A Most Perfect Introduction

It seems that we are on the verge of something. Although the snows of winter still linger, the light of the queer morning seems surprisingly strong. The thrust and counter-thrust over the matter of so-called gay respectability occur with such shocking regularity that colleagues, friends, and family alike continually remind us that though we remain in the wilderness, and even though the manna has become stale, we should rejoice that soon and very soon the promised gift of propriety will be ours. Still, to invoke Leo Bersani, there is a big secret about the dawn: most people don’t like it. The strange shock of light and life is a pale and peculiarly unfulfilling substitute for the technicolor majesty of our dreams. And no matter how supple the body that we may lie alongside, we are always frighteningly alone. Indeed, stink, crust, and the painful creep of age are our only constant companions as we rise from our beds, sweaty or cold, eager or anxious, always obliged to fix our manufactured faces for a world sublimely indifferent to the never-quite-articulate passions that under-write our secret pleasures and public labors. (Robert Reid-Pharr, “Clean: Death and Desire in Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand,” American Literature 83.2 [2011]: 389-90)

Robert Reid-Pharr makes me believe critical prose can be astonishingly beautiful.