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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
What the Dead Remember by Harlan Greene 
16th-Oct-2006 06:07 pm
A fifteen-year-old, award winner--now out-of-print. Which, as it turns out, really is too bad.

I'm definitely going to read more of Harlan Greene's fiction. Luckily, as far as I can tell, he's only written two other (relatively slim) novels.

Greene, Harlan. What the Dead Remember. New York: Dutton, 1991.
Summary: During his childhood summers on the beaches of Charleston, the unnamed narrator yearns to join the company of the cool boys in town but instead befriends the retarded Stevie. Now, as an adult, he returns to the city of his childhood and renews his friendship with Stevie as the spectre of AIDS threatens the gay community there. On one fateful night of a hurricane, the narrator makes a terrible choice and ends up sleeping with a handsome man who turns out to be one of the "cool boys" in his youth who infects him with HIV while Stevie, left alone, runs of and drowns himself while searching for Atlantis.
Comments: Wow, talk about serious passion, morality, AND an axe to grind with the gay community. Obviously, the narrator's not the most altruistic guy ever to walk the planet; he yearns for acceptance from his peers (which he largely fails to acquire throughout his life) and takes care of Stevie at least in part because he feels that he is winning some sort of cosmic approval. And, indeed, if you believe in these sorts of things, the cosmos does indeed punish the narrator severely (Contracting HIV from that particular encounter? Are we really to believe the narrator in this case?) for shirking in his duty to Stevie in favor of the demands of lust. All the "cool" crowd ever did for him was condemn him to an unpleasant and untimely death. How lovely. Obviously, he deserves to die. *rolls eyes* Likewise, all HE does for his friends is ignore them when they need him or encourage them into marriages with totally unscrupulous dudes that are completely wrong for them but happen to give him a nice twinge below the belt. Even so, the novel is deliciously atmospheric, roiling with shame about the present and the past that transcends mere straight vs. gay...and you can forget that the otherwise tightly-woven narrative slackens occasionally.
Notes: hardcover, 1st edition, signed by the author, out-of-print
Rating: 7.5/10 - Though flawed in places, at its best it is magnificent and utterly unforgettable.
16th-Oct-2006 11:45 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I'm going there for Christmas ^_^
17th-Oct-2006 01:15 am (UTC)
One encounter is enough to get infected with HIV same as you can get pregnant the first time you have sex.

His Why We Danced the Charleston is excellent too.
17th-Oct-2006 03:06 am (UTC)
One encounter is enough to get infected with HIV same as you can get pregnant the first time you have sex.

Duh. But the plotting made the protagonist's single "transgression" almost ridculously cliched in its consequences. And I'm arguing that the he may NOT have gotten it from the guy he thought that he did--after all, how could he REALLY have known if he was sexually active throughout that period?
17th-Dec-2006 01:15 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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