship and a San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grant.

Glück has served as director of San Francisco State’s Poetry Center, codirector of the Small Press Traffic Literary Center, and editor for Lapis Press and the literary journal Narrativity. He lives in San Francisco.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,633 reviews4,999 followers
February 13, 2019
The late 80s through mid-90s was a fertile time for experimental queer writers. (It was an exciting time for me as well, as a queer Creative Writing student during that period.) From fiery Kathy Acker to quirky Kevin Killian to angry David Wojnarowicz to loving Joan Nestle to ice cold Dennis Cooper, the sheer range of mood and purpose of this group of fresh voices made reading them an exhilerating crap shoot. Would I be enlightened, as I was with Acker, moved and angered, as with Wojnarowicz? Or would I be disgusted, as I was with Cooper? And how would I use what I read in my own writing? The unifying factor across these diverse voices was the idea that our own stories, our personal narratives, could be centralized in works of so-called fiction. Genre boundaries were blurred, as were the boundaries between fiction and fact, love and sex, overt activism and internal exploration. I loved reading (and writing) these sorts of stories - the kinds of stories where the storyteller's own personal story is just as important as the story they are telling.

Unfortunately, Margery Kempe is a huge failure in my book, despite it doing exactly what I described above. I wonder why I even wrote all of that as an intro. I suppose to justify to myself why I still admire these sorts of books, these kinds of experiments with structure, theme, perception, reality.

Anyway, Glück constructs two stories that are supposed to comment on one another: Margery Kempe's love for Jesus and the author's own love for some babe. I started off annoyed and then moved into dismayed and ended with an irritated sort of bored. One can't criticize the writing itself, which is often beautiful and challenging and beautifully challenging - despite an intense focus on extremely explicit, un-romanticized sex. Or perhaps because of it? We all have our muses, and for many writers of that era, sex itself was a muse - especially since queer sex often automatically gave its practitioners a sort of outlaw status.

But here's the thing: this is a book about a woman who loved God, written by an atheist (probably). It's utterly bizarre that the author decided that his obsession with some cute young thing would even equate with Margery Kempe's love of Jesus. Reducing Kempe's intensely spiritual connection to God to the ravings of some demented woman who is hungry for Jesus' dick is not just, well, reductive, it is genuinely diminishing. Diminishing in that particularly easy and ugly way that men diminish women all the time. In the modern parlance, Glück tries to mansplain Margery's complicated feelings as pure lust - albeit lust of a higher form, I guess. Lust to the/a higher power? LOL? But Margery Kempe - author of the first recorded autobiography and obviously a real person - was defined by her faith and her spirituality. She was not defined by her lusts! Love of the physical body is not the same as a spiritual connection, and sorry to anyone who still suffers under that delusion. I'm not saying one is better than the other, I'm saying that one is an apple and the other is an orange and that the author is a nitwit for pretending that they are the same fruit. Sorry, author.

I'd like to say that at least the "personal narrative" portions of the book were interesting, but I can't. They are real at least, or were once real for the author. Sadly, the obsessive longings of an older gent for a younger lad are completely uninteresting to me. The genders could have been switched out and I would have been equally bored.
Profile Image for Tony.
896 reviews1,480 followers
March 19, 2020
Well, now I know I will not have to wait until November or December to determine what was the worst book I read this year. I write that even though I am not offended by blasphemy and may even engage in it from time to time. Nor does graphic description of sex get me overheated with disgust. Yet neither the blasphemy nor the sex redeemed this book. A warning: If either of those two things offend you, then not only should you not read this book; you shouldn't read this review either.

There are two narratives intertwined in this novel. One is the Jesus fantasy of the 15th century title character, apparently a real enough, if deluded, person. The other is the author's homosexual yearning for L. The stories are meant to conjoin, at least that's what the author explains in the telling. Or, My book depends on the tension between maintaining an impersonation and breaking it. Or, In this novel every sentence is a discrete image of promise. A car door slams; I think it must be L. Margery is traveling. Got it?

Mostly though, I had the sense that the author merely wanted to offend, notwithstanding what I believe were ostensible artistic impulses. I am not easily offended, but there's George Bataille's Story of the Eye and the picture Piss Christ by Andres Serrano (Google it up if you need to), and there's this:

Jesus kisses her too quickly, jamming his tongue down her throat; he says, "I'm horny."

Again, it's not the blasphemy that offends me, nor the sex (Jesus does the whole playbook), it's the shitty writing. Like:

The thick drunken histamine ache of needing to shit; L. can't find a toilet in time; his face convulses; it makes me feel awe; Jesus doesn't have a conscience. Like L., whatever he does is normal.

