AIDS may have become a manageable disease syndrome, at least in Western countries, at the end of the 1990s, but the crisis has hardly run its course; as HIV continues to mutate, doomsayers predict even worse epidemics closely resembling AIDS in their etiology and social ramifications. Likewise, despite a large extant body of commentary--what Paula Treichler has called the "epidemic of signification"--work continues apace on the syndrome's history, a chronicle of devastating physical consequences and troublesome politics that for years prevented government and health officials, to say nothing of religious leaders and media pundits, from responding in the most effective, compassionate manner. But, given all the plague chronicles from historians, artists, musicians, and literati, how can one construct another comprehensive history of equal necessity? That was the question facing journalist John-Manuel Andriote when friends encouraged him to emphasize the effects of the syndrome on "the nation's hardest hit community, gay men." As such an account, intercutting personal testimonies with Andriote's straightforward, though righteously indignant, narrative, Victory Deferred serves a very useful purpose.
Andriote sets the stage for the identification of AIDS as a distinct political issue and disease syndrome by describing U.S. gay life of the 1970s, an era inaugurated by Stonewall and characterized by parallel increases in political activism and promiscuity. As the one fueled the other, he argues, gay men were rehearsing for the struggle that their sexual behavior would, in a sense, later require. Unfortunately, Andriote makes mistakes common to certain forms of AIDS reportage and thoroughly deconstructed in AIDS theory--calling it an STD that men "contract," for example--that go hand in hand with stereotypical foreshadowing ("little did they know") and foresight ("this would help in the fight against AIDS"). He admirably strives to avoid political correctness, however, and makes good use of his varied sources, ending with the precarious but hopeful '90s. Victory Deferred in no way supplants the indispensable work of predecessors such as Dennis Altman and Douglas Crimp, but Andriote has nevertheless written a fine overview of the 20th century's last major epidemic. --Robert Burns Neveldine
From Publishers Weekly
The AIDS pandemic has been chronicled in numerous books, from Randy Shilts's And the Band Played On to Steven Epstein's Impure Science, many of which have focused specifically on the disease's political, social, psychological or medical aspects. In his first book, Andriote, who has covered AIDS and gay politics in the gay and mainstream press, offers a comprehensive survey of the many ways AIDS has transfigured gay social and political life. With a mix of straightforward journalism, cultural analysis and personal reminiscence, his study focuses on the period from the early 1980s, when AIDS first surfaced in gay urban neighborhoods, to the 1996 visit of President and Hillary Clinton to the AIDS quilt in Washington, D.C. Much of the book is devoted to histories of AIDS service organizations, organized political initiatives and grassroots activist endeavors through which Andriote creates a detailed panorama of the impact of AIDS and the waves of lesbian and gay civil rights organizing. He is best at sketching in the cultural context, as when he explicates the long-standing psychological misunderstandings of homosexuality or quotes writers such as Andrew Holleran and John Preston to illustrate the literary response to AIDS. He is also careful never to whitewash gay in-fighting and deals sensitively with the complicated race politics of AIDS funding, resulting in a well-researched and nuanced portrait of the many levels on which this grave disease has wrought both destruction and transformation.
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