“The Boom Economy: Or, Scenes from Clerical Life”–waiting for death from AIDS

Bouldrey, Brian. “The Boom Economy”. The University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.

Waiting for Death from AIDS

Amos Lassen

Brian Bouldrey is a name that may be familiar to you. He edited  the wonderful “Wrestling with the Angel: Faith and Religion in the Lives of Gay Men”, one of the first studies of gays and G-d. His new book is a novel entitled “The Boom Economy or, Scenes from Clerical Life”. It beautifully depicts the life of man as he waits for death to take him. While he is alive, Dennis is a man who has beaten a death to AIDS because of an accident of science and because his combination of prescribed drugs has kept him alive. He struggles to deal with life while feeling that his death should have already come. In doing we discover his relation to G-d and spirituality.

When we meet Dennis Bacchus we meet a man who feels that life has been a bit unfair for not rewarding him with death. Otherwise his life is joyous. He has wonderful medication to keep the AIDS virus at bay, he is living in a time when the economy is great, he has amazing friends yet he is lost. His friend Jimmy helps him to celebrate life by travel and celebration. Jimmy like Dennis also carries the virus and he and Dennis are fast friends. Dennis however decides it might be time to become a priest.

The storyline was to cover the last ten years of Dennis’ life but due to unexpected events instead of being the last ten years, they become the decade that ushers in an entire new life. Bouldrey tells the story beautifully; his command of the English language is almost in a class by itself. His sentences flow like fine wine, meant to be tasted and savored and like wine, each subsequent taste is better than the one before. He writes with a quick wit and sharp compassion and he manages to find humor in what would otherwise be an extremely serious situation.

In this tale of spiritual enlightenment are explorations of love and a definition of what friendship is. It is also a comedy centering on the most droll of subjects—living with AIDS and I have yet to read a book that handles loneliness as beautifully as Bouldrey does. He is amazing in juxtaposing humor with grief when it is least expected. This is a book to be read and remembered. Tender to the point of beauty, funny to the point of hilarity, real to the point of wonderful. It is reverent and irreverent, intelligent and simple, engaging and not easy to forget. Brian Bouldrey has written this book as if he was caring for a dear friend and you can feel his love for his work with every word he writes.

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