Monette, Paul. Afterlife. New York: Avon Books, 1990.

Reason read: June is Gay Pride month in some states. In other places it is in May, so I started this early in honor of both months.

The very first word that comes to mind when trying to describe Afterlife is heartbreaking. Taking place at the “start” of the AIDs epidemic in the heart of United State’s “ground zero” in San Francisco, it tells the story of a group of gay men trying to make sense of the horrific disease while coping with personal loss. Facing their own mortality, each man has lost a partner to AIDs but display very different coping mechanisms as they have very different support systems. They form a Saturday night support group of survivors, each asking themselves, but for how long? This is a story of courage; the willingness to live and love in the face of death.

Quotes to quote, “There were enough coffins to come” (p 224) and “This worthy man, terminally unctuous but otherwise bland as a serial killer, insisted on driving them up to the North Garden in his own Cadillac” (p 256).

Author fact: Monette was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Book trivia: this should have been a movie.

Nancy said: This was included in Book Lust because it fit in the category of “Books with characters who are gay or lesbian” (p 95).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gay and Lesbian Fiction: Our of the Closet” (p 93).

June (2009) was…

June was an amazingly quiet yet unsettling month. I think I needed it –  all of it. I know I wanted it – depression and all. Lots and lots of reading married with work on the house (we started painting!), a lot of work at work, a little music (Rebecca’s cd release party was fun, fun, fun! Can’t wait for the Iron Horse next month!), a small charity walk (Hike for Mike, which I still need to write about)…June was mostly about staying hermitage.
Here are the books:

  • Slow Dancing on Dinosaur Bones by Lana Witt ~ an interesting book about small town life.
  • And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts ~ the most amazing journalism on the AIDS epidemic
  • Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum ~ a murder thriller set in Norway
  • Before the Deluge by Deidre Chethem ~ a nonfiction about the Yangtze river
  • Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance by Richard Powers ~ three stories centered around a photograph.
  • A Bigamist’s Daughter by Alice McDermott ~ In honor of Alice’s birth month…a story about how things aren’t always what they seem.
  • The Cat Who Saw Red by Lilian Jackson Braun ~ In honor of National Cat Month…okay, so the cats don’t solve the mystery, but they are funny!
  • The Daydreamer by Ian McEwan ~ in honor of McEwan’s birth month (childrens book)
  • The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan~ In honor of McEwan’s birth month (adult – verrry adult book)!
  • This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff~ in honor of National Writing Month (families). I’ll be reading Tobias’s brother’s memoir next June.
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain ~ I had forgotten how great this classic is!
  • Lving High: an Unconventional Autobiography by June Burn ~ Homesteading on an island off Puget Sound.

For the Early Review Program:

  • Beyond Road’s End: Living Free in Alaska by Janice Schofield Eaton ~ a memoir abotu running away to Alaska.

For the fun of it:

  • The Morning Star in Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine is Illuminated by Nick Bantock. Everyone knows I love Nick Bantock. His books are sensual and fascinating. I am drawn to them all the time.

And the Band Played On

Shilts, Randy. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.

This book has always intimidated me. For three decades I have heard words like “powerful,” “scary,” “depressing,” and even “a necessary evil” to describe And the Band Played On. I was afraid to really know That much about “the gay man’s disease.” I was squeamish about the how vivid I imagined the details to be. I anticipated TMI – Too Much Information – about deviant sex and the agonies of dying. In other words I was in denial and afraid.

And the Band Played Onhas got to be one of the best pieces of journalism I have read in a long, long time. Shilts’ reporting of every aspect of the AIDS epidemic is nothing short of mesmerizing. From the very beginning controlling the spread  of AIDS never stood a chance. AIDS was to be ignored by everyone. If you were heterosexual you didn’t want anything to do with the gay man’s disease. If you were homosexual you didn’t want someone telling you how to have sex, disease or no disease. Shilts does a fantastic job bringing to light the political power struggles that kept education and research about AIDS in the dark for nearly a decade.

Intriguing lines: “A group of drag queens, dressed as nuns and calling themselves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, had picked the day for their debut” (p 14). “Being gay in New York was something you did on the weekends, it seemed” (p 27). “When a London gay switchboard’s lines broke down because they were so overwhelmed with AIDS calls, telephone company employees refused to fix them because they were afriad of contracting AIDS from the wiring” (p 565).

PS~ Remember my statement about being afraid of TMI, of learning something I realllly didn’t want to know? Well, Shilts did not disappoint. Not only did I get the full description of what fisting (with the whole frickin’ arm) was all about, but I learned of the practice called rimming. Politely put, it’s the human to human equivalent of licking an overflowingly full porta-potty. Good lord.

PPS~ What changed everything for me: learning that Randy Shilts took an HIV test while writing And The Band Played On; that he insisted on not knowing the results until the book was finished so as not to bias his writing; that he learned he was HIV positive on the day he sent his manuscript in…and finally, that in 1995 he died just like the AIDs patients he vividly described in his book.