By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
By now it must be apparent that Broyard is a wizard of figurative language and physical description. "Her waist was so small it cut her in two," he says of Sheri, "like a split personality or two schools of thought. Though her legs and hips were sturdy and richly curved, her upper body was dramatically thin. When she was naked it appeared that her top half was trying to climb up out of the bottom, like a woman stepping out of a heavy garment."
BROYARD IS VIRTUOSIC WHEN IT COMES TO DESCRIPtions of sex. "If we didn't have books," he recalls of those days, "we'd have been completely at the mercy of sex." Most writing about sex is like chewing food instead of tasting it -- all mechanics and no flavor. Not so with Broyard:
Sheri and I began not at the beginning, as I had hoped, but at the end of sex. We arrived immediately at a point where, if we had gone any further, what we did would have had to be called by some other name -- yoga, mime, chiropractic, or isometrics.
Most people would say that lovemaking was a defense against loneliness, but with Sheri it was an investigation of loneliness, a safari into its furthest reaches. She had a trick of suspending me at a high point of solitariness when I was in the full flow of that self-absorption that comes over you as you enter the last stages of the act. She would stall or stymie my attempts to go ahead and finish -- she'd hold me there, freeze me there, as if to say, See how alone you are! And then I would float above her, and above myself, like an escaped balloon.
Sex with Sheri was full of wreckage. It was like a tenement that has been partly demolished by a wrecker's ball, so that you can see the terrible biological colors people painted their rooms, the pitiful little spaces they chose for themselves. In my heart I thought of her as weird and in her heart she saw me as ordinary . . . all we had in common was desire, perhaps not even that.
Broyard once aptly described himself as a writer for whom sexuality is inseparable from consciousness. It's a good thing that sex with Sheri didn't offer blissful oblivion, because what makes it extraordinary to read about is Broyard's unflagging awareness. Through his physical relationship with Sheri, he explores his relationship to all that is troubling and enticing and mysterious in human nature. A complicated lover, Donatti is the perfect subject for his prose, which is always tactile and alert, cerebral without seeming to belong to the province of thought.
Kafka Was the Rageis a book about the erotics of knowledge both carnal and cultural, and it is one of the most humane and beautifully written books I've ever read. It is also unfinished. Broyard, who put the manuscript aside in order to work on a book about his illness, died before the memoir was completed. The fact that it's unfinished stirs me to a finer appreciation, a greater craving. I ate his book, and it made me hungry.
Bernard Cooper is the author ofTruth Serum: Memoirs, Maps to Anywhere andGuess Again: Short Stories. He lives in L.A., and is the art critic forLos Angeles Magazine.