The personal memoir has become the genre of choice for many writing about AIDS. Works such as Mark Doty's Heaven's Coast
, Fenton Johnson's Geography of the Heart
, and Amy Hoffman's Hospital Time
have brought home to many readers the pain, suffering, and emotional confusion engendered by the disease by detailing the daily routine of caring for a loved one with AIDS. Mark Senak's A Fragile Circle
is distinct from other AIDS memoirs in that it charts the crisis from two specific perspectives. In the mid-1980s, right after law school, Senak began working at New York's Gay Men's Health Crisis. There was little doubt then that an AIDS crisis existed, but what to do about it remained an enormous question. Senak writes of the confusion and near-despair that reigned at the time as lawyers, social workers, and doctors attempted to address problems they had never identified, let alone faced, before. Senak simultaneously tells the story of his relationship with Joe, an HIV-positive man also diagnosed with lung cancer. These sections form the emotional heart of A Fragile Circle
and infuse the rest of Senak's tales of legal and social activism with passion and insight. One vital aspect of AIDS writing is to bear witness, and this A Fragile Circle
does beautifully. --Michael Bronski
From Publishers Weekly
Senak, best known as one of the authors of HIV, AIDS and the Law, was a lawyer who became part of the AIDS community by drawing up wills for the dying and who was later involved in such prominent AIDS organizations as New York's Gay Men's Health Crisis and AIDS Project Los Angeles. In this memoir of the AIDS epidemic from it's beginnings in 1981 to the introduction of protease inhibitors in 1995, he relays his own experiences with AIDS, from facing dying men daily, to losing his partner to AIDS, to his own painstaking decision to finally take an HIV test. Combining personal experience with a clinical documentation of the epidemic's growth, Senak at once conveys the broad, social implications of AIDS and its impact on individuals whose lives it consumes. Senak has a broad knowledge and a close vantage point, but those advantages are somewhat undermined by his clumsy writing style and the unfortunately flat portraits of his friends and colleagues (interestingly, the most lively person in the book is the late actor Brad Davis, who befriended Senak when Davis first tested positive for HIV).
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.