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This review is taken from PN Review 219, Volume 41 Number 1, September - October 2014.

All Aboard robert duncan, Collected Essays and Other Prose. Edited and with an Introduction by James Maynard (University of California Press) $60

Robert Duncan’s early benchmark essay, ‘The Homosexual in Society’, appeared in the August 1944 issue of Dwight MacDonald’s anarchist magazine, politics, when Duncan was 24. Outing himself a quarter of a century before Stonewall, Duncan just as remarkably disavows ‘the homosexual cult’ to which he’d originally been drawn as a safe haven. He writes:

I did not seek a solution in humanity but turned to a […] society as inhumane as the first […] [comprising] the cultivation of a secret language, the camp, a tone and a vocabulary that is loaded with contempt for the uninitiated […] [and which] allowed for so little of the moral, the sensible and creative direction which all of living should reflect.

Virtually from the outset, then, there is a template of inclusiveness rather than exceptionalism, and this outlook would eventually yield his prose masterwork The H.D. Book, the first volume of the Collected Writings of Robert Duncan published by the University of California Press in 2011. Completed in 1959, it still seems up-to-the-minute and then some:  

In the next epoch, announced by the works of Darwin early in the century, and then by Frazer, Freud, and [William] James, it is the comparison of all things or the Mixing of the Waters – but this is the thicket: Bushman, shaman of the Lapland wastes, the child at his watercolors, and Michael­angelo are brought into one complex concept of Art. In the new Jungian religious psychology, Attis mixes with Christ, Christ mixes with the dream ...


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