from the diary: “Sunday 5/31/87
“Read Love in Relief. Hung out at the house.”
I am not just interested in what goes on in the United States. The world is full of lots of places other than where I’m standing. Everybody thinks where they are and what they know is pretty much what everybody thinks and what everybody knows.
One of the things everybody takes for granted is that “every man has a woman who loves him” and vice versa. There is, actually, a lot of variation in this around the world. But when I’m looking for gay people it doesn’t make me feel better to read that “gay” or “homosexual” are recent social constructs that have only a specific local meaning and that meaning is out of place in other cultures, whether contemporary or historic. Secure in your contemporary American mom-dad-junior nuclear family it probably doesn’t cause much discomfort to hear that the “nuclear family” is a recent social construct that has only a specific local meaning and that meaning is out of place in other cultures, whether contemporary or historic – because that just sounds silly. Of course moms and dads love their babies. Please. What do you take us for? On the other hand, saying “gay” is a cultural construct can be yet another way to dismiss gay people, to define them out of existence.
Love in Relief was translated from the French of writer Guy Hocquenghem (and, no, I don’t know how to pronounce that), and I got the feeling he was working out the notion of the cultureless child. The French seem to love this idea. You’ve heard of the Wolf Boy? The kid discovered a couple centuries ago who had been raised by wolves, had no human culture? Didn’t his example prove that the human mind is a blank slate, ready to be whatever the already written-on write on it? (Where did culture come from in the first place?) Love in Relief is a novel with a blind man at its center. Because he can’t see the differences between men and women and judges every individual by his/her heart he can interact (even sexually) with either/every gender. This annoyed me. Blind people aren’t stupid. They imbibe the same culture as seeing people, pretty much.
Actually, what sticks in my mind most about Love in Relief is the danger of setting a scene in a place to which you’ve never been. A character walking across the Golden Gate Bridge gets whacked by a rogue truck and thrown from the bridge into the water. You can only write a scene like that if you’ve never walked the Golden Gate Bridge. The pedestrian walkway is raised above the traffic and there’s a stout metal barrier. If a truck, even a big one, careened out of control toward the walkway it would ricochet right back into traffic.