FAITH, SEX, MYSTERY: A Memoir by Richard Gilman


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A drama critic's attempt to grapple with the meaning of a fairly turbulent emotional life--his own. Born Jewish, Gilman converts to Catholicism, then abandons his new religion, all because of his ""sexual nature,"" as he terms it. Gilman's ""perversion,"" in his own term, is that he enjoys being dominated by large, muscular women. He is fairly specific about what he likes to do with these bed partners; indeed, honesty is the strong point of this memoir, which cannot have been easy to write. Still, the reader wonders whether most of it should not have remained in the form of a personal diary. And when Gilman tries to address matters higher than the mundane, the tone becomes overwrought. An impossibly tortuous passage describes the act of taking a book out of the library as such a psychic agony that it eventually becomes comic. The book is on Catholic theology, and although the author's search for spiritual comfort is sympathetic, it reads with a certain sense of dÉjà vu, as if he were merely exchanging one form of religious guilt for another. Moreover, there is some question of the exact nature of Gilman's obsession with Joan of Arc, to whom he prays along with the Virgin Mary. The difference between this book and other confessional literature such as Augustine (apart from quality) is that the writer has left the fold. However, he continues to wander amid vague, significant terms like those in the title. Parts of this book have the fuzziness of a philosophy that is unaccompanied by either religious certainty (Augustine, Pascal) or rationalist rejection of religion (Voltaire, Rousseau). Given the author's penchant for thought about his own condition, it may be that this book is a trifle premature, and that in a few years he may achieve a more viable synthesis. A confused, if empathetic, soul-bearing.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1986
Publisher: Simon & Schuster