Borrowed Time, Paul Monette


This summer we’ll be reading three books based on a singular concept: The Summer of Love, LGBT Edition. The books will be love stories, loosely defined, by and about the LGBT community. We’ve chosen our first two books: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (meeting July 27th) and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein (meeting August 31st). Now we must choose our third book. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some of the suggestions people have made. These will be cut and paste reviews, and not my personal thought (I have not read any of these yet). Feel free to post suggestions below.  We’ll be meeting June 29th at BookPeople to discuss Cormac McCarthy’s Cities of the Plain and make our decision.

Reviewed by B Andrew Holland here:

Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

By Paul Monette

Pgs. 352

Harvest Books

The younger generations of gay men today seem at times to have overlooked, forgotten, or ignored a dark and death filled past, where gay heroes of yesterday faltered before the horrific and devastating early strains of the AIDS virus. In the brilliantly moving memoir about his lover’s illness, and tracing his own eventual demise to the disease, Paul Monette relates the last year and a half he spent with his best friend and romantic partner Roger Horwitz, in one of the most captivating and important pieces written on the subject, Borrowed Time.

Mr. Monette takes us through the Utopian days before AIDS had left its indelible and deep stain on his life, through his international travels, glamorous Hollywood parties for industry insiders of his day, and the subtle moments of friendship and love that he remembers, and at the time partially took for granted. Then like a bomb that slowly permeated its way through the entire gay community in the eighties, Paul tells how one by one nearly every gay man he knew, including one of his closest and oldest friends, Cesar, came down with the disease and how a near hysteria took over the community which had barely come out of its own infancy of semi-acceptance in America. Then tragically his boyfriend, lover, husband in a sense, or whatever you want to call him, came down with a health shattering strain of the disease which eventually took his life just 19 months later. Paul speaks of the madness, the emotion, the constant uphill battle that he and his life mate Roger had to endure grappling with the fatal virus. In a way, due to their social prominence and wealth in 1980’s Los Angeles, Paul (a well know author and screen-writer) and Roger (a high-power attorney) were more fortunate than droves of other less wealthy, less connected men, who I am sure died, without access to AZT (the first drug that had some form of life sustaining control over the ravaging disease), alone, rejected, and as Paul even admits, without family presence or support.

Imagine watching every part of your life become touched by AIDS, terrified as friend after friend either reports their positive status relating to the virus, or learning about their death after the fact. One can hardly speculate the terror and confusion that gay men in the eighties must have breathed nearly every day of their lives.

An essential, especially for younger gay men, but very emotionally difficult read, Borrowed Time remains an important reminder of where we came from, and how we got to exactly where we are today. To read even about the true love shared between Roger and Paul is beyond touching, to witness their bond despite all odds, their courage; it will all leave you saddened but filled with hope and gratitude for life and the bright possibility of future we all share. Please read it, you’ll be glad you did.


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