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Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story (Perennial Classics) Paperback – May 25, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Paul Monette first made a name for himself in 1978 with his debut novel, Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll, a comic romp with serious overtones. He established himself as a writer of popular fiction with three more novels before he and his lover were both diagnosed with HIV. In 1988 he wrote On Borrowed Time, a memoir of living with AIDS and of his lover's death. The passion and anger that fueled On Borrowed Time surfaces again in 1992's Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, his National Book Award-winning autobiography. Although it follows the traditional structure of the autobiography and bildungsroman--early family life, education, reflections on how art influenced the subject's view of life--Becoming a Man also filters Monette's story through two central facts: the closet and AIDS. Monette writes of the pain of being closeted, the effect it had on his writing, and how it shaped (and often destroyed) his relationships. Monette's fear and fury at AIDS and homophobia heighten the same skill and imagination he put into his fiction. This vision--poetic yet highly political, angry yet infused with the love of life--is what transforms Becoming a Man from simple autobiography into an intense record of struggle and salvation. Paul Monette did not lead a life different from many gay men--he struggled courageously with his family, his sexuality, his AIDS diagnosis--but in bearing witness to his and others' pain, he creates a personal testimony that illuminates the darkest corners of our culture even as it finds unexpected reserves of hope. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Monette responds to readers of his first memoir, Borrowed Time, by providing the flip-side expository of his life in the closet until he met his soul mate--the laughing man, Roger Horwitz. This memoir (which might more aptly have been titled Wasted Time ) is a bitter reproach of the 27 years Monette spent searching for himself. He explains that it took him years to realize that the homophobe is the deviant. Reading this beautifully written book, one feels as trapped by its dark mood as the author was by the closet. The writing is occasionally marred, however, by repetitive phrases, such as "playing courtier," "the closet" and the endless search for "the laughing man." The story also unfolds choppily due to frequent references to the future. Nevertheless, the book is a heartfelt illumination of how a gay person overcame the self-reproach that societal condemnation enacts.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Perennial Classics
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (May 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060595647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060595647
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I bought this book to better understand my brother, who had not come out yet, but, I was wanting to help him in some way.
C. Connor
Relish his rich experiences, his amazing writing ability, feel his loss, and relish his ultimate victory, if not victory over AIDS, then the victory of finding love.
Michael L. Wiersma
His love for Roger is recounted in BORROWED TIME, AN AIDS MEMOIR, also by Monette, which I view as the prequel to this book.
carol irvin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
I'm a straight girl. I read this book when I was fifteen years old. Paul Monette's story was the most moving, heart-wrenching I have ever read, and his honesty, humanity, and incredible gift of writing made it all the more powerful. Being straight and young and female posed no barier to my empathy for him, or his impact on me. Since reading Becoming a Man, I have dedicated myself to gay rights; I have composed two articles on the topic of homophobia, started a gay-straight alliance at my high school, which is dedicated to the memory of Paul Monette, and become close friends with several gay and lesbian students. Monette's words and stories seeped into me so deeply that they're a part of me, a part of what I do, a part of the way I think and act. I consider him the most influential person to me besides my immediate family and best friends. I ache that I can never meet him and tell him how heroic and nobel I think he was. He is my favorite writer, and my personal hero for combatting oppression, ignorance, disease, and the suffocating trap of the closet, and for refusing to go quietly into the night. I recommend this book to anyone, straight, gay, closeted, young, or dying. No one will read it all the way through without being changed.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By carol irvin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
Why would a straight woman want to read the memoirs of a gay man, the late Paul Monette who died of AIDS in the '90s? Because all you have to be is human to appreciate the passion and conviction this man brought to his life as he neared the end of it. Monette grew up in the Ivy League albeit deeply closeted. When he finally "came out", it was to discover the love of his life, Roger Horowitz. They spent happy years together until Roger first got AIDS and then Paul got it. Paul took care of Roger while he died from AIDS.

His love for Roger is recounted in BORROWED TIME, AN AIDS MEMOIR, also by Monette, which I view as the prequel to this book. With this book, Monette went back to the time before Roger and his coming to terms with the fact that he was a gay man. He spent most of his youth in total denial. Monette was a good writer before he and his longtime companion contracted AIDS but AIDS transformed him and his work to much higher levels of art. This book deservedly won the National Book Award and many people felt, including me, that BORROWED TIME should have won it as well some years earlier.

Visit my blog with link given on my profile page here or use this phonetically given URL (livingasseniors dot blogspot dot com). Friday's entry will always be weekend entertainment recs from my 5 star Amazon reviews in film, tv, books and music. These are very heavy on buried treasures and hidden gems. My blogspot is published on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
Like a previous reader, I read an older version of Monette's 'Borrowed Time' and hoped I might one day meet this wonderful man; it wasn't until I saw nfalzone's review here before reading 'Becoming a Man' that I realised Monette has since died. I also cried; Paul Monette really touched something in me and I can only hope that many, many more people will read this book, though I fear he is somewhat preaching to the converted. For those of us with gay family members it is a real eye opener, though I don't know that many parents would be able to handle this book. His story will drag you through so many emotions, not least anger; may Paul Monette rest in peace and may he be an example to us all to speak out, with open hearts and minds.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By William F. Tulloch on September 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
I bought this book both because it was a coming out story and because of the National Book Award. I knew it would be a good read but had no idea of the power and sheer force of personality that would come through in Paul Monette's writing. As a gay man who also grew up in New England with parents of mixed religion, (although my father converted to Catholism) my experiences were so similar to Paul's that there were times I literally had to put the book down because my emotions were too much to bear. The pain, the loneliness, the self-loathing are all too familiar to any gay person, but this is by no means a book only for gays. Any straight person who knows and loves a gay person will find no better description of what it is to grow up knowing you are that THING that is to be hated and feared, and how hard it is to overcome those early lessons. But be warned, at no point does he "sanitize" the gay experience so as not to offend straights.
I was saddened to learn Paul lost his battle with AIDS, and at a time when new treatments were so close. However, any writer who has to die too young could leave no better legacy than this memoir. It will live on long after Paul; it is a truly brilliant book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
I read this book three yers ago when puberty hit and have just finished re-reading it, amazed at the prespective and how much better I understand it. Becoming A Man is a culture in itself, juxstposing changing times with the dormancy of loneliness and isolation. Although Monette sometimes becomes a little distracted, he is so brutally honest that I leave this memoir feeling like I better understand myself and what it means to be a young gay man in a world that is often hostile. But also I reached the destination of my own self-acceptance, a process Monette describes in aching intensity: the ambivalence, the self-bruising, and the lonely nights spent waiting for the one who will make it all worthwhile. And while I haven't joined the gay world yet in all its brilliance, I feel fortunate that Monette's memoir will leave me better prepared in the game of self-worth and love. I'd recommend it to any gay teenager discovering themselves and what it means to be gay, happy, and in love.
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