Eighty-Sixed

David B. Feinberg, Author Viking Books $18.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-670-82315-4
This first novel by a New York City mathematician records the changes in gay lifestyles precipitated by the AIDS epidemic between 1980 (``Ancient History'') and 1986 (``Learning How to Cry''). The novel's greatest asset is also its chief flaw: diary-like monthly reports describe the narrator's romantic and sexual experiences with bracing immediacy, but finally the novel reads less like fully imagined fiction than a heavily detailed but uninspired newspaper account. The narrator doggedly recounts his faltering attempts to come to terms with the spectre of death in his friends' lives and his own, but Feinberg relates events without enabling the reader to feel or understand the tragedy he gradually unfolds. Long telephone conversations with various friends who are no more than mechanical voices distract attention, as does a labored subplot that revolves around trivial office politics. Readers will be saddened as a friend of the narrator's dies in the the second half of the narrative, but the limited emotional impact of the scenesand the novel itselfderives from the fact that it is about AIDS and death, rather than from the author's ability to shape experience and manipulate our sympathies. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-14-011252-8
Paperback - 326 pages - 978-0-8021-3902-3
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