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Once again, Jones (Force of Gravity, 1991) clamps an iron grip on themes of obsession, death, and delusion--but renders the increments of human despair more successfully by charting the course of decay in a proud gay man's losing baffle with AIDS. Although William cut himself off from his ranching family by moving to New York and making it big as a broker, when AIDS begins to ravage him he's far from alone. His closest friends, Henry and Susan, stick by him even when his demands threaten to overwhelm their lives. Henry, a constant companion for years (but not a lover), helped William restore his ocean-view house in the Hamptons just as Henry himself was being helped to survive--first as a graduate student, then as a beginning teacher--by William's largess. Meanwhile, Susan, William's first friend in the city, took care of him financially until he found his feet, and 20 years later her life and his are still intertwined. William moves in and out of the hospital as his tumors spread, his body wastes, his irascibility waxes and his mental faculties wane, while both his friends experience waves of guilt and anger at his dependence. Susan strikes back by forming her first romantic relationship in years and keeping it a secret from him, while Henry, on learning that the will--which William had said would give the Hamptons house to him--is nonexistent, abandons his friend completely to the late stages of the disease. He returns in time to take William from a hospice to the house, but when William's family plans to take him back to the ranch, Henry responds by burning the house with his comatose friend inside. The precise detailing of psychological and physical turmoil is overpowering, effectively portraying both the ambivalence of friendship and the inexorability of AIDS. The impact, though, is lessened by a facile ending with more shock value than credibility.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1995
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin