In this collection of essays, gay activist Monette, winner of the 1992 National Book Award for Becoming a Man, addresses politics, religion, and AIDS.
National Book Award winner Monette provides his third autobiographical installment of life with AIDS and in the gay rights movement. Following his poignant Borrowed Time (LJ 8/88) and the much-heralded Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story (LJ 5/1/92), this book opens the remaining chapters of Monette's life album for all to read. In a collection of ten essays, Monnette writes passionately of life with lovers Roger and Steve, his grief over their early deaths from AIDS, the moral imperative of libraries to actively combat forces of censorship, and the anguish and anger caused by the AIDS holocaust. Reflecting upon his life, Monette poignantly confesses "I know why I've been pulling out the scrapbooks these last weeks, because the journey has suddenly stalled. The road doesn't go any further, the bridges are all washed out, or maybe I've just gone overboard in a squall." Certainly another award winner for Monette, this is a meritorious selection for all libraries.
--Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Lib., Ind.
Although novelist, memoirist, and poet Monette (Becoming a Man, 1992, etc.) is sometimes vituperative, his language is always sharp in these essays. It is only when he falls away from criticism that his prose thickens and slows down. In ``Puck,'' Monette writes in a seemingly benign way about his dog, but it soon becomes apparent that he is communicating something about himself through his unusually unsentimental relationship with the animal. ``Gert'' describes an elderly lesbian whom Monette befriends, and his admiration for and puzzlement over the elegant manner in which she both reveals and conceals her sexuality. Monette scathingly attacks the Pope in several of these essays, but ``My Priests'' describes the few men of the cloth he actually admires. They include a Catholic priest named Gambone, who left the order after his lover died of AIDS, and Brother Toby, who has organized a lay Catholic community for children with AIDS that sells Christmas trees to raise money. Monette describes his impromptu wedding ceremony, which was officiated by a New Age woman called Ma; Monette skeptically calls her ``the Auntie Mame of gurus,'' but he also respects the ``bluesy sort of comfort'' she brings to her many HIV-positive followers. In ``3275,'' Monette manages to avoid emotionalism even while describing different graves he has known (those of lovers and those of the famous). He constantly--and effectively--undercuts the material's saccharine potential with passages like ``Are you reeling from the mawkishness? Because it gets worse.'' Occasionally this incisiveness is lost. ``A One-Way Fare,'' an examination of the importance of different journeys he has made, drifts off into travelogue about halfway through, and the dissection of insomnia in ``Sleeping Under a Tree'' is less than involving. A mix of the personal and the political with the occasional misstep.