Here's a simile:

Her cunt dripped like the shinbone of a saint that weeps in continuous relation to God.

There's more, much more, and now you know where to find it if that's your thing.
Profile Image for Bhaskar Thakuria.
Author 1 book15 followers
April 19, 2020
There are some books that, I must frankly state, leave me in a state of rank distaste as to the contents of it. This book was one of those obviously meant in poor taste. Well, I do not really see the point of it all. To put it bluntly graphic sex interspersed with religious devotion is not my cup of tea. I mean to say I can allow for sex in fiction quite generously and I read a lot of erotic fiction too. But semblances of the cunt and the phallus in such graphic detail throughout almost seventy percent of the pages of this book is grossly malapropos. True, I can allow for the religious devotion of a fifteenth century Christian saint for Jesus in more sensual terms but the explicit physicality of it all is carried on a bit too far to my taste. This, indeed, comes off as a big disappointment to me after having waited with eager anticipation for one of the first releases from NYRB in 2020 (and considering the fact that the last few releases had been exceptional).
Profile Image for Erica .
221 reviews16 followers
May 17, 2020
absolutely loved this book. absolutely could not sell it to anyone who is not a complete freak. contender for top 3 of 2020. margery kempe was a real woman--a fanatic and visionary who is widely believed to have written the first autobiography. gluck contrasts his obsession and grief over a failed relationship in his life with margery's grief at feeling forsaken by jesus and uses the form of autobiography to reflect the stories in a way that is, frankly, cool. sexuality is a big theme here and its depiction is frequent and explict. so is plague/aids, another clear parallel. gorgeous, highly experimental book written by someone who is primarily a poet, and it shows. bonus appearance by kathy acker playing herself. bigtime recommend for fans of acker and/or wittgenstein's mistress.
116 reviews2 followers
March 21, 2020
THE WEIRD TRAIL of circumstance, installment #716. I read a great interview with Glück in Believer magazine about six or seven years ago (conducted by Miranda Mellis, whose The Spokes I admire very much), and I immediately went online looking for copies of his books, purchasing three: Jack the Modernist, Elements of a Coffee Service, and this one, which I picked up for just a dollar.

Life being what it is, I did not read even one of them.

Then, last month, I saw an ad for what I took to be the NYRB Classic edition of The Book of Margery Kempe, but which on closer examination turned out to be their new edition of Glück's novel. I thought...don't I own that? After a short search, I found it. Now is the time to read it, the cosmos seemed to be telling me.

Having once upon a time read The Book of Margery Kempe--perhaps the first autobiography in English, the story of a woman who gave up a thriving business and her marriage to follow what seemed to her a vocation of sainthood--I felt more or less prepared.

Still, the book was quite a curveball. Glück goes over the same ground as Kempe's own autobiography--her trying to explain to her husband what is going on, the difficult meetings with church authorities, the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the many people who think she is insane--but he gives her relationship to Jesus a startling twist, making it graphically erotic: "Jesus the athlete moved with her easily. Her aroused her with his long burrowing tongue. He pulled hair aside and drew her clit into his mouth." That sort of thing.

But who said mystical experience is necessarily decorous and well-behaved? Might it not just as likely be shocking, disturbing, transgressive, even a little gross? As Teresa of Avila said in The Interior Castle, there will be things going on between you and Jesus that only you and Jesus know about.

Also unexpected, audacious, and ultimately richly rewarding is Glück's decision to braid Margery's story with a recounting of one of his own affairs, with a man here called L. Glück gets methodologically explicit about midpoint in the book: "This novel records my breakdown; conventional narrative is preserved but the interest lies elsewhere. Like L., Jesus must be real but must also represent a crisis" (p. 78 in my edition, from High Risk Books).

Makes sense, no? The beloved is like a god; any contact with him is fulfilling as nothing else is. When he smiles, the universe is redeemed. But his attention is divided, somehow. He sometimes abruptly withdraws. He gets to set all the terms. He has fabulous outfits. We like to think God is not as flakey and unpredictable as a human beloved, but honestly, how many has he left in the lurch?

Fascinating as all that is, what really kept me going was the sheer pleasure of Glück's sentences.

