A chronicle of the author's perceptions, thoughts, memories, and personal relationships during the months after he was diagnosed as having AIDS. Brodkey's mind and prose are as sharp as a knife's edge. Beginning with the desperate struggle for breath that signaled pneumonia and, retrospectively, "how my life ended. And my dying began," continuing with the reactions and decisions of himself and his wife, the first half of the essay spins out an observant, introspective, cerebral, even amusing account of his particular experience.

But AIDS is often a disease associated with more emotional baggage than other fatal illnesses, and in Brodkey's case we learn that he traces both his dying and his homosexual experiences to "the major drama of [his] adolescence", daily sexual abuse by his adoptive father, with the implied knowledge and acquiescence of his mother. Writes Brodkey, "I experimented with homosexuality to break my pride, to open myself to the story." "Now I will die disfigured and in pain."


Brodkey was an author of short fiction, essays, and two novels. He wrote for The New Yorker magazine, through which he announced to the world that he had AIDS in a short essay, "To My Readers," published on June 23, 1993 when he was 62 years old. The diagnosis had been made only a few weeks earlier and he states that he was surprised by it because, although he had had homosexual "adventures," they occurred more than 20 years earlier. The writing in this announcement is remarkably lucid and spare, as Brodkey thinks out loud thoughts both profound and mundane.

In an interview for The New York Times (June 17, 1993) following the New Yorker article, Brodkey said that it was easier to write about his illness than to talk about it. The last journal entry was published shortly after he died on January 26, 1996 (see This Wild Darkness in this database).

Primary Source

The New Yorker


Condé Nast

Place Published

New York


February 7, 1994