Both Mr. Roth’s book and Ackerley’s are sexual “confessions.” In both, sexual honesty is a first premise: presumably, if we are honest about our sexual selves, we cannot be false to any man or woman, and we are on the way to saying something useful about the general life of feeling, perhaps even about the general life of humankind. It turns out, however, that strangely different enterprises can proceed from the same premise. Portnoy, full of complaint because of his sexual fate, is bent on tracking down the source of his grievances. He needs a culprit and he finds it, or them. The “myself” of My Father and Myself has no complaint against anyone or anything. He is innocent of all impulse to place blame for his sexual situation–unlike Portnoy, who thinks his parents took the id out of Yid, it never occurs to Ackerley to accuse his parents of putting the oy in Goy.
This from Diana Trilling's joint review of Portnoy's Complaint and My Father and Myself published in Harper's in 1969. Now that Lionel Trilling is getting rehabilitated, maybe it's time to take another look at Diana. Her essay is clear, intelligent, and entertaining, plus, she prefers the book we publish, or at least deems it the "more masculine–if that word still has meaning–of the two books" under review. She also has a surprisingly ho-hum take on homosexuality:
There are men who want women, and men who want men: the variation between the two is no more remarkable than the variations among the many ways in which a person exercises this primary sexual choice.
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