Arundel invited Margery to sit in his garden. He had chalky skin and a red nose, the patrician bearing and tight gray ringlets of a schoolmarm.
A bee backed out of a lily trumpet. A turtle walked resolutely across the path, shifting attitudes of attention. Margery started small. She asked Arundel for permission to receive communion every Sunday--unusual at that time but not exceptional. He consented with a nod. His gray eyes drifted, diluted in thick lenses. Thus established, Margery asked him for authority to wear white clothes--to confirm her affair with Jesus. Her voice was a clear bell that broke at the highs with a scratch of emphasis. He approved.

My favorite touch: the turtle.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 11 books330 followers
February 21, 2021
This is a book I picked up on a recommendation without knowing what it would be about. So I was surprised! A married mother of the 15th century embarks on a sexual obsession with Jesus, while her parallel, a gay man of the 20th century, likewise craves and lusts after a younger man, called L. Both Jesus and L. are beautiful, aloof objects of worship and fervent longing. They form the centerpiece of two separate "middle-aged" crises.

Margery Kempe is a real figure, a woman who had visions and apparently thought herself in a personal relationship with Jesus. She is said to have written the first autobiography in English. Of course she was thought both crazy and possessed, and by some also holy. I doubt her autobiography involves sex with Jesus, but I understand no one made her a saint, the fate of a number of Christians who in our time would be more likely to be classified as insane.

The narrator of the book, Bob, is in love with beauty and the unobtainable in the form of the younger L. Bob and Margery's stories are meant to amplify each other, though Bob's narrative strand takes up much less of the book.

The book is not for everyone, especially the pious or those who shy away from descriptions of bodily functions. But I found the writing well crafted -- carnal and transcendental simultaneously. The intertwined stories deal with love, rejection, obsession and abandonment. There’s a lot of physical life — pain, illness, sex, dirt, grime, shit, piss, tears, etc. Another reason I like it in addition to the writing and learning about Margery Kempe is that it is different than anything I've read before.

One of my favorite sentences: "Daylight was crisp and weak, celery green."
Profile Image for Daniel Polansky.
Author 27 books1,128 followers
March 31, 2020
Contrasting tales of a medieval saint's adoration of Christ with the author's own obsessive affection for a younger man. Is this a clever idea or is kinda on the nose? Hard to say. It's also the kind of book where some of the lines are really fabulous and some of them are just total duds. But it's quick and it's weird and I thought it was kind of funny and ultimately this was firmly in the like column.
Profile Image for Teddy.
7 reviews
May 20, 2020
wow. even the illustrious NYRB makes mistakes. an absolutely bizarre mess masquerading as literature. wtf did I just read.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
Author 32 books1,139 followers
March 24, 2022
"In Gluck's world, the crumbling of experience is part of the deal, including the experience of reading. In the interview in EOAGH, he said, 'The best reading is an uncertain reading... We are educated to think that we should be able to know the meaning of a piece of writing, but what if the intention of the writing is to throw us into confusion, to induce a state of wonder, and unravel the basic tenets of our experience?'" (xiiii).

"As though completing one gesture, Margery hurried to bed, plowed through the night, and jumped up the next morning. When she found the roofer her face sank in lust, her mouth an O. She asked him directly to have sex. 'I'd rather be chopped up for stew-meat in a pot,' he drawled with lazy malice. A wave of nausea warped the air around her. With a nod Margery understood that failure was intrinsic, success merely an exception" (9).

"Margery was an individual in a recognizable nightmare: the twentieth century will also be called a hundred years war" (31).

"He was not satisfying to quarrel with since he didn't mind being wrong" (35).

"Greed for more life spoils the life in front of me" (40).

"Yet lying in bed wasn't boring. Dying became an activity full of lively interest. Just observing her fragility admitted endless variations. As she gained strength she was reborn to appetite and movement" (128).

"At last my position is not so fixed. I feel the anguish of rejecting him, but I'm not sure I do--a quandary of wanting and not wanting" (162).

"What is an historical novel? A time machine that seems to restore another era and give us access to its citizens. That is, we get to know Alexander the Great. There's a lie involved, but is that lie different from the lie fiction generally tells?" (165).

"For me, the world of fact is made up of fiction, from 'ideological state apparatuses,' to the sale of lifestyle, to the all-and-nothing of language itself. And, of course, the world of fiction is a fact" (167).

"The actual forms we take are a kind of extremity we are driven to in a quest for love. We exist to desire and be desired. Or more roundly, we make ourselves 'different' and 'same' in order to be loved (if only by the world). And behind this is the mystery of form, how weird and even unendurable it is to be one thing (race, sexuality, gender) rather than another" (169).

