Reviews

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On Adorno and the Showgirl

Il ne faut pas lire ce livre. Il faut le lécher – d’un long coup de langue. Il faut en goûter le style tardif – de Kevin Kopelson – comme si c’était la dernière chose qu’on puisse aimer. Et puis, il faut en rire. Rire à gorge déployée. Rire de la mort, comme moi! — Mireille Dujardin

“With floridity and a certain spartan sadness, Kevin Kopelson debunks and enshrines late style. This quotation-prone maestro performs self-abnegating and nuance-upholding convolutions – interpretive and revelatory – about delayed downbeats, penultimate blossomings, and mortal regrets. Most moving is his treatment of Joseph and Robert Cornell, those two sublimity-afflicted illumination-mongers. Before bedtime, be sure to tune into Kopelson’s late show for the breaking news on brotherly love.” — Wayne Koestenbaum

“Wickedly funny and brilliantly playful, Adorno and the Showgirl takes on high theory and some of its most acclaimed practitioners, from Theodor Adorno to Slavoj Žižek. What emerges is a study of what it means for high theory to have come ‘late’ – as it were – to the study of mostly (great) music and mostly (not-so-great) films. Kevin Kopelson is insightful as always with regards to how theory looks undressed, but with bad films thrown in he reaches new heights, or sinks to new lows, depending upon how you look at it.” — Douglas Trevor

“Adorno, may he rest in peace, deserves to die.” — Terry Castle

***

On Confessions of a Plagiarist

“A delicate mix of striptease, truthiness, conceptual ownership, and semiotic bliss.” — David Wilder

“This is as painful and thoughtful as a great confessional essay can be, but it also has a quality I haven’t seen before – a clenched-jaw bravado, as if Kopelson were performing surgery on himself. It leaves the reader squirming but fascinated.” — Kathrin Day Lassila

“Littered with observations, quotations, and abundant confession, Kopelson’s book provides a relentless and unexpected exploration of what it is to think freely, express clearly, and come to one’s being through absorbing, modeling, and at times plagiarizing others. In as much as it is a chronicling of a man’s progress from schoolboy to school teacher, it is more so a reflection on how a person grows into himself and his convictions.” — Lori A. May

“The real thread through this work is sadness. And out of this sadness, he has produced a beautiful book.” — George Haggerty

***

On Sedaris

“Charting a course from Marcel Proust to Tony Danza, Kevin artfully captures the exquisite pleasure and pain of reading David Sedaris. A witty, thoughtful, intimate encounter.” — David Hyde Pierce

“When you’re laughing aloud at David Sedaris’s every sentence, it’s easy to miss the more serious side of what he’s up to. Fortunately, Kevin Kopelson has come along to guide readers through the work of the best and most subversive social satirist in America.” — Stephen McCauley

“If I were to read a book on David Sedaris it might be this one.” — Paul Reubens

“Intriguing stuff.” — Carlin Romano

***

On Neatness Counts

“The charm and brilliance of Kopelson’s works lie in their ability to do double duty – as close analysis of important literary and cultural texts, and as free-ranging, impressionistic commentary.” — Wayne Koestenbaum

“In this slim, enjoyable book, cultural theorist and literary critic Kevin Kopelson uses the writer’s desk as an airstrip from which to lift off into flights of stirring exegesis.” — Brian Sholis

“Although there are moments when, amidst the swirl of his ideas, we fear ourselves lost, Kopelson inevitably pulls us back on track, just in the nick of time, leaving us breathless, dazzled, and eager for another ride.” — Andrew Cohen

Neatness Counts, by Kevin Kopelson, is a neat little book.” — Dave Wood

***

On The Queer Afterlife of Vaslav Nijinsky

“Kopelson’s strategy, as in his previous work, is to bring relevant culture-studies theory to bear on gay male icons in a lively and readable way that wears its extensive learning lightly. The result is a deeply informed and very moving account of a figure who almost escapes appropriation by the language of criticism. Kopelson meets this challenge in an exemplary way, focusing in historical sequence on the performances. He is steeped in Nijinsky lore, and, just as important, knows the music. He also knows the critics, assessing them shrewdly. This is an elegant, beautifully illustrated account of the legacy of Nijinsky’s ephemeral but influential work as an artist.” — Diane Middlebrook

“Kopelson’s fertile imagination makes easy connections along tangential byways, linking contemporary popular culture, well-researched performance history, and his own desire to inscribe the Nijinsky that he knows. This, surely, is a major advance toward invigorating the field of dance scholarship.” — Thomas DeFrantz

The Queer Afterlife of Vaslav Nijinsky does not so much provide a ‘reception history’ as (and perhaps more appropriately) offer a series of brilliant extemporizations on the legend.” — Peter Stoneley

“Kopelson has fun spinning both his prose and his reasoning in the manner of a dizzy pirouette.” — Ivan Raykoff

“Nothing else in print provides the same scholarly depth and the postmodern point of view.” — L.K. Rosenberg

“Fascinating! Part musings, part cultural commentaries, every vignette in this small but powerful book reflects on the impact Nijinsky’s famous roles had on the queer community.” — Eva Stachniak

***

On Beethoven’s Kiss

Beethoven’s Kiss is a beguiling, insightful, sometimes funny, sometimes moving study. The book is put together performatively, as a memoir-meditation, rather than a piece of traditional scholarship. But its tacit scholarly backing is solid and up-to-date, and its unorthodox form is under the control of a finely tuned prose style.” — Lawrence Kramer

“This book can be recommended to anyone who has picked out a tune at the keyboard and who likes piano music, especially to those who used the piano, in one way or another, as part of their panoply of techniques in dealing with the unexpected problems of gay identity.” — Philip Brett

“With its apparatus of notes and bibliography, the book is underpinned by good traditional scholarship and should become recommended reading for courses on postmodernism and music. It is cleverly written … and the questions Kopelson asks are worth asking.” — Michael Russ

“Kopelson’s book – with its intensely personal musings, its explications of how personally his ‘being’ is inseparably involved in his musical reactions to Gide and  Barthes, Chopin and Schumann – is an exact demonstration of the kinds of relationships and meanings which queer people have with music and with its performers, and which we initially form as queer children.” — William Meredith

***

On Love’s Litany

“At once invitingly stylish and excitingly lucid, Love’s Litany disentangles a rich, distinct tradition of philosophizing homoerotic love that looks back to Romanticism and urges forward toward modernism – and toward the passionate merging, crystallization, camaraderie, experimentation, and mortal loss that mark our own fin de siècle.” — Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

“Everywhere tenderly epigrammatic, Kevin Kopelson’s voice – moving with a litigator’s clean, panoptic brio – demonstrates that critique can be a form of courtship, even a form of love. Listen to him cleverly defamiliarize those old saws about the heart! His analyses of Wilde and Barthes run deep. But the asides are the real treat.” — Wayne Koestenbaum

“Overall, the ‘atmosphere of generalized flirtation’ that Kopelson offers as an attractive alternative to Barthes’s sterile ‘cruising’ accurately defines the effect of the book. It is a brilliant and intimate performance of flirtation, and all but the most resistant or joyless readers will be seduced.” — Oliver Buckton

“You quickly become aware of a very special talent that makes this book a rather new and interesting direction in literary study of homosexuality. The critical temper is witty, skeptical; it is always seeking clarity and meaningful distinctions.” — John Maynard

“Kevin Kopelson’s recent volume on representations of homoerotic love in modern literature is a thoroughly engaging, perspicacious, and subtle work.” — Lawrence Schehr

 

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