From Library Journal
Alameddine is a respected painter who brings great visual skill to his first literary work. The novel is really an effectively conceived collage of the viewpoints of several characters: Samia is a Lebanese woman crisscrossing east and west Beirut during its darkest days, Mark is an HIV-positive American who faces his own end while mourning the steady loss of friends during the worst years of the AIDS plague, and Mohammed is a belligerent and misunderstood painter who tries to give form and meaning to it all, just as the author means to do through his fiction. War, death, sex in a morally empty and meaningless world?when mixed on Alameddine's palette, they make for fascinating reading. To make his point, Alameddine freely cites thinkers whose takes on life and death he finds laughably wanting. He also includes news reports which, when juxtaposed with the situations of his characters, makes us see by just how far those not living the horror can miss the truth. Immediate, pitched, and frightening to read, this work is recommended for larger public and academic libraries.?Roger W. Durbin, Univ. of Akron, OH
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
This emotionally charged first novel by a Lebanese-American writer and artist is an impressionistic collage that skillfully juxtaposes its gay protagonists' defiant encounters with AIDS, the embattled recent history of Lebanon during its own civil war and ``the Israeli siege of Beirut,'' and more general permutations of estrangement from society, family, and nation. Alameddine's characters (who are, unfortunately, not always clearly distinguished) include a Lebanese matriarch whose diary records the sufferings of her kindred throughout a 30-year span of political turmoil, several variously involved San Franciscans during that city's own plague years, andmost cruciallya painter whose garishly violent canvases are calculated distortions of his Lebanese homeland's chaotic past and present. The ``novel'' assembles summaries of that history together with journal excerpts, letters, poems, discursive statements often framed as aphorisms (``in America, I fit, but I do not belong. In Lebanon, I belong, but I do not fit''), and aborted literary works. If we're occasionally unsure whos speaking (or being addressed), there's no mistaking the books furious argumentative energy here--whether its scattershot wit takes the form of mocking allusions to the biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; a rudely satirical playlet whose characters include Eleanor Roosevelt, Krishnamurti, Julio Cortazr, and (a probably gay) Tom Cruise; imaginary conversations with eminent writers (Borges, Coover, and Updike among them); or parodies whose subjects range from Middle Eastern scriptures to American movies and TV shows (one of The Waltons is particularly droll). Alameddine stumbles when fulminating nakedly against American materialism and heterosexual hypocrisy--yet some of his baldest declarations are among his finer effects (for example, an HIV-positive protagonist's lament that ``nothing in my life is up to me''). A wildly uneven, but powerful and original portrayal of cultural and sexual displacement, alienation, and--in its admirably gritty way--pride. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.