Fall 1994 • Vol. XVI No. 4 NonfictionOctober 1, 1994 |

Where We Stand: An Essay Review

In a recent interview the novelist Edmund White said that a turning point for him came when, as he was writing States of Desire, he stopped pitching the book to an imaginary straight reader--stopped explaining gay cultural references, stopped worrying if what he was saying put gay experience in an unattractive light. I wonder if there's a correspondence between White's turning point and the consensus that has emerged during the past decade that the writer's former ideal of becoming "universal," a mouthpiece for the whole culture, is unrealistic. We can understand why Elizabeth Bishop, in the '70s, might refuse to have her poems put in an anthology of women poets (let alone one of lesbian poets) for fear of being pigeonholed as a writer of minority interest only. But it's hard to imagine anyone making a refusal like that today. When I read writings by women, by people descended from races other than European, or by straight people, of course I discover overlaps with my own experience

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Alfred Corn's most recent book of poems is Contradictions. This October, University of Michigan Press will publish Atlas: Selected Essays, 1989-2007.

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To Hermes

By Alfred Corn

In a recent interview the novelist Edmund White said that a turning point for him came when, as he was writing States of Desire, he stopped pitching the book to […]

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