April 7, 2015

Review: Visions and Revisions

Visions and Revisions By Dale Peck
Available now from Soho Press
Review copy

I'm breaking my "no memoirs" rule again.  At the same idea, I'm obeying my rule to read things outside my usual interests, to shake up my rut.  I was intrigued by the idea of VISIONS AND REVISIONS, a memoir that focuses on "the second half of the first half of the AIDS epidemic," that is, 1989 to 1996.  I'm also familiar with author Dale Peck from SPROUT and a few other novels.

As the back of the book says, VISIONS AND REVISIONS started life as discrete essays and articles which have been rewritten and put together.  That lack of cohesion is felt.  The writing is solid and compelling, but the subject matter often doubles back on itself, sometimes repeating, never going quite as deep as it could if it had a more definitive focus.  It bounces from serial killers targeting gay men to criticism of criticism of PWA narratives to musings on past relationships to the fervor of young activists.

But many of those sections are very good.  Peck's anger and passion are clearly communicated.  He's blisteringly critical of those who defang gay narratives, who only accept them if they've been desexed and idealized.  And as much as he points to the protease inhibitors and combination therapy of 1996 putting an abrupt stop to AIDS as it was, he's critical of those (especially Andrew Sullivan), that it mostly ended the death sentence for gay middle white men who could afford it.  IV drug users, Haitians, African-Americans, and Africans are still dying in massive numbers (especially Africans).

While VISIONS AND REVISIONS sometimes doesn't go into as much depth as I like, Peck touches on many places to go next.  He names essays and plays and books, he names activists and other influential LGBT people worth looking up.  The narratives of the scene are often inseparable from the plague ravaging it.

I'm not sure I could've read a longer work in this style, but VISIONS AND REVISIONS is short enough not to outstay its welcome.  It's definitely of interest for those who enjoy memoirs or books about LGBT history.

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