Brooklyn Rail reviews Gateway to Paradise

“What works so well and uniquely in Gateway is the marriage of thought and behavior, thought and consequence look at this now. In “The Visiting Writer,” the best story I have ever read about bookish jealousy and presumption, “an untenured professor” who “depended on a world of allusions to sustain [his] artistic legitimacy,” is picking up a visiting writer of note, to speak and read at his employing university. She, the visiting writer, “was of a different ilk.” Although, “despite having been a finalist for the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, and the PEN/Faulkner, it was safe to say that her name would not have rung the average American reader’s bell. Yet among readers of so-called literary fiction, she was well known.” Critics had focused on her “preoccupation with violence and sexual deviance.” The narrator also mentions how “she worked in her youth as an exotic dancer and prostitute.” His constant emotional vacillation wavers between passive aggression and titillation. So much so that he convinces himself an affair is all but inevitable. Little happens in the story, least of all sex. Instead we eavesdrop on his vulnerable, presumptuous, often inappropriate, sometimes contradictory, and occasionally petty thought process. More, we are forced to think of the writer of “the writer” (Vollmer), and, worse, we are forced to hazard a guess (at least I was, anyway) of what writer the visiting writer might be based. What might have come off as “uber-meta” (two prefixes that should never be linked ever again) is instead brilliantly cruel, uncomfortably funny, and revelatory. After finishing, I felt nothing short of indicted. As far as I’m concerned, that means a very good read. ”

Read the whole thing here.