Robert Glück in conversation with Brandon Brown
Thursday, March 26, 2020, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
celebrating the new edition of
by Robert Glück, introduction by Colm Tóibín
published by New York Review Books
First published in 1994, Robert Glück's Margery Kempe is one of the most provocative, poignant, and inventive American novels of the last quarter century. The book tells two stories of romantic obsession. One, based on the first autobiography in English, the medieval Book of Margery Kempe, is about a fifteenth-century woman from East Anglia, a visionary, a troublemaker, a pilgrim to the Holy Land, and an aspiring saint, and her love affair with Jesus. It is complicated. The other is about the author's own love for an alluring and elusive young American, L. It is complicated. Between these two Margery Kempe, the novel, emerges as an unprecedented exploration of desire, devotion, abjection, and sexual obsession in the form of a novel like no other novel. Robert Glück's masterpiece bears comparison with the finest work of such writers as Kathy Acker and Chris Kraus.
Robert Glück is a poet, fiction writer, critic, and editor. With Bruce Boone, he founded the New Narrative movement in San Francisco. His poetry collections include Reader and, with Boone, La Fontaine. His fiction includes the story collection Denny Smith, and the novel Jack the Modernist. Glück edited, with Camille Roy, Mary Berger, and Gail Scott, the anthology Biting The Error: Writers Explore Narrative, and his collected essays, Communal Nude, appeared in 2016. Glück served as the director of San Francisco State’s Poetry Center, co-director of the Small Press Traffic Literary Center, and associate editor at Lapis Press. He lives in San Francisco.
Brandon Brown is a poet, translator, and art writer. He is the author of five books of poetry and several chapbooks, as well as three collaborative volumes of Christmas poems with J. Gordon Faylor, most recently The Cloth Bag. His poems and prose have recently appeared in Art in America, Open Space, Fanzine, Art Practical, New American Writing, The Poetry Project Newsletter, and Best American Experimental Writing. He is an editor at Krupskaya and occasionally publishes small press materials under the imprint OMG! His newest full-length book is The Four Seasons (Wonder, 2018).
Praise for Margery Kempe
By the bold device of telling two stories in terms of each other (one of Margery Kempe and Jesus, and the other of a twentieth-century love affair), Robert Glück has produced a book without precedent. This novel brings to mind the huge wings of a painted angel—a texture of brilliant richness covered regularly with small, detailed shadows of implication.
At once embracing and thwarting two worlds, two centuries, two sensibilities, what a subtle and powerful amalgam is Margery! Gluck’s exquisitely controlled, sensuously textured writing evokes a deeply integrated ecstatic vision that in the end spares us nothing—being nuanced and brutal, passionate and colored with levity, elegant and outrageous.
I, for one, find much to admire in contemporary gay authors. One of my favorites is Robert Gluck.