BROKEN FEVER by James Morrison


Reflections of a Gay Boyhood
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A collection of essays in which Morrison probes the beginnings of his gay self-identity—a process undoubtedly more intriguing for him than it is for us.

The author treads familiar ground in queer autobiography: childhood longings and confusions are trotted out like trick ponies as he advances from naïveté to knowledge. Violin lessons with a class of girls, the spiritual exigencies of Catholicism, the frustrations of family vacations, and a youthful crush on teen idol David Cassidy—these times and trials of youth serve as the basis of Morrison’s retrospective analysis of the intersection between sexuality and identity in his childhood. Even the tried-and-true twin locations of queer adolescent angst and opportunity—gym and drama class—make their obligatory appearance. The tales themselves offer the promised insight into Morrison’s queer apotheosis, but his floundering and fluctuating tone inhibits the graceful flow of the narrative. At different points in the narrative his voice mimics a sociologist (“In American suburbia, the acquisition of the family pet consolidates the family itself by way of the very processes of acquisition”), the heroine of a Harlequin romance (“ ‘Oh, Cadmus,’ I cry, ‘did you think I would forget you? How could I ever forget my own dear, sweet Cadmus?’ ”), and a New Age guru (“The boy dreams. In the dream he is alone”). Such jerky and stilted tones destroy the quiet accumulation of childhood memories that might have created a handsome patchwork of gay longings and musings. Any hope that such a delightfully queer amalgamation may arise, however, dashes to pieces at such moments of irrelevance as (to take just one example) the author’s extended reflections on President Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal. With more scenes of boyhood wrestling and less pontificating, Morrison’s story might have found its way. But that was not to be.

An impossible mess of memory and desire.

Pub Date: March 14th, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-26129-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2001


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