The Freezer Door
- Longlisted for the 2020 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award
280 pp., 5 x 8 in,
- Published: November 24, 2020
- Published: November 4, 2020
A meditation on the trauma and possibility of searching for connection in a world that enforces bland norms of gender, sexual, and social conformity.
When you turn the music off, and suddenly you feel an unbearable sadness, that means turn the music back on, right? When you still feel the sadness, even with the music, that means there's something wrong with this music. Sometimes I feel like sex without context isn't sex at all. And sometimes I feel like sex without context is what sex should always be.
—The Freezer Door
The Freezer Door records the ebb and flow of desire in daily life. Crossing through loneliness in search of communal pleasure in Seattle, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore exposes the failure and persistence of queer dreams, the hypocritical allure of gay male sexual culture, and the stranglehold of the suburban imagination over city life.
Ferocious and tender, The Freezer Door offers a complex meditation on the trauma and possibility of searching for connection in a world that relentlessly enforces bland norms of gender, sexual, and social conformity while claiming to celebrate diversity.
I really love Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's The Freezer Door. In a happy paradox common to great literature, it's a book about not belonging that made me feel deeply less alone. I so admire its appetite to get down and dirty, to wield non sequitur with grace and power, to ponder the past while sticking with the present, to quest unceasingly. I stand deeply inspired and instructed by its great wit, candor, inventiveness, and majesty.
Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore puts sex and gender, suffering and gentrification, encounter and solitude, at the center of a book that defies borders and uses language to dive directly into mystery. I admire Sycamore's gossamer refusal ever to land anywhere definitive; the sentences travel further and further into trauma's backyard, where complex ideas find a habitat among the simplest formulations. Sycamore, by breathing into the prose, treats the act of book-building as a practice strange and organic as sleeping, walking, bathing, eating. The Freezer Door delves into the philosophy of the sexual meetingplace with a virtually unprecedented aplomb.
Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Figure It Out: Essays
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's The Freezer Door is the kind of book I read in excited bursts, then had to put down for a minute to absorb. I gasped, I laughed out loud on public transportation, I felt seen and changed and so relieved to live at the same time as this truth-telling genius. How lucky we all are to have this meditation on bodies, sex, friendship, cities, loss, loneliness, and, of course, pleasure!
Andrea Lawlor, author of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
"There is much to love here. The pacing of the work, with its often fragmentary form, allows readers to sit with poignant moments for a beat, unpacking a sentence only to return later to unpack it again...There are no questions answered in this book. Instead, questions create further questions, further attempts at rediscovery and at blurring boundaries. Hers is a welcome blurring and, in a culture of relentless demarcation, a necessary one."
New York Times Book Review
"The Freezer Door is an aching, playful memoir of vivid desire amid the desperation of midlife disconnection...this book brims with slippery sentences that reach their truths like rivers finding the sea. With an intellect that supersedes social boundaries through sheer insistence, Sycamore chronicles the paradox of inhabiting a fluid life in a rigid world."
Washington Post Book World
"The acclaimed queer writer connects the social and economic forces that threaten to freeze out the possibility of deep human connection."