Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin
queerbychoice

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Illness and the Excavation of Long-Dead Arguments Between Dead Writers and Soon-to-Be-Dead Ones

I don't want to be sick, damn it! I don't, I don't I don't!!! MAKE IT GO AWAY!!!!!!

I lasted three and a half hours at work today before dragging myself home to writhe in misery alone. The misery was thoroughly miserable. To make matters worse, I'm in imminent danger of running out of new books - so I decided to reread Conversations with James Baldwin, which during my freshperson year of college I kept re-renewing from the college library and hand-copying sentences out of so many times that even though I didn't get my own copy to reread until just recently, nearly all the sentences in the book are engraved into my brain and memorized so thoroughly that I hardly have to even turn the pages to find out what's going to be on the next one. Rereading a book like that is a whole different experience from reading other books. And I think I felt the need to reread it particularly because in one of Gore Vidal's essays I read a few months ago, Vidal criticized Baldwin rather harshly for supposedly believing too much of the oppressive rhetoric about what queer- and hetero-sexuality means or consists of - in retribution, actually, for Baldwin's having written a thoroughly negative book review in which he criticized one of Vidal's books for exactly the same thing - but anyway, the whole spectacle of two of my favorite writers going at each other's throats (though they both also claimed elsewhere to be "friends") disturbed me a bit, so I felt a need to re-read Baldwin to balance out my having read Vidal.

Anyway. Their whole argument seems awfully baseless on both sides to me, because they hardly really disagree about anything. Baldwin accused Vidal of writing about queerness as though it were a tragedy; Vidal said no, he was just writing one specific tragedy and Baldwin had written a queer tragedy too, in Giovanni's Room; Vidal then went on to accuse Baldwin of believing too much in the idea that "queer" is a noun describing a type of person rather than "queer love/queer sex" being acts that everybody can either develop or not develop a preference/appreciation for. However, Baldwin actually said just the opposite in his interviews, maybe not giving the idea quite as thorough a trashing, and certainly not speaking with any of the snide attitude Vidal did (Vidal is very big on snide attitude in all things, whereas Baldwin, though he occasionally offends me with patriarchal language, never speaks deliberately snidely), but basically very much the same thing. So the baselessness of the whole argument annoyed me.

Before I go though, here's an argument that I liked much better: "Mistletoe and the Exclusively Heterosexual Hallmark Kiss Kiss Bears" (Thanks to Rachel for the link.)

Oh, and upon dragging myself to the computer for the first time today, I almost immediately found that the U.S. government has decided not to kill Mumia. Well, that's lovely but it does leave so very much still undone.
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