Benderson, Bruce. “Sex and Isolation and Other Essays”. University of Wisconsin Press, 2007
Bruce Benderson is a Renaissance man and he has strong opinions. He is a journalist, a novelist (the wonderful “The Romanian”), a cultural critic, a memoirist, screenwriter, a translator and he further describes himself as a “criminal enabler”. His first American release f his essays is coming from the University of Wisconsin Press and it has a little something for everyone.
This is a collection of Benderson’s essays in which he looks at topics in American society that have been both contested and neglected and his voice brings the issues to a whole new level of understanding. His combination of wit, rant, reportage and confession makes for wonderful reading. He doesn’t just look at ideas he explores them and he writes what any think but dare not say. He explodes ideas of class and sexual lifestyle and orientation and lauds those who transgress as well as gives voice to the marginalized in society.
Benderson takes a careful look at what he refers to as degeneracy in society and looks to the future to the rise of new technology. He claims that the technologies of the future threaten to“commodify and mediate our most intimate and spontaneous encounters” and we shall become a “nation of armchair voyeurs”.
Some of the people you will meet in the book include Latin American literary scholars and geniuses, eccentric street people, a transvestite, a French cabaret owner, and many others who are unusual in their own way. You will read about subcultures rarely spoken about or described in writing and you will get opinions you have never dreamed of when considering popular culture. Granted some of the writing may be considered highbrow, with patience there is a lot to be learned from Benderson. He looks at and proposes new ideas about the relationship between art, sex and entertainment as well as examines religion ad sexual orientation and how religion interacts with sexual identity. He looks at the internet and how we, the public, are losing public space.
After reading this collection I am in awe of the author. He said so much of what I have been thinking but did so in a way that I could never verbalize. This is a book that will not only cause you to think but will force you into regarding the world around you with different eyes. Benderson’s iconoclastic view of the way we live is not easily forgotten and hopefully it will get the attention that it deserves. His is a voice meant to be heard and pondered.