“Fascination: Memoirs” by Kevin Killian— How It Was

Killian, Kevin, “Fascination: Memoirs”, Durbin Andrew, editor, Semiotexte,2019. How It Was Amos Lassen Kevin Killian’s memoir is the story of gay life in 1970s Long Island by one of the leading proponents of the New Narrative movement.  “Fascination” brings together Killian’s early memoir, “Bedrooms HaveWindows” (1989)and a previously unpublished prose work, “Bachelors GetLonely”. These two when taken together show the author’s early yearsstruggling to become a writer in the sexed-up, booze and drug-ridden world ofLong Island’s North Shore in the 1970s. It concludes with Triangles in the Sand, a new,previously unpublished memoir of Killian’s brief affair in the 1970s with thecomposer Arthur Russell. This isa moving and often funny view of the loneliness and desire that defined gaylife of that era from one of the leading voices in experimental gay writing ofthe past thirty years. As we read, we relive the period.Killian’s memoirs propose that the project of remembrance isalso one of non-stop recall for non-stop pleasure. In the beginning of 1991, Killian was living near the Mission District on Minna Street. He was a poet and was married to the writer Dodie Bellamy. It was then that he helped found the New Narrative movement—a loose arrangement of poets and novelists centered around Robert Glück’s writing workshops at Small Press Traffic. New Narrative, emphasized critical theory and identity politics offered a fiction and poetry that took itself apart in order to make its inner and outer workings and worker transparent: it was a writing about the writer who’s doing the writing. Killian is content with memory’s ambivalences, its ambiguities, its moment of “I guess,” when the distinction between fact and fiction dissolves.  He replaces the epiphanic mode of storytelling with “a gorgeous turbulence, rather than some dramatic self-discovery.” The narrator in “Fascination”is both uncannily like its author. The three memoirs that comprise this collection follow Killian through his youthful into the excesses, heartbreaks, confusions that filled his world in the 1970s and 1980s.

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