Holleran, Andrew. “Chronicle of a Plague, Revisited”, De Capo Press, 2008.
It is always an important day for me when a new Andrew Holleran book comes out. Holleran was the author who introduced me to the world of gay literature and last year I finally had the chance to meet him when my reading group invited him to participate in the Arkansas Literary Festival. He is a wonderful writer and a prince of a man.
“Chronicle of a Plague, Revisited” is a look back at the AIDS epidemic and what it has done and still is doing to our community. It is a collection of twenty-four essays that appeared in “Christopher Street” magazine during the epidemic. Holleran assesses what we lost and looks at the era and the literature it produced. In “Ground Zero” published in 1988, Holleran published twenty-three essays which he wrote during the early years of the AIDS crisis and had been published in “Christopher Street”. When he found out the book was out of print, he decided that we could not, as a community, forget what had been our holocaust. Holleran took the essays and reframed them with a new introduction and issued “Chronicles of a Plague, Revisited”. When “Ground Zero” was published it was hailed by many as a review in “The Washington Post” stated, “one of the best dispatches from the epidemic’s height”. Looking backwards, we
learn that AIDS took the lives of almost half a million gay men and twenty-two million others. Can we allow ourselves to forget? Dare we do so?
AIDS seems to have become a historical moment in time, an epidemic that defines an age. Many today do know what is was like back then; when we were afraid to read the obituaries in the morning paper because we did not want to see the name of someone we knew. My generation is almost gone and those that are no longer here left this world with lives half finished. They will never be replaced and although we have made great strides of late, they could have been so much greater. We lost so many of our heroes and our leaders, so many beautiful men in the prime of life. We still live in the shadow of the disease that tried to erase us from the world.
Andrew Holleran tells us about it and he does not mince his words. I lived through the period and I know he says the truth—eloquently and intellectually and with a gift for using the right words. Many of you did not experience AIDS and some of you have forgotten that it ever was around. The AIDS of today is very different from what was and in a way it is still the same. It decimated us and it brought us together.
Holleran says we mist refocus in it. He has chosen to delete the stories from “Ground Zero” that were about sexual freedom and instead we get a more personal look at the effects of the disease and the way it still affects us today. We know that AIDS has changed our lives, our culture, our America. Let Holleran tell you how.
Personally, I have a hard time reading about AIDS. I was living in Israel when the epidemic hit and during the peak of it. Whenever I came back to visit America, I would learn that more and more of my friends were either ill or gone. For me, it is too real and when I do read, I cry. I cried through “Ground Zero” and I cried through “Chronicle” and I will probably cry again and again. But crying is a release and it is necessary for me to do in order to get on with my life.
Holleran writes in a lyrical and melodic style which is methodic and captivating, He has always been a hero to me and meeting him right after having survived Katrina and relocating to Little Rock will always be one of the highlights of my life. I will never forget how pleased he was when we talked about how I dealt with change and I know he saw the glow on my face as he autographed his books for me. “Ground Zero” was lost to Katrina but “Chronicle” is now here to replace it.
If you read no other non-fiction book of gay literature, make sure this is the one you choose. And let Holleran know how much we appreciate all that he has done for us.