WCSU

Martha Anne Toll

One long ago St. Patrick's Day, I wandered into an Irish book festival and picked up Colm Tóibín's essay collection, Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives from Wilde to Almodóvar. The book made a deep impression about the dangers of gayness, loneliness that stems from the queer community's inability to hear or read its own stories, and literary codes that developed to signal queerness between the lines.

I wonder how Paul Lisicky's Later would read if the dawn of AIDS weren't in living memory.

Lisicky's memoir would no doubt be deeply affecting, but it is even more so for recalling that time of terror and frustration, when no treatment or prevention was available for a disease that causes prolonged, horrific death. The extent of loss and cataclysm to the gay community and their loved ones during that time surpasses words.

It is a cruel irony that we find ourselves in the midst of another pandemic, making Lisicky's book uncannily timely.

"It did not have to be this way, and there was a time when it was not," Adam Cohen writes in his introduction to Supreme Inequality: The Supreme Court's Fifty-Year Battle for a More Unjust America.

America could have top-notch, racially integrated schools, a criminal justice system that hadn't ballooned to the world's largest by locking up generations of black and brown people, a political system that wasn't suffocating in money and a legal system that valued individuals over big business. Today, though, the likelihood of implementing such a vision looks dim.

How can one mourn a parent whose harsh judgments frame childhood? This question haunts Philip Kennicott's Counterpoint: A Memoir of Bach and Mourning.

Halfway through Garth Greenwell's exquisite story collection, Cleanness, the narrator and his boyfriend wander through a Bologna museum devoted to a single, unnamed artist. The narrator becomes transfixed by paintings "humming at a frequency I wanted to tune myself to catch."

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