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Puppy Love

In response to:

Keeping Up with Mr. B from the August 12, 1982 issue

To the Editors:

If as a rule I did not so vastly admire Robert Craft’s perceptions and his manner of phrasing them, I would resent less vigorously his stupid and cruel generality on homosexuals, voiced in complicity with Arlene Croce, in your August 12 issue:

…she correctly perceives that Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ‘may be the only ballet in standard repertory that homosexuals can identify with emotionally without distortion.’ Obviously this depends on the staging—the way the San Francisco Ballet costumes ‘the boys in tights and codpieces’—but to Croce’s several additional reasons, one might add that the heterosexuality in this play is on the puppy-love level anyway.

That Craft still holds to the touristy assumption that homosexuals (what homosexuals?) “identify emotionally” only with codpieces, and respond to human rapports only on the “puppy-love level” (but is Romantic Love ever adult?), gives one pause as to what he has gleaned from his decades of rubbing elbows with the great.

But if, for the sake of a point, one agrees that (male) homosexuals are puerile, why does Craft bother to make the point, when earlier in the same paragraph he drools from his heterosexual heights:

I find myself not only concurring with most of Arlene Croce’s judgments but also discovering that we are attracted to the same women, the “coldly enticing” Diana Adams; Suzanne Farrell, who is “sexually very potent on the stage”; Twyla Tharp, who has “beautiful, sexy legs”; Merrill Ashley, who has “lovely” and “voluptuous” ones; and Patricia McBride, who, in Voices of Spring, “looks lusciously round and rosy.” (Yummy).

How to grade between codpieces and yummy legs?

Since Mr. Craft presumes to know about what homosexuals identify with, surely I can presume as much about heterosexuals, having dwelt among a rather large number of them since my birth. I will not, however, invoke such straight bounders as Debussy or Bertrand Russell as opposed to such queer homebodies as Ravel and Proust. My own long and ongoing cohabitation with a male person is, I daresay, no less responsible and loving—and, indeed, I pray still puppy-loving—than Mr. Craft’s not notably noble (excuse the paronomastic effect) relations with female persons over the same period.

Ned Rorem

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Robert Craft replies:

Rorem will distort any text, apparently, as a pretext for yet another of his exhibitionistic effusions. This one does not deserve a response, but since he attacks Arlene Croce with me, and impugns my relationships with unspecified “female persons,” I am honorbound to correct his several errors of interpretation.

What homosexuals?” he asks, though the quotation clearly identifies them as spectators at a ballet—an infinitely smaller number, as generalizations go, than the tourists, with their assumptions, whom he so superciliously invokes. But what is the point of the inane generalization that Rorem puts forth “for the sake of a point”: “…(male) homosexuals are puerile”?

The first passage that Rorem quotes does not say that homosexuals identify only with codpieces and respond only on the “puppy-love level.” Glancing at the paragraph again, even he must eventually notice that “puppy-love level” does not refer to homosexuals at all, but to two young heterosexuals. “Is Romantic Love ever ‘adult’?” he goes on, fatuously, as if there were no difference between the love of a Romeo and Juliet and that of an Antony and Cleopatra.

My “heterosexual heights” do not, as Rorem assumes, affect my salivary secretions, but he has mistaken Ms. Croce’s description, “round and rosy,” and my comment, “yummy,” as referring to legs.

Why does Rorem tell us that he has “dwelt among a rather large number of” heterosexuals—Who hasn’t? And who cares?—and done so, moreover, “since my birth” (i.e., not prenatally, like Rochester’s Nell Gwynn).

Enough of Rorem’s sentences without subjects (“how to grade,” etc.), of his pomposities (“gives one pause,” etc.), and of his comparing the depravities of Russell and Debussy with the virtues of “queer homebodies” Ravel (on what authority can Rorem call Ravel “queer”?), Proust, and in the same breath, himself. Not being able to stomach it, I ask for a doggie bag, puppy-size, of course.

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