Later, a friend she makes through the Promise Keepers, whom she describes as "a sports editor at a major Southern daily," refuses to "compromise" on his view that homosexuality is a sin, and Minkowitz backs reluctantly away. "Does this make my being saved at the Promise Keepers all a farce?" she asks. "Does this make my desire to know them ridiculous, and my wish to give mercy insane?" Perhaps not. But her attraction to gatherings of self-flagellating sinners does reveal something essential about the way she loves. About, perhaps, the way a lot of us love. To varying degrees, she implies, we all — gay, straight, sex-crazed or celibate — equate intimacy with torture, hatred with passion, mix up our basest impulses with purest desire. We just do it in our own way.
Minkowitz builds her case haphazardly, preferring to throw a jumble of observations, searing confessions and literary references into a chapter and let the reader derive from them what she will. But casually organized as it is, Ferocious Romanceis never less than entertaining, and it’s sometimes stunning what Minkowitz dares to reveal about herself as she steps so bravely outside her own social enclave. "Looking like a woman is harder than clapping for Pat Buchanan," she writes, owning up to her own misogyny. Sometimes she steps too far, and in her attempt to embrace the femininity she so hates and fears, Minko witz starts to sound like the proverbial Woman Who Loves Too Much — willing to take on the burden of understanding without demanding to be understood, to make excuses without being excused, to see behind the veil while keeping her own true self hidden. She seems to expect that her revolutionary empathy will yield radical change, not considering how empathy for the oppressor hasn’t done a lot to further civil rights.
But maybe civil rights isn’t the point, and doesn’t always have to be. Maybe it’s ungenerous, unfair even, to evaluate Ferocious Romanceas a political document, or even a philosophical treatise, because in the end it’s really only a heartfelt, tender memoir about learning to feel and give love. The rituals of religious fervor and the backrooms of lesbian bars, Minkowitz understands, have up until now offered "a much safer space than a relationship, where the fire would be that much more searing and excruciating. Where I might hang naked on a cross for someone for God knows how long . . . experiencing the unbearable feeling of connection, the horrible dangers of trust." It’s easier, then, to be enveloped in the presumably loving arms of the Promise Keepers than it is to stare into the eyes of a potential real-life kindred spirit. And in its messy but utterly endearing grab at redemption, Ferocious Romanceproves nothing really more, or less, profound than that.