"But maybe that impurity, which is an expression of a problem rather than a way of containing or explaining it, is the way I handle the ever-crossing circuits of narration" (169).
Profile Image for Melanie.
82 reviews81 followers
December 16, 2007
I found this in a used bookstore last week, and I was unfamiliar with Robert Gluck but intrigued by the story of Margery Kempe, whose autobiography was required reading in one of my college history courses. This book's premise sounded interesting--Margery Kempe's obsessive relationship with Jesus paired with Gluck's obsessive relationship, five centuries later, with a man he refers to as "L."--but I didn't expect to respond quite so strongly to it, or to come away so struck by Gluck's words. The ecstatic moments are transcendent yet always undercut by the trauma of rejection, abandonment, and abasement, and it's all conveyed in really precise, unforgiving language. It's a very powerful and startling work. (Plus, I don't think it's necessary to have more than a passing acquaintance with Margery K. in order to be moved by it.)
Profile Image for Chris Schaeffer.
319 reviews28 followers
December 20, 2012
This is my favorite Gluck book, because it does so much not only with queer theory but medieval somatics, so it's basically like a stuffed crust pizza for my academic interests. His reading of Kempe is astonishing, earthy and numinous at once, I just love it so much. When Foucault waxes cuckoo over Gluck, I hope its this book he's talking about.
Profile Image for Lou Last.
226 reviews43 followers
August 9, 2020

Jesus discarded her dumb love and abandoned her. From there, Margery might have advanced to real faith - a vocation begun in tears, cracked open as she was, left for dead as she was. I don't know what that faith would be. Margery did not accept this emptiness; instead, she dilated on the point of rejection.

Profile Image for Shaye Easton.
Author 2 books253 followers
December 17, 2022

Margery Kempe is a taut, richly perceptive fable of mortality and unrequited love that takes loving a god as it’s metaphor and tangles it hopelessly with a queer modern day longing.

We start with the story of Margery Kempe, a woman living in the 15th century who had visions of Jesus Christ and wrote the first autobiography in the English language. In Robert Glück’s retelling, she has a love affair with Jesus who is forever “turning his face away”. In between we’re given snapshots of a doomed relationship in the 90s, where an older writer “going nowhere” is slowly estranged by his rich, young and flighty lover, L.

Quickly the two narrative voices begin to merge. The writer, Bob, jumps in and out of Margery’s being; his lover is at times L., at others Jesus, but always, we get the sense, it is transcendence he longs for and cannot make his—an escape from his earth-bound and disease-prone skin. Glück examines unrequited love from every angle. Through intensely tidy prose, he opens up the experience with a rigour reminiscent of Roland Barthes’s A Lovers Dialogue and turns it into something else entirely. What unfolds is as much about the terrible pain of loving someone who will never love you back as it is about the indifference of time (which is itself another kind of unrequited love).

The brilliance of this novel is its layers and symmetries. Metaphors are metaphors for metaphors—Jesus (as a god) is a metaphor for L. (as a member of the haughty rich and beautiful) and both are metaphors for life, which turns its back on us all. Just as Bob dives into the story of middle-aged Margery (“middle-aged” in both senses), Margery jumps into the story of Christ, has visions of herself at his birth and death. The time-travelling of these characters is representative of their desires, their lust for eternal life, and so too is their autobiographical writing and their limitless appetite for the body/ies of their beloved/s. Their beloveds, Jesus and L., are figures of motion, escape and transcendence: Jesus is always vanishing, slipping back up to Heaven; with his deep pockets, L. boards planes like one might hop on a bus—he even lives in a high-rise building, which Bob often stares up at from his place on the motionless ground. Margery and Bob may make visits to their lovers’ transcendent worlds—they may even hope to claim their transcendent lovers, and in doing so to triumph over death—but before long both realise that they are therefore doomed to love from afar.

This novel will not be for everyone. The religious will likely find it blasphemous in its erotic portrayal of Jesus; the agnostic may detest the language of religion. As an atheist who grew up in the church, certainly I feel like I’m the perfect audience for this weird, porny, and experimental tale, whose blasphemy satiates my desire to rebel against my Christian roots. But while this novel certainly includes religion and faith, it is about neither. Jesus is only a symbol. As Glück (who is both author and, we presume, the unloved Bob of the narrative) says, “Jesus and Margery act out my love. Is that a problem?”

For lovers of Maggie Nelson, Anne Carson and everything strange and freaky, here is a brilliant and unconventional novel you won’t soon forget.
Profile Image for Lars Meijer.
288 reviews27 followers
December 21, 2020
'Jesus gritted his teeth like L. does during orgasm, desiring sensation but unwilling to be moved by it.'

