In three elegant essays, Sullivan (Virtually Normal, 1995) reflects on his quest for love. The essays examine, first, the...


"LOVE UNDETECTABLE: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival"

In three elegant essays, Sullivan (Virtually Normal, 1995) reflects on his quest for love. The essays examine, first, the psychological impact of unexpected prospects for longer life that, thanks to protease inhibitors, many HIV+ gay men can now expect to claim; second, the psychological origins of homosexuality; and third, the philosophy and experience of friendship. A logical thread leads unobtrusively away from the theme of promiscuity discussed by Sullivan in his first essay, to the stable homosexual-personality construct of the second, to the sex-free discipline of responsible gay friendship rounding out the third. The author's style is so disarmingly congenial that one forgets how controversial his positions are. As a self-described ""dogged traditionalist,"" he faces the daunting task of normalizing a sexual orientation that has historically bucked tradition. And he largely succeeds. The most persuasive argument is waged in the second essay, a brilliant dusting-off of Freud, who shows himself at Sullivan's hands to be a potential friend of gay male identity, which ""hovers precariously between nature and will."" Sullivan's Freudian take on common features of gay male childhood--close identification with a mother, disdain for sports, and sensitive passivity--is that these, far from causing homosexuality later, result from a previous disposition toward it, encouraged by environmental factors. Sullivan constructs a gay normalcy that, oxymoronically, remains (to the delight, surely, of most gay men) ""resiliently subversive and elusive."" But dogged tradition does enjoy the final word: In the ""Great Books"" approach to friendship taken by Sullivan in the third essay, freedom and ""radical choice"" shed any overtones of linkage to promiscuity. They emerge as the foundation of a noble, Aristotle-approved gay culture of friendship. An intelligent exploration.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0679773150

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

Close Quickview