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Showing 1-10 of 11 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 39 reviews
on March 27, 2014
I love Mendelsohn's prose, he often embeds one clause within another and the result is that he writes the way the mind works -- one idea leading to another and depending upon another. And yet, it is all very clear, it makes sense and it resonates. I started noticing that several of my favorite New Yorker articles have been written by him, so I am going back to his previous works. The subject matter of the Elusive Embrace is of a young, gay man's search for identity. He expresses it well, we (I) feel that I understand what he is saying at a gut level, but I find myself wanting to read an update -- where is his head at now? There is a great deal of self-absorption here -- yes, it's a memoir -- but, I wonder, has he moved out of himself a bit more, is he writing more about himself in relation to others, as we start to see when he writes about the young boy whom he is raising with a friend? I would read that book.
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on January 18, 2007
At first I was intimidated by the customer reviews that made mention of the author's use of classical references as I am not classically educated and often find such references pretentious. However, I am happy to report that Mr. Mendelsohn's work is compelling and always easy to follow.

"The Elusive Emrace" is equal parts memoir and essay, filled with keen observations and poignant scenes from his life. I was especially moved by those involving his god son Nicholas, and the final sections dealing with ancient family secrets and myths. His prose is beautiful, and his ideas about the duplicity of identity, how we are all many things at once, are succinctly articulated.

I highly recommend this book, though I do have one caveat. On page 82 (of the paperback) the author notes that all the happy gay couples he knows have sex outside of their relationsips. He follows this observation with the gross generalization: "This is a fact of gay life." It may be a fact for some gay couples, but certainly not all. It sounds like the author is trying to justify his own suspect promiscuity by proclaiming it to be the norm. I would advise him to reference his own comments from page 38: "Knowledge may make you aware that the certainties of others are often more convenient than true, allowing those who hold them to live a coherent and sensible life, allowing their choices and their ideologies to make a kind of sense."
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on August 27, 1999
This autobiographical "study" of erotic desire and family dynamics is very entertaining and its focus on classical mythology is stimulating, but ultimately a little disappointing.
The author is a classics scholar, and perhaps it is too much to expect him to address more than a handful of Greek literary or mythic works. But when reading his careful and perceptive analyses of myths such as Narcissus, plays such as Sophocles' Oedipus and Antigone, Euripides' Hippolytus and Ion, I found myself wondering if he would ever go further to Achilles and Patroclus, warrior-lovers in Homer's Iliad, or to the many dialogues of Plato about love. This would be particularly appropriate for this work; one of the author's points is that part of the "nature" of erotic attraction is contradiction and antithesis. In Plato's dialogues, love is sometimes a cruel master that must be avoided or somehow subjugated (Republic), sometimes a "divine mystery" to be celebrated (Symposium), sometimes a force to be tamed (Phaedrus).
Mendelsohn's writing is excellent for an academician--it is sometimes confusing in his descriptions of his family and the intricate and complicated relationships. I found myself wishing that there were a family tree in the text somewhere.
That brings me to an outright complaint. This is the second recent work of non-fiction I have read, by a scholarly writer on a serious subject, published by a prestigious house, that could have been much better, with just a little more work. How about an illustration of any of the mythology, literature, or even family matters related by the author? How about an index? (See my Amazon review of A Traitor's Kiss, biography of Richard Sheridan)
But the book is definitely worth reading, and would probably be great for one of those gay reading groups. I found myself wondering, about the author, if he came to a book signing or lecture, would he be cruising the crowd for sex partners while discussing or defending some of this theories? His "defense" of promiscuity and casual sex is the most provocative thing in this book--and bound to stimulate discussion.
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on December 6, 2016
Somewhat self-indulgent confessional--but its honesty is appreciated, as is its portrait of a moment in LGBT affairs that placed inordinate pressure on all sorts of wonderful guys and gals. Mendelsohn is throughout an incomparably erudite and amusing writer.
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on October 7, 2016
One of the very finest writers on cultures from ancient Greece to modern America writing today.
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on November 11, 2013
Mendelssohn is the rare literary critic of today. He combines literary scholarship with a passion for aesthetics. .He has internalized the ancient classical world without losing the modern beat. Therefore this critic strides two worlds, and understands the chasm between the two.
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on January 30, 2010
The Elusive Embrace, by Daniel Mendelsohn, is a remarkable book. The problem of one's identity is often of great importance to some people. Mr Mendelsohn, in his autobiographical oeuvre, tackles this subject with frankness and subtlety. The many references to mythology ads to its value. I read this very well written book wiht pleasure and interest.
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on April 26, 2013
Well written , this volume is a journey of self discovery. First, of sexual adventure and exploration. More important, however, is the recognition of universal elements in/of relationships,, gay and straight.
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on October 22, 2006
I was intrigued by the split in the reviews here: for the most part, readers either loved or hated the book. I found myself unambiguously in the first camp. I devoured the book in two reading sessions, could hardly put it down. For me it is less of a memoir, and more of an incredibly perceptive and thorough contemplation on identity, or rather, on how -inherently- no identities are ever simple and straightforward but always (at least) dual, entangled, complex and evolving. So the book appealed to me intellectually. Reducing the book to its "intellectual content," however, would not do it justice. The ideas are delivered in a language that is so enchanting that it almost intoxicates. Finally, the depth of some of the connections and affections described in the book made the reading of the book a poignant and moving experience.
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on January 27, 2013
Interesting insights into the gay world especially for those who are outside it. The question is whether the book is already dated.
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