Klein, Michael. “The End of Being Known’, University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.
“The End of Being Known” by Michael Klein is one of the books in the University of Wisconsin’s Living Out—Gay and Lesbian Autobiography series and what a welcome addition it is. It reads like sheer poetry on topics that have been poetic before. Klein had been abused by his stepfather and was addicted to alcohol for part of his life and was unable to maintain a log-term relationship. When Klein became sober, he felt that he had reached “the end of being known”. His life has had little happiness and not only did he have sex with his stepfather but with his twin brother as well. He writes beautifully about what it is to be a twin and he deftly uses his gifts as a poet in these musings on his life and his writing is laden with images and emotion. His language is dreamy and allusive, somewhat dreamlike and quite repetitive. Having spent much of his life in Provincetown, there is a great deal of focus on seascapes and the weather of the seaside location giving a somewhat elusive quality.
Klein writes of love and the lack of it ad h sow sexual proclivities. Sometimes it is hard to discern the difference between friend and lover and between love ad lust and desire and amity. It seems that Klein has always had trouble understanding both intimacy and sex and therefore has spent most of his life as a loner.
It is easy to sense the passion in the author’s voice as he writes about his somewhat mentally unstable twin brother, about becoming sober, and about his own personal ruminations. As looks at the sexual manifestations of the gay world, we are privy to the mysticism of it. When he writes about anonymous sexual liaisons, we should be shocked but instead we are drawn into the beauty of the language. Each of the chapters is an essay unto itself and the book is held together by a combination of various literary devices. We get a look at a man whose emotional and sexual and familial worlds crash one into the other but we never get an answer to the riddle of his desire.
The voice of the author is both bold and beautiful at the same time and each sentence is both metaphor and honest fact. Klein manages to convey in one sentence what many of us are unable to say in pages. He treats emotional life as a fruit to be peeled open and as he removes the outer rind, we see the inner workings of his sexual and emotional being. The honesty of the short i35 page book is raw and brutal yet beautiful.
We live in a world where indifference for one another seems to be the rule and dishonesty and cruelty prevail. Klein shows us honesty and kindness, responsibility and truth. This is what gives the book its beauty—what it has to say to all of us.