The University of Wisconsin Press

Memoir / Gay & Lesbian Interest

The End of Being Known
A Memoir
Michael Klein

Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies
David Bergman, Joan Larkin, and Raphael Kadushin, Series Editors

"Klein's prose style, like his poetry, is dreamy, allusive, repetitive in that way that admirers term 'hypnotic.'"Publishers Weekly

Written in poet Michael Klein's uniquely passionate, unapologetic but humble voice, The End of Being Known explores the lines that define, yet also blur, the boundaries of sex, friendship, and compatibility. This collection of autobiographical essays probes the manifestations of sexual desire in its mystical variety: experiencing incest, falling in love, being a twin, and inhabiting the world of anonymous sex—in practice, and, in an essay about the Body Electric movement, as something recuperative and renewing.

Each essay unfurls in a hybrid of poetry, narrative, and fragmentary literary devices. Here is an uncompromising gaze upon the quandaries of those whose sexual, emotional, and relational worlds collide, yielding no answer to the riddle of desire, yet finding meaning by piecing together personal examples of universal themes such as learning, through trial and error, about love and life.

"Klein is a superb craftsman with a poet's gift for winging in and out of his own life, picking out the bright detail. He often uses rich language to describe the mysteries behind everyday life—accomplishing all this without ever coming across as the pompous center of his own universe."—Harold Eugene Baldwin, Frontiers

Michael Klein is an award-winning poet and author. His poetry collections 1990 and Poets for Life are winners of the Lambda Literary Book Award. He lives in New York City and teaches memoir writing in the summer program at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.

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From the Cloth edition:

"Klein enters his memories with a searing clarity steeped in tenderness. The stories create a fugue of whispers-mysterious, sexy, and demanding to be heard."—Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues

What could have been a maudlin, sentimental memoir in a time when that brand of book is the norm became a poetic tribute to resilience and creativity. A Lambda Literary Award-winning poet, Klein (1990) gives an episodic form to his memories rather than a chronological one, and rather than make himself the hero, he riffs on what has occurred in his life in a way that will provoke reflection. While it's true that many readers will not find his experience of bathhouses or fraternal incest familiar, most will be rewarded by Klein's amazing ability to integrate life and interpretation. His life has been difficult—dealing with alcoholism, familial mental illness, and the AIDS epidemic. The difference is that Klein makes sense of this life instead of turning it into cliché or a nihilistic pit. He can also write eloquently about the great issues of friendship, love, and trust, making the specifics of his life applicable to any. Recommended.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libraries., Philadelphia

"Michael Klein makes muscular, restless, relentless sentences that keep coming at you. This is a book of difficult, beautiful lyricism. The End of Being Known is, in the end, a knowing memoir, an archeology of a man's body and mind rendered through language. How is it such a turbulent interrogation results in a reader's joy?"—Victoria Redel, author of Swoon

"In a world where most individuals are indifferent, dishonest, and cruel—Michael Klein is a model for truth and responsibility. He faces his trauma and illness with eyes wide open, refusing to pretend, withhold, or destroy. Instead, he does the interior work that no one else wants to do, and emerges as a man who deserves the gifts of life. This is a very very valuable book."—Sarah Schulman, author of Shimmer

"Klein uses his gift as a poet well in these short memoirs, packing them with telling images and subtle nuances of sensation. The pieces are densely written examinations of emotions and sexual verities that often blur the lines between friend and lover, and between love, lust, yearning, and kindness. Klein's thoughtful writing reflects ongoing ruminations, so thought-provoking personal yet universal that readers may pause occasionally to really absorb them." —Whitney Scott, Booklist, November 1, 2003, Chicago IL

"He can write eloquently about the great issues of friendship, love, and trust, making the specifics of his life applicable to any. Recommended." —David Azzolina, Universiry of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia

cover of the Klein is an evocative photo of a man's legs

October 2009

LC: 2003005650 HQ
152 pp.   5 x 8 1/2

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ISBN 978-0-299-18874-0
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"Like an insurance policy written for himself, Klein's work boldly denies pre-existing literary conditions."
—Jim Gladstone, Lambda Book Report

"Klein's thoughtful writing reflects ongoing ruminations, so thought- provokingly personal yet universal that readers may pause occasionally to really absorb them."

"Michael Klein's failing as a voice-over artist—casting directors found him "too unique"—is his great strength as a chronicler of this and other exploits in The End of Being Known. He beams language through the prism of his inimitable style, and a dazzle of hidden hues are revealed."
—Michael Lowenthal, author of Avoidance and The Same Embrace

"Michael Klein has the gruff voice of Lionel Stander and the fine-tuned soul of Rilke. He writes beautifully. This is not just poetic prose but a strange prose concentrate that mixes sweet metaphor and brute fact, high ideals and earthbound comedy. Klein can suggest more in a single paragraph than many of us can say in a hundred pages."
—Christopher Bram, author of Father of Frankenstein and Gossip

"Michael Klein, like Duras, peels back the layers of his emotional life to examine the inner workings of his emotional and sexual soul. The results are stellar, Klein writes with a nearly hallucinatory attention to detail and an honesty that is as fascinating as it is disarming."
—Darcey Steinke, author of Suicide Blonde

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Updated June 18, 2012

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