cover image The Beauty of Men

The Beauty of Men

Andrew Holleran, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-688-04857-0

Lark, the protagonist of Holleran's profoundly sad, elegant and insightful new novel, his first since Nights in Aruba was published 13 years ago, is virtually unique in today's gay literature: he is a 47-year-old gay man, caring for his quadriplegic mother in a small town in Florida, whose sex life is confined to rest rooms and the baths, who has never come out to his family and whose increasingly empty existence is defined by agonizing loneliness. All the friends from Lark's long-ago glamorous youth in New York are dead of AIDS, and his mother's health has consumed his life as surely as HIV has destroyed the world of Holleran's Dancer from the Dance (1977), one of the classics of gay literature. Age and gray hair have rendered Lark invisible in the sexual competition that defined his life until AIDS, and his mother's impending death has forced him to see that his failure to come out has made him fundamentally invisible to her as well. But Lark, as retrograde and politically incorrect as his life in the closet may make him appear, is nevertheless a chillingly emblematic Everyman, failing to find meaning and purpose in a world devastated by AIDS. Holleran's trademark prose-lush, carefully cadenced and keenly observed-creates a mesmerizingly claustrophobic world where the trapped elderly residents of Lark's mother's nursing home, the lonely men Lark encounters in his fruitless search for love and the overwhelming anonymity of suburban America have equal power to break the heart. Author tour. (June)