on October 14, 1998
I read this in print-outs from his PC. I never believed that it would actually get published. But once I finished reading the book, I knew that it should be published. And 12 years later, this book still makes me aware of the emotional pull that he had. He ended life very angry, without much humor; but he lived most of his life finding the humor or irony in many situations. David changed the way I look at many things, especially HIV.
on September 20, 1998
I think I've read this book about 6 times now. The most recent after a 3 year absence (still unable to read Feinberg's "Queer And Self-Loathing" because I know it will be his final words.) While turning the pages, there are times I feel a bit childish for laughing at what some might call low-brow humor (i.e.: BJ's sexcapades through NYC), but with each successive laugh there is a glimmer of something in each of our selves that we get in touch with, a hint of joy coupled with a hint of pain. It's what my grandmother calls something lost and something gained. One does not need to have lost someone to AIDS to feel the pain Feinberg wants us to feel for his characters; all that's required is that you be human, to be open to experiencing all of life as it's come to pass. So reading through this book again, I laughed, crying with fits of laughter even though I knew the mood would all change, and it did. It had too. Feinberg's "Eighty Sixed" was the first book to make me cry. I cried not from joy, but from the sheer pain of loss, of frustration and anguish. And as I closed the book, my hands trembling, I reflected on the joys in my life, at how far I've come from the days I thought I would never push the closet door open, and then, just as the second half of the book is titled "Learning to Cry", I put my head onto my pillow and wept. Thank you David Feinberg. In an age of increasing isolation, it's comforting to know a book can still present itself as the best and the worst of each of us -- that a book can let itself be more 'human' than some of the very people standing around us.
on May 18, 2003
This novel contrasts the life of BJ Rosenthal, a gay man living in New York City, before and after the advent of the AIDS epidemic. In 1980, his greatest concern is finding a boyfriend and he feels free to indulge his libido in a quest for the perfect man. In 1986, every potential liaison is conducted in the shadow of death as BJ attends the deaths of friends, participates in AIDS marches, and struggles to retain hope in the future. As grim as the subject matter becomes, author David Feinberg never loses his sense of humor. There are brief interludes between each chapter that would make for a fiercely hilarious and moving stage monologue.
Until reading the reviews on this page, I was not aware that David Feinberg himself has now passed away. The world is poorer for the loss of his voice and his sensibility.
on February 9, 2007
I seem to be haunted by this novel, for myriad reasons, the main one of which is, it was quite good---and a little too accurate---a little too close to home.
The book is divided into two parts: Pre AIDS slash 1980---a year in the protagonist's life, and during AIDS-1986.
The first section of the book, I have to admit, I was not crazy about. As a matter of fact, I almost put it down, but I don't blame the author, rather the editor. While it was exremely amusing, there were many tired jokes ("Hey, I can see Uranus") and so on, and so on. A savy editor would have snipped these or suggested something more urbane. Other than that, I loved the book. But perhaps even these served a purpose. Read on.
I hesitated to read this for many years because I don't remember it getting rave reviews when it came out--just the opposite. And naming the main character B.J. seemed a little too obvious. But Feinberg never really drills this in, and if you weren't forewarned, you might not even have noticed. Also, I thought at first that the writing was disjointed---turns out, the guy knew what he was doing and by the time I got to the end everything had fallen into place, and quite well.
Where this book really started to take shape for me was in the second half. While much more serious, without the cloying sarcasm et al, I began to "get" the first half. Okay, it was supposed to represent the early 80s, before AIDS, with its carefree attitude toward everything and the superficiality that the early part of the decade reeked of. So that made sense. I'm saying this for those who read the first half and think the entire book is going to be this way. It's this way for a reason: to contrast 1986 and the AIDS epidemic with pre-AIDS and "Boy I wish I'd known what was coming," style that Feinberg demonstrates.
In addition to the two sections of the book, Feinberg contrasts other ideas. Take the "Going home for Thanksgiving" visit with all its banality and idiocy (on the part of the family, not the author), and contrast this with having to "detox" the minute the main character steps foot back in Manhattan, trying to find sex as quickly as possible. The Thanksgiving scene is mundane and boring for a reason---again, contrast. And it provides another dimension into B.J. and is family--where he came from--what he ran away from. And for good reason.
