“The ultimate gadlfly of the epidemic . . . here’s one book that truly deserves a place in a time capsule.”—Armistead Maupin
"This is as close to the truth as I can get," writes David Feinberg in what he calls his "personal Portrait of the Artist as a Young Diseased Jew Fag Pariah." Queer and Loathing is a collection of autobiographical essays, gonzo journalism, and demented Feinbergian lists about AIDS activism and living, writing, and dying with AIDS.
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Feinberg's reflections on AIDS are often annoying and mediocre, frequently witty, and sometimes deeply disturbing. Novelist Feinberg (Eighty-Sixed, 1989) starts out unpromisingly. The first and title essay of the collection is burdened by zeitgeist clich‚s (e.g., ``I plead the Twinkie defense''), patronizing scorn for the reader's supposed ``bleeding liberal heart,'' overuse of italics for emphasis, and insights more appropriate to a T-shirt than an essay (``Reality is for people who can't cope with drugs''). After that piece, though, the writing picks up. With dark humor and rage, Feinberg brings us to ACT UP meetings and demonstrations and recounts the deaths, funerals, and memorial services of his friends. He also chronicles his own physical decay in unsparing detail; some of these sections are so visceral that they are hard to read. In lighter moments, he reflects on red ribbons, the gym, and the etiquette of HIV disclosure. Though Feinberg's humor can fall flat, most of the essays have their moments: At one point he muses, ``Gays call straights breeders...I'm sure we'll come up with a derogatory term for neggies [HIV-negative people] soon enough: Aseptic? Hermetically sealed?'' His rudeness can be delightful; on a bus, he tells some young people pondering the meaning of life to keep it down, ``because some of us are thirty and we have already had these conversations.'' Sometimes his campy, flippant style seems trivializing, but it can be highly appropriate, as when he exposes the cynical selling of AIDS, from criminally insensitive direct- mail campaigns for AIDS organizations (one group's letter begins ``Before he died, he asked me to mail this to you'') to LifeStyle Urns (cremation urns marketed specifically to people with AIDS and their survivors--some even come engraved with a lambda symbol). Despite this collection's title, Feinberg is no Hunter S. Thompson, but he does have an effective, biting edge. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Booklist:
In his nonfiction debut, a collection of autobiographical essays chronicling their author's descent into HIV hell, Feinberg merges irreverent humor, incisive observation of all things political, and grim documentation of physical deterioration. Included with manic lists of "100 Ways You Can Fight the AIDS Crisis," "Sex Tips for Boys" and, especially touchingly, of his life regrets are notes on waiting for the end of the world, documentation of his fiendishly multiplying warts as well as diminishing T-cells (and consequent official classification as a person with AIDS), and the entry that gives the book its title, his gonzo-journalistic recollections of his part in the 1988 ACT-UP seizure of the Federal Drug Administration's headquarters. Though maybe a bit too long and tedious for some tastes, that essay establishes the book's overall tone--a compound of rage, desperation, and courage that in the piece itself resounds from a background of governmental bureaucracy and demonstrators' factionalism and in-fighting, all heavily laced with black humor. "Faced with the AIDS crisis," Feinberg writes, "sometimes one laughs to avoid crying." Whitney Scott
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