Body Counts -- A Memoir of Politics, Sex, AIDS, and Survival by Sean Strub, Scribner '14, $30, 420 pages, ASIN #1451661959. Index, b&w images sprinkled through text, no notes or bibliography.
A brief excerpt:
December 1989 New York City: I am nervously sitting in a pew near the front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York where John Cardinal O'Connor is about to celebrate Mass. It has been years since I attended a Catholic Mass and even longer since I took communion, the holiest of sacraments, but that is why I am here. Looking up at the cathedral's soaring nave, I remember the awe I felt as an altar boy at St. Mary's in Iowa City and, later, the anger when the Church betrayed me.
"It is bitterly cold, a near record low. Many parishoners wear heavy coats as they hold hymnals in gloved hands. Slush-covered boots have left a wet trail down the long center aisle. There's a puddle under my pew. The mood in the church is tense -- nothing like the droning boredom of the Masses of my youth. As the minutes pass, I think of the Jesuits who taught me as a child that a good Catholic acts upon the church's social teachings, even if that means confronting the church. My hands are trembling with the cold, my apprehension and other feelings too deep to name.
"Outside St. Patrick's, forty-five hundred angry men and women have assembled, packing Fifth Avenue and changing and waving placards that read 'Curb Your Dogma,' 'Papal Bull,' and 'Condoms Not Coffins.' Fists pump the air, bullhorns blare. ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, is almost carnival-like spirit to the demonstration with ACT UP affinity groups, such as Church Ladies for Choice, the Hail Marys, and Speaking in Tongues, performing their protests.
"In ACT UP, high camp and high seriousness are uniquely compatible. An artist named Ray Navarro is dressed as Jesus Christ, swathed in a white shroud, carrying a large wooden cross over his near-skeletal shoulder. His bearded face is gaunt, and he wears a crown of thorns over his long, thinning hair. Despite the cold, Ray looks beatific. He will be dead in less than a year. Keith Haring is there, too, in a knitted cap with a long hand-knitted scarf wrapped around his slender neck. He has two months left."
Author Sean Strub is an activist, writer, and executive director of the Sero Project, which combats the criminalization of people with HIV/AIDS.
The Haunted Life and Other Writings by Jack Kerouac, Edited by Todd F. Tietchen, DaCapo '14, $24.99, 193 pages, ASIN #0306823047.
A brief excerpt from The Haunted Life and Other Writings:
"Peter got up off his knees and stood surveying his room, idly lighting a fresh cigarette. It was a small but useful room, useful in the sense that it fitted his personality. Peter was the 'den-type.' He wanted a place to retreat to, a place -- a room -- containing certain necessities which he felt, as perhaps an Alaskan trapper might feel, would be near at hand in an emergency unpredictable in length.
"Here were stored his rations of the spirit....books, a typewriter, paper, pencils and pens, envelopes, old letters, recent letters, mementoes of childhood and boyhood, scrapbooks containing pertinent clippings and notebooks containing impertinent remarks, culsters of junk bearing no relation to one another and long out of purpose -- pieces of colored crayon and chalk, marbles and mugs, buttons, Yale locks, rolls of tape and string, seashore rocks and shells, matchbooks filled with assortments of tacks and small magnets and bottle caps, pieces of elastic and bunting, empty inkbottles, old keys, all the minutiae a lad collects and, when he is fortunate enough, keeps, as a trinket-link with the always golden past."
Author Jack Kerouac was born in 1922 in Lowell, MA. The best-known of his many works, On the Road, published in 1957, was an international bestseller. He died at age 47.
Editor Todd F. Tietchen is an assistant professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where he teaches courses in Beat writing and contemporary American lierature.
Rewiring the Real -- In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo. Columbia UPress '14, 322 pages, ASIN #0231160402. Index, notes, several groupings of b&w glossy images..
Most readers will recognize and, perhaps, have read at least one of the four authors in the title. As author Mark C. Taylor writes in his introduction, "William Gaddis is arguably the most underappreciated major 20th century novelist. One of the reasons for this is that his most important works -- The Recognitions and JR -- are long and difficult.....
A brief excerpt:
"All of Richard Powers's novels take as their point of departure a scientific theory or technological innovation. Powers immerses himself in scientific literature and keeps himself informed about the current state of technology: he is the rare novelist who actually understands the science and technology about which he writes....
"Mark Danielewski's style is always indirect -- in the world his work portrays nothing is ever certain, and everything is subject to endless revision. Dennis Potter's singing Detective might well have been describing House of Leaves when he repeats again and again, 'All clues, no solutions.'...."
"DeLillo picks up where Gaddis leaves off. By the last decade of the 20th century, counterfeits of counterfeits have become the currency of the realm, and JR has grown up to become a confidence man trading virtual securities that are anything but secure."
Author Mark C. Taylor is professor of religion, chair of the Department of Religion, and codirector of the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life at Columbia University. He has written more than 25 books.