cover image Men Who Loved Me

Men Who Loved Me

Felice Picano. Dutton Books, $18.95 (325pp) ISBN 978-0-453-00700-9

This zesty latest segment of a fictional autobiography opens in the frenetic 1960s when Picano ( Ambidextrous ) discovers Europe--and his homosexuality--and ends two decades later with the first rumblings of AIDS. The narrator is a brainy bon vivant, a Casanova from Queens who travels abroad after college to find love. His grand tour is uneventful until he lands in Italy, where he falls in with a gang of mischievous Americans and is fawned upon by a famous Yugoslavian film director named Djanko. The Italian section is the most accomplished here, spiked with adventure and romance. When Picano heads back to New York to recover from a broken heart, however, the story noticeably flattens, with an endless succession of sexual conquests, parties, jobs and encounters with the famous. His cameo of the poet W. H. Auden is amusing, but much of the novel seems to detail merely cynical social climbing. The ending walks the reader through the Stonewall rebellion, which marked the beginning of the gay rights movement, and into the moment when a mysterious new disease seems to be targeting gay men--a ham-handed finish for an otherwise distinguished and humorous portrait of a vanished age. (Nov.)