814: Cleavage by Wayne Koestenbaum

by Gerard

814.54: Koestenbaum, Wayne. Cleavage: Essays on Sex, Stars, and Aesthetics. New York: Ballantine Books, 2000. 338 pp. ISBN 0-345-43460-9.

Dewey Construction:

  • 800: Literature
  • 810: American literature in English
  • 814: American essays in English
  • +.54: American essays in English by authors whose careers started between 1945 and 1999

I finished this book yesterday and I still don’t know what to say about it. About halfway through a book, I can start jotting down initial impressions or a general outline of how I want to attack the review. Sometimes I focus on my reaction to the book, and sometimes I just like to summarize the text and leave people to their own impressions. Wayne Koestenbaum’s Cleavage just leaves the reader stunned with wave after wave of cultural musings and wordplay.

This book is a collection of essays by the poet and cultural critic Wayne Koestenbaum. The essays range in topic from his first pubescent encounters with cleavage to interviews with famous opera singers to musings on the current state of fashion and his relation to it. What gets me with each essay is the author unnecessary ability to sexualize his subjects. The interesting part is that even though it’s unnecessary, it is somehow a welcome addition, a new perspective on dusty, old films and cultural artifacts.

Perhaps my favorite essay is “Celebrity Dreaming.” In a book filled with his obsession with encountering stars, this allows his imagination free reign over those encounters. He takes this to its logical extreme in another piece entitled. “M/Orality,” which imagines a 17-day deeply emotional tryst with former president Bill Clinton during his administration.

I can’t honestly say I liked this book, but the weird thing is, I want to read it again at a much later date. Reading Koestenbaum’s works has a way to making you want to become a better writer. And for that, it’s worth the price of admission.