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.
Glück’s story about Margery . . . is like falling upward into a long dream about sex and Jesus, in Glück’s hands a spectacle, visceral and sublime. . . . By the end, Margery Kempe felt to me like a mingling of Vita Sackville-West’s biography of Joan of Arc and the sort of pulp gay erotic fiction I found in porn stores in the 1980s—the illustrated covers feathery from years of being held, read, and put down—and yet also somehow firmly within the tradition of any mural on any church or cathedral in Florence.
—Alexander Chee, Bookforum
Robert Glück explores nuances of love never annotated before.
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
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
Glück’s most beautiful work of fiction . . . The novel stands alone in Glück’s oeuvre, not for its wildness—his lucid, precise descriptions of sex distinguish each of his four volumes of fiction—but for its ambiguity. . . . The sense of sex as the summation of many minds and bodies, deeply personal in origin yet ultimately unmoored from the baggage of individual preference, makes moments in this often disturbing book gleam with the feeling of utopia.
—Daniel Felsenthal, The Baffler
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.
Margery Kempe [is] a touchstone of queer experimental writing. . . . The religious scaffolding is not simply an allegorical means of relating a love story, but a structure of feeling appropriate to the ravages of contemporary experience.
—Cam Scott, Berfrois
In some ways, the style of this novel resembles the terse, declarative expository prose that is taught as best practice in some MFA programs. Here, however, the accumulation of detail does not lend Glück’s text a neutral perspective. Instead, every detail is fused with, and compromised by, the desire which spans over the entire observational field.
—Will Hall, Full Stop