But the most remarkable element of this novel is that it is an almost perfect capsule of a time and place we will never see nor experience again--Pre AIDS in New York City. For this reason alone the book could stand on its own merits. Feinberg is a master observer and recorder, with a sharp wit and sharp tongue. He nails stereotypes and others right on the head and paints a not always flattering (but accurate) portrait of the gay community, complete with all its problems, caring, and even hatefulness. He names places (restaurants, bars, clubs) that no longer exist and many of the new generation may wonder what,where, and who he is talking about. These bars and clubs, along with the lifestyle they encouraged, are gone.
I was reminded of one other book that so captured the time and place of New York, and that was "Dancer From the Dance," with its accurate portraits of gay life before the plague.
I higly recommend this book. I'll be reading the follow-up, "Spontaneous Combustion" as soon as it arrives. One did get the feeling, which I'm sure was on purpose, that the end of "Eighty-Sixed" was not the end. And it's not.
on July 27, 2002
Documenting two years in the life of B. J. Rosenthal, Feinberg's witty and moving novel gives a moving portrait of living during the early, terror-filled days of AIDS. In 1980, before the plague, B. J.'s sole mission is to find a boyfriend through the maze of one-night stands and casual encounters. In 1986, with AIDS invading everyone's lives, B. J. must balance his fears of infection with his own personal searches for love and meaning. Using sarcasm and wit to keep his mental sanity, B. J. is finding that even with AIDS tainting every physical contact, life will still go on. "Eighty-sixed" is a remarkable tale of being gay in the 1980s, giving us a slice of queer history that's ultimately very personal.
on August 6, 1998
THIS BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE . . . it really did, and though I was not fortunate to meet the author before his death a few years ago, I miss his presence in the world. David B. Feinberg's unique way of looking at this craziness which we call life can never be duplicated.
He'll make you laugh just when you think the situation could not get any more tragic and finds the sorrow behind the mask of joy . . .
B. J. is a protagonist of Holden Caulfield proportions.
This book is just wonderful. It is so funny and so very honest that it walks a fine line between your funny bone and a raw nerve. I remember passing this one along to everybody when it was first published(still have a copy in bookcase, though)and everbody loved it. I met Feinberg in NY after this first came out and he seemed like a real charmer. His second book, Spontaneous Combustion is also recommended. As another reviewer said, his anger really took overat the end, very sad.
on August 7, 2015
I read this on the beach in the previous decade, and, forgive me for saying this, but I remember the tear that dropped on the last page as I finished it. The author died young, but was best known for his wit, notwithstanding the unhappy subject of a man with HIV back in the day when people, for the most part, did not survive. Every gay man, and perhaps woman, should read this, as it explores stereotypes that we well understand: people we know who possess certain narcissitic qualities that, if explained by a heterosexual, might be deemed "incorrect." This book moves like the wind, and after reading it, I read the author's two other books - neither as good, but not bad. He had the gift of writing, one that is not bestowed democratically, and it is sad that he did not live past his thirties because he likely would have written another winner. I purchased this book based on the reviews on Amazon, and I hope that if you are looking or a fast-paced funny, important novel, that you do as well.
on July 9, 2000
I think the talent that Mr. Feinberg had, which we all recognize, was his ability in his two novels, Spontaneous Combustion and 86-ed, to find humor in unlikely situations. When I discovered his books, I assumed he was a carefree person whose style focused on light-hearted subjects. That's what, initially, made him so appealing to me. Then, I read his final book, a collection of his journalism/essays/etc. His tone changed, and I think the source of that was disappointment, because he had obviously found success with his writing. Now his disease was going to take that away. I own copies of his three books, and when I look at them on my bookcase, I will always remember him as a fine writer. I strongly recommend each of his books.
on October 14, 2013
This book is sexy and fun until, oops AIDS comes along. Then it is sadness but not remorse. You are what you are. This does capture a type of gay lifestyle and gives a good impression of what that was like before the epidemic and after. There is not a lot of good writing describing or investigating the gay lifestyle because even now we still can't bring ourselves to talk about it. It would really be nice to live in a world where we could just be ourselves. This book is worth reading. It is interesting how much sex invades every part of our lives and how little it is even mentioned in books. How dishonest.