cover image BENEATH THE SKIN: The Collected Essays of John Rechy

BENEATH THE SKIN: The Collected Essays of John Rechy

John Rechy, , foreword by Donald Weise. . Carroll & Graf, $14.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-1405-6

A boost in Rechy's literary visibility following the 2002 biography Outlaw makes the time ripe for this career-spanning collection of essays. Broken into four sections, the anthology organizes its pieces generally by decade (though the first section covers the period 1958 to 1979) with occasional afterthoughts. Though one of the goals is to demonstrate Rechy's versatility beyond the homosexual themes (from AIDS to homosexuality in film) that made him famous, too many of the wider-ranging pieces are not especially noteworthy. Eminent exceptions include reportage from 1970 on the army's battle against soldiers protesting the Vietnam War and a 2003 tribute to the late Kathleen Winsor (Forever Amber ), while the opening chapter on Rechy's childhood roots in the Mexican immigrant culture of El Paso illuminates a milieu that has shaped his writing. Rechy tends to be more energetic and persuasive when he turns to queer subjects; one prominent homophobic attack on his first novel, City of Night, still rankles 40 years later and is the subject of two articles. This isn't an ideal introduction to Rechy—his fiction better serves that purpose—but it will give those familiar with him much to think about and to feel, including perhaps regret that he hasn't done more of the journalistic writing that, at its best, highlights his powers of observation. (Mar.)