Buenas Noches Buenos Aires - Gilbert Adair
A book this well written deserves to be read by everyone. Every line is a gem. Add in that itís a gay novel with some pretty explicit gay action youíll be wondering why it isnít in my top ten favourites already. I did really enjoy it. As Iíve said, the writing is so good it came like rain to my parched brain after reading so-called novels like Golden Years. The premise is very controversial as well, and Iím always up for something controversial.
Set in Paris in the early 80s the young protagonist tries to live a wild, gay life. However, through his own timidity, he canít seem to connect to other men and has a series of disastrous encounters that leave him frustratedóto the extent that he starts to make up this fabulous life, which he isnít having, to impress his colleagues at work.
However, AIDS is just about to hit his little world. He takes a rather extreme reaction to the epidemic, seeing it as finally his opportunity to score, big time. After all, as he reasons, there will be so few men willing to have sex, that the quality bar used to judge a partner will go down and heíll suddenly be a big fish in a very small pool. Weird, but there it is.
The book is delightfully un-PC, which is a big plus in its favour. As the story is narrated by the young man, he can, and does, say pretty much what he likesóabout people, being gay and sex in general.
So, again, why wonít I be reading this one again? Well, itís almost an exercise of style over content. I just couldnít connect with any of the characters enough to care whether they lived or died. I really didnít like the narrator at all. If I knew him in real life Iíd think him a horrible little mean person. So I really wasnít that bothered that he seemed to set out on this crusade to have as much weird sex as he can while the getting is good, despite the almost certain result that he would get AIDS. What really got to me was that he didnít seem to care about his partners at all. It wasnít even mentioned. He comes home one day and admire the bloody skid marks on his underwear as a sort of red badge of courage. I think you can be prosecuted for deliberately passing on a fatal disease, canít you?
I do still recommend this book, not only for the unique way the AIDS epidemic is handledóyou wonít read another take on it quite like this oneóbut for the wonderful writing.
This book is entertaining, very well written, easy to read, funny, smart, clever and witty, yet ultimately itís as suspect as IN MY ROOM for the stance it takes on the issue of gay sex and AIDS.
Published in 2004, it begins as a jolly tale narrated by a personable young Englishman, Gideon, about to take up a position teaching English at the Paris Berlitz language school.† Sexually frustrated following a series of humiliatingly disastrous encounters, Gideon hopes to experience everything heís so far missed in gay life.† So deeply convinced is Gideon that heís socially and physically inadequate of course heís doomed to fail.
Itís 1980.† They didnít know it then but almost the end of an era, between post Stonewall gay lib with its celebration of sexual freedom and the emergence of AIDS.† Poor Gideon, even in Gay Paree he just canít get laid despite his best efforts in clubs, bars and cruising grounds, all told with wry humour.
At first Gideonís content finally to be part of a community, a mixed set of gay teachers in the school common room.† Unlucky in lust (love is off the radar) he begins to make up tales of torrid encounters so he can be one of the boys.† When colleagues whose sex lives arenít fantasy begin to show symptoms diagnosed as the new gay cancer, regarded by homophobes in America as divine intervention, more than anything Gideon fears exposure as a pathetic liar.†
He only ever wanted to be accepted, and to have sex.† Now he sees his big chance: with fear & paranoia dominating the scene no one can afford to be particular if they want hot action.† So Gideon embarks upon a thorough exploration of all the things heís dreamed about but never had the chance to enjoy.
He loses his virginity in an act so brutal it can only be described as buggery, and goes on to experience every kink and perversion, all the while wondering whoís going to be the one to give IT to him.† So finally he belongs.
I hated Dustanís book with its emotion-free sex and boringly repetitive acts of desperation.† This novel is less easy to dismiss.† I liked Gideon and wanted him to get what he wanted.† Until he wanted to get infected with the AIDS virus.† I just couldnít understand that. If the novel had been written 20 years ago maybe I wouldíve seen it as an act of defiance saying Fuck you to a hostile world.†
I canít believe anyone as smart as Gideon, who sees what the disease does to his friends, could do what he does just to prove heís one of them.† So though I enjoyed the first two thirds of the book it didnít convince me as a whole.† The light tone just doesnít work when things get dark and serious.
And its messageÖwhat?† Better to die unrepentant, well f****d & sucked, free and proud, than to be safe and alive?† Maybe this book could only be written now, with AIDS no longer a death sentence and the safe sex message questioned by a younger generation that didnít experience devastating loss.
It left a bad taste, regardless of that clever style.† Maybe Iím not in a position to judge, as a straight woman.† But if Gideon was my son Iíd be angry for the life he threw away.† Better to live and testify, to continue the fight.† What a waste.† Or did I miss the point?