“Visions and Revisions: Coming of Age in the Age of AIDS” by Dale Peck



Visions and Revisions is at once a memoir of the AIDS epidemic, a meditation on gay identity, and a masterly case of Joan Didion-style narrative deconstruction (albeit more rigorous than Didion’s, and grounded in righteous anger rather than ennui). Newly out and free in New York of the late 80s and early 90s, Peck felt his way through love, sex, and activism, and tried to figure out what it meant to be gay in the face of an epidemic “whose initial impact had been magnified a thousandfold by the homophobically motivated disregard of the government, media, medical establishment, and general population.” Now older and wiser, he explores how best to write about the time. He criticizes the mainstream homophobia of the time, particularly its lurid fascination with the murders of gay men, but also rebuts the theories of other gay writers, most notably Leo Bersani, who called for gays to separate themselves from the demands of citizenship and “relationality itself.” Peck—author of a dozen previous works of fiction and nonfiction—has just as little patience with those who assume that empathy and human-interest stories are sufficient in the face of epidemic or murder: “Empathy probably won’t hurt anyone struggling with this disease, but it won’t help them much either, and it won’t cure anyone.”

Visions and Revisions: Coming of Age in the Age of AIDS. By Dale Peck. Published in April by Soho Press. 224 pages $25.00


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