Paul Monette

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Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

Monette, Paul

Last Updated: Dec-06-2006
Annotated by:
Woodcock, John

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir


Writer Paul Monette's first-person account of living through his lover Roger's last nineteen months with AIDS, from diagnosis to death (1986), told in language that is poetic and highly articulate. The couple faces not only progressive physical degeneration (Monette calls time with AIDS a "minefield") but also the agonizing issues of truthtelling with their families, friends gay and straight, and the world, in "the double closet of the war."

Fact-finding is a constant obsession in this story, not only about who is positive and who knows, but also in the rapidly-changing medical arena, where through Monette's extraordinary efforts Roger becomes the first person west of the Mississippi to be put on the drug, AZT. Monette is so devoted a caregiver that he often loses himself--a problem he solves in part by turning to the subject of AIDS as a writer.

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Your Sightless Days

Monette, Paul

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem


Paul Monette wrote about his partner's life and death with AIDS in both prose (Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, see this database) and poetry. This poem, a lyric elegy to Roger Horwitz, concerns Roger's loss of sight despite treatments for cytomegalovirus infection. It is a love poem; Monette's devotion to Roger is unbounded. If Roger cannot see, then the poet wishes not to see--this is empathy to the fullest degree.

When, in the up and down course of the visual problems, Roger can suddenly, temporarily see, then Monette gleefully cries, "I toss my blinders and drink the world like water." The poem contains numerous references to sight, light, and eyes, such as "blacked out windows / like an air raid," "peer impish intent as a hawk," and "I'm shut tight Oedipus-old."

This constant stream of images and the unpunctuated, no-place-to- relax-and-catch-your-breath rhythm of the poem leads the reader through the suffering and uncertainties and into the final lines--the mourning for Roger. Grief is loneliness; it is the desperate ache of MISSING someone. Monette feels isolated from "the sighted fools"--he yearns for Roger, who, through it all and despite feeling like Job, could "hoot on the phone / and wrestle the dog so the summer was still / the summer."

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