Allan Gurganus achieved national fame in 1988 for his award-winning Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All
. Through this long, garrulous novel, Gurganus retold and explicated almost a century of American history, life, and culture. In Plays Well with Others
, Gurganus applies a similar technique to the New York gay art scene in the 1980s, just as AIDS is appearing. Narrated by Hartley Mins, a young artist who "came to New York to write," the novel is an elegiac reminiscence of a culture that, by encouraging personal and sexual freedom, instilled in its artists the ability to create in the face of mortality, love in the midst of loss, and care in a world in which hope is vanishing. Reading Plays Well with Others
is a heady experience: its images and emotions spill into our imaginations and lives, forcing us to reexamine how we see the world and how we look at art.
From Library Journal
In 1980, Southern boy Hartley Mims Jr. heads north to the great, wicked city of New York to do what every young man has ever dreamed of doing there: become a great artist and enjoy love (or at least sex) in all its multitudinous forms. He succeeds on both counts, building a career as a writer (at first living hand to mouth, wondering what his parents would think of the bathtub in his kitchen) and falling in love simultaneously with Robert, a composer, and Angelina, a.k.a. Alabama, an artist whose angry paintings belie her genteel background. In this heady atmosphere, "being a 'good' painter and being 'good in bed' [were] somewhat interchangeable," with Mims and his coterie of like-minded friends all "brave Magellans circumnavigating the belt and what was under it, circumcised or not." And then AIDS strikes, slowly knocking out friends one by one, and Mims becomes a guardian angel to the dying. Rich, protean, profligate, gorgeously written, and occasionally as self-absorbed as its characters, who are redeemed by their devotion and tenderness, this novel runs rampant with sexual and creative energy as it admirably captures an era that was ablaze?until the lights started going out. For all collections.-?Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
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