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QUEER AND LOATHING by David B. Feinberg


Rants and Raves of a Raging AIDS Clone

by David B. Feinberg

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-670-85766-1
Publisher: Viking

Feinberg's reflections on AIDS are often annoying and mediocre, frequently witty, and sometimes deeply disturbing. Novelist Feinberg (Eighty-Sixed, 1989) starts out unpromisingly. The first and title essay of the collection is burdened by zeitgeist clichÇs (e.g., ``I plead the Twinkie defense''), patronizing scorn for the reader's supposed ``bleeding liberal heart,'' overuse of italics for emphasis, and insights more appropriate to a T-shirt than an essay (``Reality is for people who can't cope with drugs''). After that piece, though, the writing picks up. With dark humor and rage, Feinberg brings us to ACT UP meetings and demonstrations and recounts the deaths, funerals, and memorial services of his friends. He also chronicles his own physical decay in unsparing detail; some of these sections are so visceral that they are hard to read. In lighter moments, he reflects on red ribbons, the gym, and the etiquette of HIV disclosure. Though Feinberg's humor can fall flat, most of the essays have their moments: At one point he muses, ``Gays call straights breeders...I'm sure we'll come up with a derogatory term for neggies [HIV-negative people] soon enough: Aseptic? Hermetically sealed?'' His rudeness can be delightful; on a bus, he tells some young people pondering the meaning of life to keep it down, ``because some of us are thirty and we have already had these conversations.'' Sometimes his campy, flippant style seems trivializing, but it can be highly appropriate, as when he exposes the cynical selling of AIDS, from criminally insensitive direct- mail campaigns for AIDS organizations (one group's letter begins ``Before he died, he asked me to mail this to you'') to LifeStyle Urns (cremation urns marketed specifically to people with AIDS and their survivors—some even come engraved with a lambda symbol). Despite this collection's title, Feinberg is no Hunter S. Thompson, but he does have an effective, biting edge.