I learned this was true when I was researching Japanese fiction that deals with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Long after , Japanese readers too young to have known the war would use literature to live through the trauma, empathetically, on their own.
AIDS writing is not dead.
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It lives on, but in unexpected places. Much of the best AIDS writing has been done by writers neither gay nor male. My students have discovered truth in the poems of Tory Dent "Black Milk" , a straight woman who died of the disease; Thomas Gunn "A Blank" , a gay man who died of everything but AIDS, left poems behind that speak clearly to those who watched friends, family and lovers die precisely of that.
But AIDS is also where it is not obvious at all. We watched the same inflight movie: Still Alice , the recent film in which a younger woman played by Julianne Moore is diagnosed with early Alzheimer's. Arianna was moved by the film, and so was I. But though I didn't say it aloud, I could not help think that a film in about a terminal disease and how it takes not only one life away, but those of the family around her, is a film told with a careful sensibility cultivated by three decades of the real-life story of American families similarly destroyed by AIDS.
This is how it will play out, I thought: We may not read much about AIDS in future, certainly not once a new plague descends upon us, but what we do read of inexorable death caused by diseases we either fear or do not understand will, for a very long time, be conditioned by the first decade of the AIDS crisis in the U.
In The Rise and Fall of the Yellow House , a young man sure he is infected with the virus tells an even younger man that the future is unknown but their past is certain. The duty of AIDS writing today has to be record all the details of the past before they are forgotten, willfully or otherwise; and to make clear the lesson that the future is still unknown to us, and may bring things that the remembered horror of the past plus years for gay men will help conquer that future when it is again someone's present.
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