cover image Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

Paul Monette. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $22 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-15-113598-1

Wrenching in its detail, this account of the author's final two years with his companion and ``beloved friend'' Roger Horwitz, who died of AIDS in 1986, personalizes the epidemic's appalling statistics with heartbreaking clarity. Poet and novelist Monette (Love Alone: 18 Elegies for Rog) applies admirable candor and control to the task of chronicling the suffering endured in the months between the diagnosis and death of the man with whom he had spent over 10 years. Monette brings to the narrative a poet's eye for the telling image or metaphor, and makes this far more than a simple compendium of medical disasters: the memoir transcends the particulars of the AIDS epidemic to stand as an eloquent testimonial to the power of love and the devastation of loss, the courage of the ill and the anger, fear and dedication of their loved ones. Despite its universal resonances, the book is perhaps most valuable as a vital addition to the literature of the AIDS epidemic. Affluent and exceptionally well connected in the L.A. gay elite, Horwitz was no typical AIDS patient: Monette maneuvered him into various experimental programs (he was the first AIDS patient west of the Mississippi to have access to AZT), and the firsthand glimpse of the ``netherworld of the sick,'' negotiating the byzantine route to the next ``magic bullet'' offers vivid confirmation of the human cost of the government's initial policy of informed neglect. ``A gay man seeks his history in mythic fragments, random as blocks of stone in the ruins covered in Greek characters, gradually being erased in the summer rain,'' the author writes of a trip to Greece he and Horwitz took shortly before the diagnosis. Monette's moving history is just such a fragment for future generations, a touchstone reference to a tragic time that we cannot allow to be erased. (June)