Is the Rectum a Grave?: and Other Essays
by Leo Bersani
Univ. of Chicago Press. 211 pages, $25.
LEO BERSANI begins this collection of essays with a concise list of his three major interests: sexuality, psychoanalysis, and æsthetics. To readers not familiar with Bersani’s work, this list suggests that the book will be more traditionally academic—and dull—than it turns out to be. A better sense of what Bersani is about is found in the second of two interviews that conclude the collection. Here Bersani speaks movingly about teaching, writing, and living a “life of thinking.” Bersani began his career at Berkeley as a “respectable” specialist in modern French literature, but over time he allowed what he calls “a kind of interconnectedness” between things happening in his life—psychoanalysis, being a gay man—and his professional work to blur expected boundaries. For Bersani, art is the discovery of endless correspondences in the world. A similar activity informs his writing.