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About Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013 | View Entire Issue (Aug. 1, 1988)
scents of Beauty
With Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, Paul Monetteproves
the point that none of us is prepared or knows what to do.
None of us can be counted on to act rationally.
J O E L
Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, by Paul
Monette (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. $18.95).
The Mysteries o f Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon
orrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, by Paul
Monette, shows that AIDS nonfiction
material keeps getting better. Monette. who is
also infected with the disease, watches his lover
slowly die. He records the painful process and
at the same time paints a portrait, a biography of
his lover and the history of their relationship.
Like Randy Shilts’s And the Band Played
On. Borrowed Time traces the political history
of this decade, but in a personal way. Monette
observes: “ The fact is, no one knows where to
start with AIDS. Now. in the seventh year of the
calamity, my friends in L A. can hardly recall
what it felt like any longer, the time before the
sickness.” He describes the ambiguity of the
early stages of the epidemic: “ What is now
called safe sex did not used to be so clearly
defined. The concept didn’t exist. But it was
quickly becoming apparent, even then, that we
couldn’t wait for somebody else to define the
parameters. Thus every gay man I know has had
to come to a point of personal definition by way
of avoiding the chaos of sexually transmitted
diseases. . . . ” Monette writes of his daily
activities in the early '80s and then of his
despair, as when he confesses that he no longer
wants to live in a world where his friends can be
in so much pain.
One of the drawbacks I found with Monette's
memoir was that the minute-by-minute medical
statistics bogged me down. I knew the outcome
already — the people would all die — and it was
merely a matter of charting their declines. Not
that this isn't moving, but at times the physical
details overburden the story. Another, as if
Monette should be treated specially because of
his credentials, was a distasteful slip of
snobbism: “ That is one of the shocking things
about a hospital: its leveling of you to your
body’s weakest link. The Ph D. in Comp Lit,
the years in Paris, the wall of books — you do
not wear these badges on your johnny gown.’ ’ (I
hate it when gay men get too elegant and
superior.) Monette also writes of his scheme to
cover up his lover’s illness, long after it seems
no longer to matter, long after discrimination
fears at work are irrelevant. But Monette only
proves the point here that none of us is prepared
or knows w hat to do. None of us can be counted
on to act rationally, to do and say the right
Eventually the lover goes blind. They read
Plato and enjoy whatever moments they have
together between medical crises. But the
moments shorten as they struggle to face this
thing together and try to hold onto life slipping
away, until finally Monette’s lover dies.
Borrowed Time leaves us with the sensation that
the clock is ticking and what we have now is all
there is. This book is one without hope, but at
least these two men had each other — some
thing that a lot of people don't have.
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Tra n sfo rm a tio n a l B o o k s • Music
ichael Chabon’s The Mysteries of
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Pittsburgh is said to be a crossover
novel that appeals to heterosexual readers — in
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1338 N .W . 23rd A ve.
contrast with Marguerite Duras's latest. Brown
Hair, Blue Eyes, a crossover from heterosexual
P ortland, O R 97210
intellectuals that appeals to gays. But Chabon, I
happen to know, is not gay. None of my busi
ness, but he was lumped together recently with
M o n.-Sa t. 10-8
S u n . 1-6
Ferro, Leavitt, White and others in a Newsweek
article about new up-and-coming gay writers. I
don’t know about all this stuff When I began
reading The Mysteries o f Pittsburgh, I
immediately thought of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Perhaps it was the spoiled frivolous academic
youth, a powerful, mysterious but remote father
A GENTLE APPROACH TO DENTISTRY
(a gangster, in fact), flirting with girls and
allowing himself to be flirted with by a boy.
The boy is Arthur, a stylish blond. Art, the
protagonist, is not a blond — he's Jewish. They
do, however, have the same name, which
canes removal system
reminds me of the cliched situation of the gay
The com fortable technique
man looking for his opposite and then trying to
that removes decay while
make into him his twin. Art already has the
m inim izing drilling and
reducing the need for the needle
beginnings, but we are led to believe that men
are not what Art normally considers. ’
After they meet in the campus library. Art
and Arthur go out for a drink. Art gets smashed
quickly, and when they go outside, a guy named
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 8 am-5 pm
Abdullah, who has a French accent, picks them
up in a Fiat. At a party where no one is Ameri
12200 N. Jantzen Ave., Suite 480 Phone:
can but them, Arthur tells Art: “ I don’t see
myself as an American: I’m an atom, I bounce
all over the place like a mercenary, a free agent
P H O E N I X
R I S I N G
P R E S E N T S
— a free atom — isn’t that something in
chemistry? I’m always at the outside orbit of all
the other, um, molecules?”
Eventually there’s a confrontation between
the two when Art tells Arthur that he’s straight.
Arthur, of course, doesn’t believe him. But it
isn’t long before Art admits to himself: “ The
reiteration of my straightness began to retreat
from its urgent position on the tip of my
tongue. . . . ” When he’s alone, he looks down
at a baseball game, at the tiny cars on the road
below, at a “ miniature housewife,” vowing
suddenly never to become small, to get only
bigger— the implication being that he wants to
expand the restrictions of an ordinary life. He
admires Arthur his homosexuality — he thinks
it’s daring, glamorous and free.
In the end. Art chooses Arthur over Phlox, a
weird, attractive girl who’s a friend of Arthur’s.
O ctober 28, 29, 3 0 ,1 9 8 8
In an era in which, if there’s any question about
direction, most people would assume it more
safe and logical for a man to choose a woman.
(near Lincoln City)
Art does not. Maybe it’s just me. but I kept
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getting hung up on the sex scenes: no one was
employing safe sex. AIDS wasn’t even
mentioned, although it seemed just about every
thing else was. If Arthur had been exposed to
A three-day weekend retreat for gay men at a private facility with a 2-mile private beach,
AIDS, then Art would have passed it to Phlox.
hiking trails, canoeing, horseback riding and rustic cabins and lodges.
We also discover that in the end Art has not
thrown heterosexuality over. He seems to be
Westwind is a beautiful, wooded camp, located at the mouth of the Salmon River on
truly what is called bisexual — although he says
the Oregon Coast. The entire facility is reserved for privacy. The retreat is designed to
at one point that there is really no such thing.
be whatever you want, be it structured time, meeting new people, or being alone.
But that is not what the book is about: Mysteries
Come join us.
o f Pittsburgh is about romance, suspense and
the life of crime. It’s easily one of my favorites
Fee includes all meals and lodging. Workshops will be available for those who wish to
of 1988. Chabon. who wrote the book for his
participate. Participants will decide the type of workshops upon arrival at the retreat.
doctoral thesis, sold the movie rights before the
The weekend is facilitated by Don Posten, M.S.W.
book was even published. Get ready for another
Brett Easton Ellis, but this time, one who’s
sympathetic, at least. to our side.
STEPHEN D. YEW, d . m . d .
PH O EN IX
Call (503) 223-8299 to register.
Joe! Redon s first novel. Bloodstream, will be
published in the fall by Knight's Press.
R f ^ G
O t f ( .O N S I f SOIAN/GAV S fg V K f C fN T f«
ju st out • 19 • August I988