Margery Kempe is de rare liefdesbaby van Him en Her.
Profile Image for Gloria .
96 reviews
May 8, 2021
"Your ability to change my life, your unwillingness to do so."

I very much want to write a review responding to the other reviews of this book on Goodreads - a fascinating insight into how people define 'vulgar' or 'blasphemy' or 'poor taste'. I feel a lightness and freedom when I write this because honestly for me this book's beauty comes because of, not despite, Gluck's descriptions of what is absolutely always queer sex(uality) - queer not as encoded in gender/sex definitions, but in free-form, muddled, non-procreative, guided by desire rather than plan or function, taking root in love, confusion, rage and antagonism. Contra what other reviews say, Gluck takes the Jesus part very seriously; the description of Jesus' suffering and death is redolent of medieval mystical accounts in its painful detail.

I also found it very funny. Truly one of the best poet novels. A poet's novel and indeed a poets' novel ! Can't wait to read it again.
Profile Image for Neika Lehman.
7 reviews6 followers
April 29, 2022
Delicious but repetitive towards the end, was strangely anticlimactic in a way that didn’t seem deliberate. Such a gorgeous horny book that should be celebrated for a long time to come.
Profile Image for ʕっ•ᴥ•ʔっ.
78 reviews1 follower
March 22, 2020
Cannot finish. As usual, most of the negative reviews are negative for the wrong reasons. The usual pearl clutchers who, in waiting for an occasion to wield their self-righteousness, miss the purpose, and see an enemy where they should see a friend. Everyone is confused. Minds are as closed to Other as ever, even when they profess to celebrate openness and despise those minds shipwrecked in the past. Misunderstandings are in vogue.

There are some wonderful sentences and observations, but the whole idea isn't half as clever as the author seems to think it is, and most of the writing is incoherent. As if an academic thought he was a poet. Almost parodic, very pretentious.

Though I love the idea of Jesus getting fingerfucked in the ass.
Profile Image for Prathap.
139 reviews4 followers
March 26, 2020
Margery Kempe is a 15th century "Christian mystic," who wrote of her conversations with Jesus Christ. In Glück's version Kempe is a free-sex loving woman who even tries anal with Jesus (Pray tell me I read that right). The graphic descriptions of sex acts with Jesus - no less - still seem to bristle the conservative media and its talking heads. The narrative shifts between Kempe's dalliances with Jesus and with that of a narrator with a young man. The experimental narrative is a bit of a hindrance to the book's flow - especially if you don't have the Kempe context - but the juicy prose kept the pace going.
Profile Image for Morgan M. Page.
Author 9 books680 followers
September 23, 2020
"A failed saint turns to autobiography. Love amazes me; I exult in my luck, in our sex; L. exasperates me; I am exasperating; I am abandoned." Margery Kempe is horny for God and Robert Glück turns the object of his sexual obsession into a God of his own. Across centuries they yearn for their capricious lovers, a longing to attain the transformative power of love - a power that no plague can stop. Glück is the New Narrative daddy for a reason.
1,507 reviews4 followers
July 25, 2011
2005...Read for school. I had to read this book for one of my classes after reading ""The Book of Margery Kempe"". How do I best describe this? Well, the author tells the story of Margery and Jesus' love affair, while at the same time, telling the story of modern gay lovers. Besides the graphic sex, I felt like the modern love story was a bit undeveloped. Definitely an odd book.
Profile Image for Kyle C.
331 reviews3 followers
July 18, 2021
Three stories are intertwined in this novel: 1. aged forty, Jewish, Bob begins a novel on the life of Margery Kemp as he himself seeks to define and deepen his intimacy with a man 15 years younger; 2. Margery Kemp, the 14th-century English mystic, tells the story of her life and pilgrimage to Rome, her erotic ecstasies and romantic infatuation with Jesus; 3. the life of Jesus, as told from the perspective of Margery Kemp, who is a sidekick from his infancy to his Passion. Glück experimentally blurs the boundaries between these three diegetic levels, as Bob and Kemp confuse (or confect?) their own romantic projections with Jesus and Bob confuses his own homoerotic fetishes with Margery Kemps' visions.

I can understand why some reviewers reacted so harshly. The narratology is modernist; the hyper-eroticized language is blasphemous; the pornographic ekphrasis elides romantic attachment or spiritual attainment; there is a lot of cum, shit, and other bodily emissions. This is carnal, not mystical. The prose is beautiful; the scenes are obscene; the story is disorientating. Glück palimpsests the bible and the Book of Margery Kemp into a break-up tale of gay desolation.

