Coming Out Fighting

New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr's debut novel is a poignant, semiautobiographical treatise on Hollywood and the hypocrisies of Judaism.




Many of the most powerful passages in You or Someone Like You have nothing to do with religion or identity. They're the vignettes -- often painfully uncomfortable, sometimes totally charming -- that portray the Rosenbaums' existence as a married couple. They're written with a keen and thoughtful eye for the nuances of a longtime relationship, so it's a little surprising to hear Burr say that he's never even had a serious boyfriend. "I've been in love numerous times, but it's always -- I'm terrible at dating. I meet a lot of psychos, a lot of damaged people...I think I would be a terrific husband."

Burr says the Rosenbaums are broadly based on his married friends, especially his agent, Eric Simonoff, and his wife, whose name is also Anne. "It's weird because I don't have the direct experience of having a wonderful marriage. But I do in my mind. I have always wanted to be married and have children. And I just keep hoping that someday it will actually happen to me."

For all his righteous anger, Burr is brimming with optimism. Listen carefully to his harsh, sometimes shocking opinions about religion, and it's clear that they're merely a cover for his unwavering hope that someday, we can create a world where no young man would be kicked out of a yeshiva for being impure. "My people," he says, "are those who believe, as I do, that we need to be good to each other and we need to be good to the planet. We must be free to think and feel." And, of course, to be pissed off.

Tags: Books