In an interview in The Chronicle Review, a CUNY English prof gives more detail on his background than most readers care to know, but about as much as his students have come to expect. “We’re sitting in his immaculate, book-lined office discussing the job talk that helped land him here, in 1996, Evan R. Goldstein writes of his interview with Wayne Koestenbaum, poet, critic, and professor of English at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. “ Titled ‘Gertrude Stein’s Posthumous Porn,’ it assessed scatological references in love notes that Stein sent to Alice B. Toklas, and included a Nan Goldin photograph of a man masturbating.”
“ Retelling the story, Koestenbaum, slight and still boyish in his early 50s, winces: ‘Was that a little self-destructive?’” Apparently not: he got the job.
“Koestenbaum’s first book, Double Talk: The Erotics of Male Literary Collaboration (Routledge, 1989), established him as a hot property among queer-studies types,” Goldstein informs us.” Suddenly lumped in with a movement, he felt uncomfortable.”
Evidently he got over it. “Koestenbaum’s short new book, Humiliation, to be published by Picador next month,” Goldstein states, “ doesn’t push a thesis. It presents a series of digressions and observations—some a few lines, others a few pages—on the topic. “
“As in his previous books—The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire (Poseidon, 1993) among them—Koestenbaum displays a knack for clever, pop-intellectual meditations, and a sharp eye for the prurient detail.” His ratemyprofessors.com ratings indicate he shares these with his students regularly.
“The belle of the ball and he knows it,” one of his admiring reviewers wrote. “Perhaps the best dressed and nicest professor in NYC. “
“Smart and original course offerings and great insights most of the time.” Another reviewer gives us an idea of the extent of their originality.
“He’ll spend a half hour on a heroine’s sleeve in an Ozu film, or dwell on Lana Turner’s hairdo, or compare the peanuts in ‘Duck Soup’ to certain private parts,” another reviewer explains. “He’s a trip.”
Yes he is, but taxpayers may ask themselves if he is worth subsidizing. CUNY is a public university.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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