It is possible not to care for Harold Brodkey's obsessive, digressive, almost plotless fiction and still be moved by this memoir of his last sufferings until his death, in mid-1996, of AIDS. Brodkey was a writer for whom style was everything, but in his own implacable and untimely mortality he found a subject before which style was nothing. In this assemblage of essays, journal entries, and brief notes, he confronts his illness from a clinical perspective without losing his ironic tone or his genius for minutiae. In a sense, Brodkey wrote nothing but autobiography throughout his career; this, then, is a fitting final chapter.
From Publishers Weekly
"This is how my life ended. And how my dying began." So wrote Brodkey, a novelist (The Runaway Soul) and short-story writer, after he was diagnosed with AIDS in the spring of 1993. He died in the fall of 1995, at the age of 65. Parts of this record of those last years were published in the New Yorker while he was still alive, against the advice of his doctor, who believed that people who keep their disease secret often live longer. But Brodkey could not stand the pretense (or "lies," as he calls it) of keeping silent. The result is, in effect, the last words of a skillful writer who was fully prepared to be entertained?or at least instructed?by his own death. Set in Manhattan, Venice and the northern Catskill Mountains, the memoir combines autobiography (a St. Louis childhood, earlier brushes with death, sexual abuse by his stepfather, homosexual love affairs) with reports on the progress of the disease and thoughts on subjects that range from optimism, sexual myth and the American cult of male irresponsibility to the joy of escaping into dreams and a newly discovered delight?mixed with terror over the possible danger?in kissing his wife. Accepting illness, he learns, is more difficult than accepting death. Toward the end, Brodkey writes: "I had expected death to glimmer with meaning, but it doesn't. It's just there." It's "boring." Readers of this remarkable record may be repelled or moved or fascinated, but few will be bored.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.