Review: Kristin Mahoney, Queer Kinship after Wilde: Transnational Decadence and the Family (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2022)
Among Richard Bruce Nugent’s papers in the Beinecke Library, there are multiple manuscripts of a story about a half-Japanese, half-American gender-fluid individual who works as a geisha, has a sexual relationship with their father (first accidentally and then by conscious choice), and travels around Europe and North America in pursuit of physical pleasure and beautiful objects to collect. ‘Geisha Man’ never saw the light of day during Nugent’s lifetime. But the author’s daring plan for this decadent story was to bring it out as an impossibly elaborate art book, in which each page should have been printed on paper of a different colour, with different-coloured ink. The intriguing ‘Geisha Man’ is emblematic of the decadent corpus that Kristin Mahoney brings to light in her fascinating new book, Queer Kinship after Wilde: Transnational Decadence and the Family. It is a corpus that is, like Nugent’s story, made of cosmopolitan connections and projections, attempts to fashion and unmake complex racial and gender identities, baffling hybrids of aestheticism and taboo.