Andrew Holleran chronicles life after the disaster

In 1978, two novels emerged that covered a remarkably similar, largely unexplored region, documenting the circuit of bathhouses and dance clubs, drug-destroying sex parties, dance clubs, and parties that, in the 1970s, transported gay men between Manhattan and Fire Island, with occasional trips to San Francisco or the more exotic wilds of Brooklyn and Queens. In both books, men looking for love settle into more elaborate sex scenes—skin, fist, and steel—and in both, men scrap their lives: diving from heights on angel dust, sniffing bubbles at the bottom of pools, jumping,” like crickets falling out of a furnace. Hot,” from upstairs windows in the Everard Baths, where a fire killed nine men in 1977. Both novels finally are moral tales critical of a lifestyle they see as empty, immature, dangerous, doomed; They will later be hailed as having the insight from the perspective of the societies they have destroyed lozenges.

However, the experience of reading books could hardly be any different. “Fagots” Larry Kramer is an obsessive, disgusting image in sentences that are as maddened with tension as any of the tense queens he portrays. By contrast, Andrew Holleran’s “Dancer from the Dance” is drenched in a melancholy splendor, as any of its characters are attuned to the “animal bliss of being alive.” The book is so vital in its depiction of a life devoted to hedonism that Holleran has sometimes been accused of glorifying hedonism, or of suggesting that the world he writes about is the only possible world for gay men. In fact, the novel is clear from the start that its theme is “those little subspecies of homosexuals, the doomed queen, who puts the car into gear and drives off the cliff!”

“The Dancer” is loved not only for the beauty of her camel but for the brilliance of one of her central characters. Andrew Sutherland, the lovable, fast-paced, endless Queen of Wildean who teaches the protagonist the ins and outs of alien life, is among the glories of American post-war fiction. In a novel marked by amber slackening and nostalgia — Holleran’s most obvious influences are Fitzgerald and Proust — hilarious scenes are blazing with hilarious scenes that have been etched in my memory since I first read the book, as a teenager. In one, Sutherland interrupts his reading of St. Teresa to lean out a window and impersonate an Italian prostitute; And in another movie, a gay man’s monologue interrupts what still seems to me an excellent cure-all for homosexuality: “For heaven’s sake, don’t take it too seriously! Just repeat from behind me: ‘My face is sitting five seats, my factory is on fire.'”

aIDS Put an end to the world recorded by books. Kramer met this occasion with extraordinary energy: He helped found the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and actHis play The Natural Heart, which premiered in 1985, is one of the enduring works of this era. Holleran, by his own account, was exhausted, even paralyzed, and began to question the value of art in the face of crushing tragedy. His second novel, Nights in Aruba, appeared in 1983, as the scope of the epidemic was just becoming clear, and it refers to lozenges Just at a glance, another thirteen years passed before his third book was published. His literary efforts in the 1980s were directed towards articles for gay magazine Christopher Street They make up a real-time account early on lozenges crisis. A selection of these pieces, collected in the 1988 volume “Ground Zero,” is one of the most important books to come out of the plague.

lozenges It wasn’t the only disaster that Holleran faced. Also in 1983, when he was 39, his mother broke her neck in the fall and became quadriplegic. In his third novel, The Beauty of Men, Holleran wrote: “He sometimes had to remind himself, I fell, I didn’t.” “But it doesn’t matter. I signed it.” He took care of her for more than a decade, living in his parents’ house, in a small town in North Florida; His increasing isolation from New York City on return visits is the theme of “Ground Zero.” Holleran, who never addressed his parents, kept his family and homosexual life separate. (Andrew Holleran is a pseudonym, used to protect his family; his real name is Eric Garber.) The ramifications of his life, and the experience of “two parallel disasters that occur in two separate compartments,” is the preoccupation of his fictional story after “Dancer”.

This discovery remains unique among Holleran’s works. His later books, from Nights in Aruba to his new novel The Kingdom of Sands, can be read as a sustainable study of one man’s life. Although the main characters are sometimes given different names – Paul in “Nights in Aruba” and Lark in “The Beauty of Men” – and slight differences in circumstances, the main facts in their biographies are largely consistent and are shared with their author: childhood Catholicism in the Caribbean; Military service and start of gay life in Heidelberg; coming of age in New York, where the excitement of sexual freedom competed with the anxiety that one’s life might be wasted; Then having a mostly closed small town, caring for a disabled parent, and crushing grief after that parent’s death. Events, scenes, and even lines of dialogue drift between books and certain events take on a totemic power: the suicide of a roommate; A father calls out after suffering a stroke; A mother asks her adult son if he is gay and the son denies panic.

The protagonist’s mother is the most vital presence in these books. In Nights in Aruba, she is a bored, domineering, and binge-drinking housewife who insists her young son stays with her until she has one last drink. “You don’t love me,” she accuses the boy—one of many instances of mild, common, and devastating abuse. Yet he recognizes her, even in this early novel, as “my last true love.”

His loyalty never wavers. The most poignant passages in “Men’s Beauty” occur when Lark visits his mother in a nursing home. “You’ll never leave me. Your conscience won’t let you,” she told him, a line that first appeared in “Beauty” and returns, in memory, in “Kingdom of the Sands.” They watch “Murder, She Wrote” and “Jeopardy!” together; he pushes her chair “It feels like Jesus, raising Lazarus from the dead,” Holleran writes. “He deserves everything else. . . That brief lonely moment when he swims for the first time seeing her and she wakes up like a flower in a brisk movie, blooming before his eyes.”

