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The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity

The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity
Author: Daniel Mendelsohn
ISBN 13: 9780375706974
ISBN 10: 375706976
Edition: 1st Vintage Books Ed
Publisher: Vintage
Publication Date: 2000-06-20
Format: Paperback
Pages: 224
List Price: $15.95

Hailed for its searing emotional insights, and for the astonishing originality with which it weaves together personal history, cultural essay, and readings of classical texts by Sophocles, Ovid, Euripides, and Sappho, The Elusive Embrace is a profound exploration of the mysteries of identity.  It is also a meditation in which the author uses his own divided life to investigate the "rich conflictedness of things," the double lives all of us lead.

Daniel Mendelsohn recalls the deceptively quiet suburb where he grew up, torn between his mathematician father's pursuit of scientific truth and the exquisite lies spun by his Orthodox Jewish grandfather; the streets of manhattan's newest "gay ghetto," where "desire for love" competes with "love of desire;" and the quiet moonlit house where a close friend's small son teaches him the meaning of fatherhood.  And, finally, in a neglected Jewish cemetery, the author uncovers a  family secret that reveals the universal need for storytelling, for inventing myths of the self.  The book that Hilton Als calls "equal to Whitman's 'Song of Myself,'" The Elusive Embrace marks a dazzling literary debut.


"Queer ideology is a kind of Narcissus's tale, in which an important sameness keeps getting overlooked because of an insistence that there is only difference," writes Mendelsohn, a classics lecturer at Princeton University who is a gay Manhattanite and a New Jersey dad. In this memoir, he explains how he can be both.