I found this a moving description of the act of queer reading. Bob "pushes himself under" the story of Kemp. He sees himself in this mystic, herself a queer figure in British Christianity, repeatedly tried for heresy (Lollard? Crazed eccentric? Hysterical woman? Saint and prophet?) The core apologia of the novel comes in the middle: Bob describes how as a young boy he grew up in an emigre Jewish home in Ohio where he never learned about the Holocaust; in school he was taught about Christian martyrs but never about the Holocaust ("the seven million who return as documentaries"). When he learns of them on the TV, his mother excitedly says that they had relatives who died in the Holocaust ("relating us to the TV, rather than to history"). Like Kemp, he feels deracinated and aloof. In his view, "Margery held a mistaken belief in her own experience" and, while he a gay Jew and she a Christian mystic might seem incongruous counterparts, they share in a tradition of doubt, isolation and farce. Both of them love and wallow in loneliness, abandonment and emptiness. Her kenotic mysticism becomes his queer otherness.
Profile Image for Matthew.
Author 4 books18 followers
December 15, 2020
Beautiful writing, including the best single sentence description of unrequited love I've ever read (and of course now can't find)... the subject matter can be a bit risque, since the Catholic school student buried deep in my psyche felt decidedly uncomfortable at all the talk about Jesus's cock, but a really interesting conflation of genre, narrative, fact, fiction, sexuality, religion... I really wish I had read Margery's autobiography, so I could see how much of this is her words redone. (For instance, I know at least one reviewer took issue with the sexualization of what is an essentially religious love, but I think -- and again, I didn't read Margery's original, so I'm basically talking from a brief skim of Wikipedia -- that Margery herself wrote about her religious love in explicitly sexual terms. If so, that's not really a new thing -- at least not to modern readers, though it probably was new in her time. But I digress.)

All in all, well worth the read. The book is short, but it takes awhile to read -- this isn't something you can breeze through, and the middle part in particular feels a bit too long. Still, I'd like to read it again, but only after reading the original Margery, for the aforementioned reasons. Perhaps one day...
Profile Image for āfhfh.
128 reviews4 followers
September 22, 2022
what did i just read?
what a fever, what a rush ... agony and ecstasy of desire, of love, and loss – rolled up in one flaming narrative, blending together the stories of Glück and Margery the first autobiographer in English until they become indistinguishable.
this is not a historical fiction; somehow time and place feels irrelevant. instead, turn your gazes to sex and sacredness, to the explosiveness of health and illness, the violence, to the self: this is a strange story; reminds one of this particular Bernini:
Profile Image for Brenna.
27 reviews
August 1, 2020
I wouldn't consider myself a pearl-clutcher, but I could not finish this one. Page after page of explicit, graphic sexual and scatalogical acts. Sex, sex, sex, poop, sex, sex, pee, sex, sex, and- did I mention?- sex. The writing overall is juvenile, as if it had been written by a frustrated fifteen-year-old boy. I'm not religious, but the depiction of Jesus made me deeply uncomfortable. The amount of ick actually made for a good laugh when I showed a few of the more graphic excerpts to some friends. There is nothing deserving of literary merit in this novel, and I'm disappointed that the great New York Review of Books has chosen to publish it alongside hundreds of wonderful titles.
Profile Image for Filipe.
20 reviews3 followers
October 23, 2020
Rather confusing mixture of historical fiction, biography and religious ecstasy. The book mingles and binds Margery Kempe's fifteenth century mystical visions of Christ experiences with the authors homosexual love story with a mysterious youth called L in the late twentieth century. Its not always clear in which one of the narratives you find yourself while reading. Sexual, sensual and bodily fluids abound during physical experiences of love and religious experiences near to delirium. A weird tale. There is some gold in here, but I feel rather conflicted about this books. Perhaps I will return to it in a few years.
Profile Image for Erica.
244 reviews6 followers
September 27, 2020
I can't believe I came away from this book with a bewildered, but impressed fascination with the idea of Jesus as a withholding lover. I CAN believe I came away from this book further exhausted at the "plight" of gay men dating much younger gay men to try and claw back their youth. He's 20 and wants to move to San Francisco and fuck other younger dudes instead of stay in bed and talk about your mortality? Wow, time to be blind-sided into a self-flagellating mediation on life! Anyway I wish I had half as much conviction about anything as Margery did. She's very compelling.
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