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Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: March 10, 2020
by Robert Glück, introduction by Colm Tóibín
First published in 1994, Robert Glück’s Margery Kempe is one of the most provocative, poignant, and inventive American novels of the last quarter century. The book tells two stories of romantic obsession. One, based on the first autobiography in English, the medieval Book of Margery Kempe, is about a fifteenth-century woman from East Anglia, a visionary, a troublemaker, a pilgrim to the Holy Land, and an aspiring saint, and her love affair with Jesus. It is complicated. The other is about the author’s own love for an alluring and elusive young American, L. It is complicated. Between these two Margery Kempe, the novel, emerges as an unprecedented exploration of desire, devotion, abjection, and sexual obsession in the form of a novel like no other novel. Robert Glück’s masterpiece bears comparison with the finest work of such writers as Kathy Acker and Chris Kraus. This edition includes an essay by Glück about the creation of the book titled "My Margery, Margery's Bob."
The writing is lovely. With the subtlety of the obvious, Glück collapses the centuries that separate the two storylines and zips up the space between erotic and religious devotion. Margery’s orgasms are God-given, a mingling of godhead and maiden, an ecstasy of body and spirit. Aren’t most of us as mystified by our sexuality as we are by divinity? Why not consider the former with the awe we reserve for the latter?
—Julia Berick, The Paris Review
Margery Kempe is a little-known late-twentieth-century classic, counterpoising sexual mores in the wake of the AIDS epidemic with the devastation of the European countryside at the end of the Hundred Years’ War. Glück is an acute and unsentimental observer of gestures, botany, skies, and cuisine. He captures the feeling and flow of the late Middle Ages, when "mobility and chance were beginning," and brings that world close to his own. Glück brilliantly locates the (New Narrative) impulse toward first-person narration in time and despair. He observes the turning of centuries. As he writes, "Margery steps into modernity so empty she needs an autobiography."
—Chris Kraus, Bookforum
By the bold device of telling two stories in terms of each other (one of Margery Kempe and Jesus, and the other of a twentieth-century love affair), Robert Glück has produced a book without precedent. This novel brings to mind the huge wings of a painted angel—a texture of brilliant richness covered regularly with small, detailed shadows of implication.
At once embracing and thwarting two worlds, two centuries, two sensibilities, what a subtle and powerful amalgam is Margery! Gluck's exquisitely controlled, sensuously textured writing evokes a deeply integrated ecstatic vision that in the end spares us nothing—being nuanced and brutal, passionate and colored with levity, elegant and outrageous.
Robert Glück explores nuances of love never annotated before.