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Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story (Perennial Classics) Paperback – May 25, 2004
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“Everyone can learn something about courage and self-discovery from Becoming a Man.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“One of the most complex, moral, personal, and political books to have been written about gay life.” (L. A. Weekly)
“Beautifully written…a heartfelt illumination of how a gay person overcame the self-reproach that societal condemnation enacts.” (Publishers Weekly)
“A poignant, bittersweet memoir….Each stage of [Monette’s] personal journey is described at an intimate, insightful, human level.” (Library Journal)
“Monette’s interior life, his ghosts, his turmoil, his final peace -- in Becoming a Man, they have become our literature.” (--David Ebershoff, author of Pasadena and The Danish Girl)
About the Author
Paul Monette (1945-1995) is the author of many books, including seven novels, four volumes of poetry, and several highly praised nonfiction works, such as Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir. In 1992, he received the National Book Award for Becoming a Man. He died of AIDS complications in 1995.
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Secondly, Paul wrote the poignant & truthful subtitle/headline or the first-line with regard to love, or a flight of fancy perhaps, but then again he wasn’t quite sure what he meant by love, at the time & after such a short duration of acquaintance; since we, as in the royal ‘we’ (to include myself) are often attracted to the object of our desire by oddly different aspects of another person’s being or presence, that the infinite word, love doesn’t always mean all-inclusive at the start, as we are never always in control of our unbiased faculties at such a time, in order to comprehend the subsequent consequences of such a substantial statement, in my opinion, based on what feels like a century of my own dumb-founded experience. Yet I don’t mean to sound so saintly!
But then I digress from Paul’s main point that he was looking for love when, in fact, as he said, he couldn’t even love himself.
‘...to break the final bonds of self-hatred so I could begin to love.’
‘...my eagerness to talk all night if it made me learn to love a little better.’
‘...and get to know myself.’
Thus, another favorite & comparative line I thought, at first, to use as the subtitle/heading for this review, in Paul’s always insightful & very often humorous words -
‘I remember thinking we could make it work if we could always be on vacation.’
If you can judge not the man, nor whatever deed affects your disfavor, but rather the overall attempt by Paul to find an acceptable answer to his decades of dilemma, not that it was his blatant & unmistakable fault in any way, but that the thing he both fought & sought was his default by nature to torment himself to take action, rather than inaction.
I think, fear like love, is often indescribable until you tell someone your story, so they can relate on some level & probably still not completely understand the bare necessities of such a naked undertaking. Still, Paul didn’t hide from both the mental & physical altercation.
I no sooner started this book & decided I wanted to meet the author, if only to shake his hand in respect for both his intricate work & mammoth effort, or recognition of something noble (like the last scene in the 2016 movie, ‘La La Land’ when the 2 main characters acknowledge their past lives together & divergent mutual growth, but still find it hard to accept the emotional truth of such an adventure) and/or thanks again to Paul for being so brave & bold, in the face of so much personal fear & universal disdain, or so it would seem from my separate & silent perspective.
At any rate, I was prepared to figure out where he lived, so I could make a pilgrimage of some sort, or maybe just in my mind at the start of my exuberance for a new favorite author, when I discovered that Paul had died shortly after he wrote this book.
I can’t imagine how he kept his mind so focused in the present & still could remember so many details from his past, which ultimately gave him what he was looking for finally, after such a long time.
Paul Monette’s Memoir, ‘Becoming A Man’ was published in 1992, just 3-years before he died (at age 49) in 1995.
I would like to propose a toast that we never forget this literary intellect & political activist, going forward, each & every year on the anniversary of his birth, October 16th, or whenever the urge should move you to tears, to remember the man who cared so much for others, as he reminds us in his melancholy yet optimistic memoir – ‘We are creatures of the cruelties we witness.’
Esther B. Fein wrote in Paul’s obituary in the New York Times (dated February 12th 1995); ‘He kept writing until the end. When he was found to have full-blown AIDS (in 1993), he wrote his last book ‘Last Watch of the Night’ while hooked up to three intravenous tubes and taking a mound of oral medications daily.’
Rest in Peace, Paul!
Book review by Jack Dunsmoor, author of the book, OK2BG.