Time, as far as language, is a novelist’s medium, and among the primary decisions a novelist makes is how he should move. Holleran is unfamiliar in his desire, more commonly with lyricists, that time does not move at all. This creates problems for the plot, which he recognized as a challenge. “So much of life is without a plot,” he said, “that I would never want to create a plot that was not, as I felt, realistic.”

Holleran’s most successful novel takes a certain period—the indistinguishable six years in “Dancer,” a semester in his 2006 novel, “Sadness”—and fill it up, tilting it this way and that, letting time drift and multiply again. In the novel, the show usually completes the scene, but Holleran overturns that hierarchy. In “Dancer” we are not shown certain evenings so much as we are told what the baths, clubs and parties were like in general. Oftentimes, there is a sense of lethargy that makes scenic movement seem impossible. One of the reasons why Holleran’s extravagant queens are such a powerful source for his work — Sutherland-like characters appear in “Nights in Aruba,” “The Beauty of Men,” and many of the best stories in his excellent collection, “In September, The Light Changes,” from 1999 — is She breaks this hibernation, creating, with her instincts and likes, specific and exciting moments.

Holleran’s novels have increasingly become essays over time. Besides “Dancer”, “Sorrow” is his most unifying and emotional work, the guardian spirit not of Fitzgerald but of German novelist W.J. Seibald. The novel’s peripatetic narrator spends a classroom teaching in Washington, D.C., floating through mournful days, meditating on the city’s history. Like Sebald’s “Rings of Saturn” narrator, he recounts his own experience with those historical figures, including long quotes from the letters of another well-established mourner, Mary Todd Lincoln. The result is one of the most powerful studies of grief and isolation that I know of.

The Kingdom of Sand is divided into five sections, many of which are announced in their titles. “The Endless Cantaloupe” is about the eating patterns of the narrator’s parents as they age, and his own attempts to thwart death through hypersensitive nervous habits. (“I seldom eat for pleasure, I have eaten because broccoli contains indole that is thought to prevent cancer.”) The book’s title section details his family’s relationship with the small town in which he lives: from his parents’ decision to retire there to his own decision as an elderly, bachelor, street-dwelling man. Full of ghosts – his parents, their friends and neighbors – like New York during the early period lozenges crisis. Throughout the book, paragraphs open with what look like topic sentences: “Roads to Florida what injections are for veins”; “It seems to me that the lightning in the seventies was more dramatic than it is today.”

The longer part of the book, “Hurricane Weather,” chronicles the narrator’s relationship with Earl, his only friend in town. They first meet at the local boat ramp, a cruising place that the “Beauty Men” narrator spends most of his time chasing after but has since been destroyed by police surveillance and online personals. They do not have sex – the narrator is obsessed with youth, and Earl is twenty years older than him – but Earl becomes a kind of announcer for the narrator, who, after the death of his mother, feels his lack of bond. evenings are spent watching movies at the earl’s house; They call each other to report sales in the supermarket, or an attractive bag boy; They go to pick berries together.

Earl is sixty-two years old when he meets a narrator; He will die after twenty-six years. The transformation of gay lives in those decades—through increased visibility, marriage equality, and online surfing—seems to have bypassed the narrator or been neutralized by the life of small towns and the devastation of old age. “Who were we kidding?” The narrator says, refusing to join a social group of older gay men, certain that any hope of “love or even companionship” at his age is absurd. He spends his days watching porn on the Internet, but ignores dating sites, which he says are full of “lingerie boys”. After watching a 1919 film about the blackmail of a gay man, he complained to Earl that “nothing has changed, and that sex offenders and I live… we have imprisoned ourselves under some kind of voluntary house arrest.” “The police don’t keep me here,” Earl replies. “Old age is!”

The long run of “hurricane weather” poses difficulties for Holleran’s approach to narrative. We lose track of where we came in time, which leads to confusing contradictions and ambiguities. On one page we are told that the narrator has “neither mopped nor vacuumed the floor in years”, however, two pages later we see him holding a shovel in his hand. When Earl and the narrator watch Notorious, or listen to Schubert’s “An die Musik,” it is often unclear what year or even decade it is being described. As with the six years in “Dancer” and the semester in “Sadness,” Holleran treats a quarter-century of friendship as an unchanging entity. Avoiding this narrative tension seems daunting, especially when compelling plot elements emerge: Earl begins to rely on a handyman for help, and as this man’s responsibilities grow — from home repairs to driving, shopping and, eventually, serving the Earl’s meals and dealing with his finances – The narrator becomes jealous and, subsequently, concerned about possible exploitation.

There are pitfalls here for melodramas like the ones Earl and the narrator enjoy watching. But these elements remain inert. Narrative is usually created by disrupting the status quo; Holleran seems to want a novel that is all about the status quo, not cluttered. We are left with what he called, in an essay, “the actual dull reality of life, its nagging stamps and anxieties.” Even the Earl’s death fails to serve as the climax, though it fits with the more beautiful passage in the book: