Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman defies a major convention of queer literature. In a genre often defined by frustrated yearning, and after a long summer of lustful internal monologues, the novel’s two protagonists do finally get what they desire—however fleetingly.
The nature of longing also pervades the plots of The Girls by Emma Cline and American Girls by Alison Umminger. Despite the novels’ lurid premises—each follows a girl who is entranced by the murderous cult leader Charles Manson—their characters are driven primarily by youthful, imaginative yearnings. Such desires do not go away with age. The writer Claire Dederer reimagines female middle age in Love and Trouble, writing about her libido and changing body with refreshing frankness. Fire Sermon, by the novelist Jamie Quatro, describes a married woman’s lust for men who are not her husband. The protagonist’s desire propels the plot, and the reader begins to understand that, more than she wants any man, she simply wants to feel the sensation of yearning.
For Roxane Gay, the author of Hunger, wanting is even more complicated. The memoir tracks her relationship with her weight, feminism, trauma, and much more. Despite outward pressure, her “unruly body and unruly appetites” remain.
Every Friday in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas.
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(PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy / The Atlantic)
The Call Me by Your Name dream continues