So it turns out that collaboration is exactly what I needed to get my memory working. I recently subscribed to a new blog and Jenny Lynn, the author, jumped on the listography bandwagon with us. But she added a piece that I needed to jog my memory. She added a quote from one of the books that made her cry–from an archive of quotes that she loves. What a great idea. I don’t have one of those yet (but will start one now). In thinking about that, I knew the first quote that would go into it.
There may have been a day this year when I thought of him as dead right off, the first time he came to mind. Most days I think of him as though he is alive. It can happen anywhere. Walking on a street, reading a magazine, I will see a listing for a concert, a review of a movie, a new place to go for dinner, and will think: Jasper and I should hear that, see that, go there. My mind then works out of habit to remember what date we made, when Jasper said we would see each other next. When this happens, it only takes a second, maybe not even as long as that; it is quick, not a time you can measure by a watch, but most of my life is contained in that time.
These are the opening lines of Such Times, a novel by Christopher Coe that chronicles a very painful time in the history of the gay community. It was the early 1990s, AIDS was killing an entire generation of gay men, and the treatments didn’t yet hold the promise of anything but a brief extension of life, to say one’s goodbyes, settle one’s affairs, and for a few very fortunate people with great resources, better doctors, and some incredible luck, a chance to survive until the development of protease inhibitors. In exchange for the extra time, people suffered through arduous pill-taking regimens and horrible side effects. It was a sad time, but also a time of great heroism, when the community came together to take care of one another, and to try to educate each other and the wider world about how to stop the epidemic. I ran a support group for people with AIDS at Gay Men’s Health Crisis in those years, and it was the most meaningful work I have ever done.
Christopher Coe is one of the people who died in this epidemic, but first he wrote a novel about it. It’s out of print now, but you can still get used copies if you try.
This book made me cry.
And that made me think of The Mayor of Castro Street, a brilliant biography of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts. If you saw Milk and liked it, you owe it to yourself to read this biography. It is fascinating and marvelously written.
And, yup, it made me cry. A lot.
So now I have 2 books that DEFINITELY made me cry. I will probably come up with some more.