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E s s a y R e v i e w s “W e A l m o s t K i l l e d O u r s e l v e s w it h R a g e W o r k in g - C l a s s L iv e s in R e c e n t A m e r ic a n W r it in g W e n d e l l R i c k e t t s W o r k s R e v i e w e d Bakopoulos, Dean. Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon: A Novel. New York: Harcourt, 2005. 288 pages, $23.00/$ 14.00. Faderman, Lillian. Naked in thePromisedLand: A Memoir. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. 368 pages, $26.00./Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004. $19.95. Rechy, John. Beneath the Skin: The Collected Essays ofJohn Rechy. New York: Carroll and Graf, 2004- 352 pages, $14.95. Williams, Stanley Tookie. Blue Rage, Black Redemption: A Memoir. Pleasant Hill, Calif.: Damamli Publishing, 2004. 371 pages, $24-99. Questions of definition and genre are inevitable in conversations about literature, and perhaps no more so than when those conversations take place in formal or academic settings. We write and speak spontane­ ously, not to say carelessly, about southern writers, the Black Mountain school, science fiction, the Harlem Renaissance, or Romanticism, for example, even when we know full well that such terms are necessarily more pregnant with confluence and diffraction than they appear. And yet that odd sensation— one that is either postmodern or simply Lewis Carrollingian— of trying to make a simple term mean multiple things at once, of striving to indicate without interdicting, harrows the study of literature. This is, fortunately, precisely as it should be. A comparative newcomer to the vexed taxonomies of American literary study, the term working-class literature is certainly no less hydraheaded than its companions women’s literature, lesbian and gay litera­ ture, or African American literature, to name only a few of the Balkan states; and, like those useful, often approximate subheadings, workingclass literature runs the constant risk of falling in with literary scholars W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L i t e r a t u r e 40.4 ( W in t e r 2006): 449- 61. 4 5 0 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n l it e r a t u r e W in t e r 2 0 0 6 who, still deep in amnesiac love with the “subaltern,” have forgotten that American literature is by its very nature “subaltern.” Or let’s put it another way: It is precisely because most of American literature is working 'dass literature, is women’s literature, is lesbian and gay literature, is “ethnic” literature that it is, in the widest angle of our looking glass, also American literature.© The issue of class, paradoxically, is more a matter of style than of substance in John Rechy’s Beneath the Skin, a collection that spans some forty-five years of the author’s reviews, essays, commentaries, and report­ age. Rechy, the author of the seminal City of Night (1963) and more than a dozen other nonfiction books and novels, is well known both as a Chicano writer and as a gay writer but is less frequently identified, at least by critics and scholars, as a working-class writer. Rechy, for his part, has never tried to distance himself from his roots, and the heroes and heroines of his novels are frequently working-class characters. In Rechy’s 1967 Numbers, for example, the eponymous antihero, Johnny Rio, recalls his upbringing: “[Laredo, Texas] has unpleasant memories for him (a dreary fatherless Mexican Catholic childhood: poor, poor years and after-school jobs in a laundry call-office, a department-store stockroom, and on a newspaper as a copy boy)” (22). The exaggerated, class-inflected masculinity that Rio constructs and flaunts both distances him from the “queens” who desire him sexually and serves his voracious need to experience himself as...


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