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Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival Paperback – October 26, 1999

3.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In November of 1996, Andrew Sullivan wrote an article in the New York Times Magazine entitled "When Plagues End" in which he claimed that then-new treatments for the HIV retrovirus had signaled the end of AIDS. The article drew much criticism from activists and health professionals; in Love Undetectable, Sullivan--who is himself living with HIV--elaborates upon his argument, embellishing and embroidering it with nuance and context to make it at once more personal and universal. His thinking about AIDS leads him to a philosophical contemplation on the "causes" of homosexuality in which he discards all of the negative psychological theories, then rejects genetics as well. In the following essay on the nature of friendship and love, Sullivan finds his voice and true topic--using "friendship" as a lens through which he can wed his autobiographical musings and speculative theories on how we, as mortal humans struggling against time and the body, can make sense of the world.

Always provocative--the chapters on the plague will still rankle those who see AIDS as an ever-present and growing danger--Love Undetectable proves that Sullivan has a voice and a heart that can reach across the borders of experience and politics. --Michael Bronski --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The AIDS plague is over, Sullivan declares in the first of three astute, searching essay-memoirs, arguing we should now view it as a manageable disease. An optimistic view, this, and one that holds only for patients of means. But it's also a diagnosis not without merit, given Sullivan's emphasis on AIDS as a cultural watershed in the gay community. The first essay, some of which was first published in the New York Times Magazine, neatly traces the confusion and ambivalence that have begun to set in as the crisis, one that galvanized a movement, seems to abate. In the second essay, "Virtually Abnormal" (whose title plays off Sullivan's previous book, Virtually Normal), the New Republic senior editor engages the question of etiology, for "where homosexuality comes from" remains for Sullivan a "fascinating" question. This essay reflects Sullivan's tortured efforts to reconcile his Catholic faith with his homosexuality, an issue that also troubled the late Yale historian John Boswell. Like Boswell, Sullivan sees human sexuality almost exclusively in terms of the heterosexual/homosexual binary, and draws the familiar conclusion that gayness is a result of both genetic predisposition and environmental factors, predictably taking heterosexuality as a sort of base line from which one deviates. The best essay by far?though all are engagingly written?is the last, "If Love Were All," which discusses a topic not, according to Sullivan, taken seriously enough since the Middle Ages?friendship. Drawing upon Aristotle, Augustine, Montaigne, Emerson and others, Sullivan finds it, fittingly, to be "the deepest legacy of the plague years." (Oct.) FYI: Sullivan served as editor of the New Republic from 1991 to 1996.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 26, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679773150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679773153
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #927,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 30, 1998
Format: Hardcover
In his book "Love Undetectable" gay political columnist Andrew Sullivan shares the pain he felt upon the death from AIDS of a close friend. The friendship was cemented when the two told each other that they were HIV positive. Sullivan weaves this story and confessions of his traumas, loves, sex life, faith and philosophies through the three essays in the book. He adds his observations of the gay world and illumines the experiences with the ideas of great thinkers from ancient and modern times.
The first essay, entitled "When Plagues End", contains a slightly less optimistic version of an article Sullivan published in 1996 in the New York Times magazine. After depicting the horror of illness and death from AIDS, Sullivan describes the release from impending doom provided by the new anti-viral drugs. He draws on Camus for inspiration. In the second essay, Sullivan turns to the psychologists' views of homosexuality. He does this in response to the recent vocal claims by reparative therapists and "ex-gays". By exploring this issue, Sullivan ventures into the no-man's land between those who want to abolish homosexuality by curing it and those who won't tolerate any mention of pathology in connection with being gay. Although Sullivan seeks a "teleology of homosexuality, to answer the question, `What are homosexuals for?' ", he devotes the essay to presentation of theories of its origin and causes. He concisely summarizes Freud's ideas and those of recent psychotherapists. Sullivan follows Freud's example by not proposing an explanation for the causes of homosexuality. He challenges the gay reader to use the presentation of various theories to spur self-examination.
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Format: Hardcover
Andrew Sullivan made a reputation for himself by being elevated at a very young age as a senior editor of 'The New Republic', a position he filled from 1991-1996. He continues his journalistic career by writing for 'The Times' (London) and 'New York Times Magazine', as well as contributing articles to a large number of other periodicals.
At the height of his career, Sullivan made the announcement made the announcement that he was HIV-positive. In saying this, he made the assertion: `I intend to be among the first generation that survives this disease.'
Sullivan has occupied a difficult position politically - tending toward conservatism that doesn't sit well with much of the homosexual community, he also tends toward political positions (such as pro-same sex marriage) that go against much of the conservative sentiment. In this first book, 'Virtually Normal', Sullivan argued for an acceptance of same-sex marriage; he followed that up by editing a collection of essays and contributions by others on the same topic.
However, his latest book, 'Love Undetectable', is a very different book. Insofar as Sullivan's life is inextricably bound up with political, historical, and sociological writing through his profession, that is reflected here, but this is a very non-political book. Consisting of three essays, it is primarily reflexions on the life of a survivor, who has yet to become a successful survivor - Sullivan himself.
Sullivan is bound to alienate all sides in some ways once again with this volume. He takes on both the church and religious side and the gay liberation side in his first essay: When Plagues End. 'The gay liberationists have plenty to answer for in this.
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By A Customer on January 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The most striking aspect of Andrew Sullivan's latest book, "Love Undetectable," is its personal subtext. It's markedly different from his landmark book, "Virtually Normal," in that Sullivan shares with us his own life.
In the first essay, "When Plagues End," he discusses his own sexual journey and how becoming HIV-positive reshaped his life. But not only that--Sullivan captures the feelings, moments and memories associated with his romances, spirituality and struggle for identity. It's a keyhole to a side of Sullivan we have never really seen, and it makes his writing more real and persuasive than ever.
"Virtually Abnormal," his second essay, is not as personal, but thoughtfully and persuasively articulated. Here he delves into the most current media debate about gays--the origins of homosexuality and whether it can be changed through psychotherapy. Sullivan presents several theories and arguments, from both sides of the fence (here his writing style does resemble "Virtually Normal"). No matter where he turns, from the "genetic" to the "environmental" theory, we see that each position holds a piece of the truth, and there are no hard answers. Sullivan concludes that even though homosexuality is neither strictly "normal" or "abnormal," we should pay attention to society's reaction toward it, since "its treatment is a critical indicator of the endurance of...liberty in a free society."
Friendship is the topic of "If Love Were All," in which Sullivan challenges us to reconsider and even resurrect the value of friendship. Gay friendships can be a model for straights, he says, since gay men are particularly good at forming lifelong bonds with each other.
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