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BECOMING A MAN by Paul Monette


Half a Life Story

by Paul Monette

Pub Date: June 22nd, 1992
ISBN: 0-15-111519-2
Publisher: Harcourt

 From ``the cauldron of the plague'' comes a bitter memoir by the author of Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir (1988) and six novels (Halfway Home, 1991, etc.). ``Twisted up with rage,'' Monette is urgent to tell his story: ``the fevers are on me now, the virus mad to ravage my last hundred T cells.'' He begins with his straight-A childhood, darkened by his brother being crippled by spina bifida. But the source of Monette's fury comes from growing up in ``the coffin world of the closet,'' losing a ``decade of being dead below the belt,'' and now finding himself a victim of what he calls ``the genocide by indifference that has buried alive a generation of my brothers.'' Clearly, Monette wants to berate and shock this ``Puritan sinkhole of a culture'' with crude language (``Roger was up to his tits in therapy'' is a printable example) and explicit accounts of his homosexual encounters, starting as a nine-year-old. After describing a one-night stand, he mockingly asks, ``Is this more than you want to know?'' and then explains that a late lover advised, ``rub their faces in it.'' Monette does. Later, he writes, ``I was so sick of hearing myself talk about sexuality--hetero, homo, and otherwise.'' But despite the pose of no-holds-barred honesty, the author's diatribe offers only a predictable view of his elite schools (Andover and Yale) and little on gender theory beyond the statement that ``gay is a kind of sensibility.'' The offhand prose veers from the flip (``I try not to be gayer-than- thou about bi'') to the melodramatic (``I have to keep my later self on a short leash as I negotiate those hurricanes of feeling that propelled my time with women''). A deliberately self-absorbed manifesto from the AIDS battlefield, angrily slicing the world into us and them.