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literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

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Reed, Paul (1956-2002)  
 
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The aptness of this tropic formation forms the metaphoric heart of Reed's novel Facing It: A Novel of AIDS (1984), where the opening lines establish the morgue as the one place its medical hero and principal protagonist can escape the searing heat wave that continues throughout the novel.

Reed's Journal Writing

Reed was a life-long journal writer, and three of his journals were published during his lifetime. Reed's first published journal, The Q Journal: A Treatment Diary, records his life from March to October 1990. Having buried his lover Tom in January of 1990, Reed recorded his grief and the facts of his own declining health, as he participated in an experimental treatment study.

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Reed's second journal, The Savage Garden (1994), was self-published. It records Reed's life from June 1991 to June 1992, as he transitioned physically and psychologically from being a person dying of AIDS to become a person living with AIDS.

Reed's third journal, The Redwood Diary: A Journal, records his life from April 1995 to March 1996. During this year, Reed retreated to a cabin in the California Redwoods to write a novel only to find his health rapidly deteriorating. Much of Redwood Diary reads like a life review, as Reed faces his mortality only to find his health restored, thanks to the development of protease inhibitors.

Reviewing Reed's Redwood Diary, Andrew Holleran likens it to the work of May Sarton, an esteemed author and friend of Reed's, and characterizes the diary as "ruminations in solitude." However, this description does not reflect the social impulse behind Reed's published journals, for as Holleran notes in his earlier review of The Q Journal, Reed's diaries are "Not the sort of journal you keep for yourself, but a journal written for eventual publication."

With this insight, Holleran points to a major impulse behind Reed's memoir writing, the need to witness. As Reed writes of the silences that surround his illness, "Isn't this one of the most curious issues about AIDS . . . ? Hasn't the need for 'propriety' been an enemy of prevention and treatment all along? People have died by the thousands because nobody wanted to talk about such 'unseemly' topics! In that sense, then, this diary contradicts my more natural impulse to keep things to myself. And it declares that I'm not going to treat this disease as though it's something shameful or necessarily private, any more than a diabetic would think of concealing that condition from coworkers."

This impulse to witness suggests that Reed's journals are ruminations in activism rather than in solitude. In this way, Reed--like Sarton, whose journals reflected an independent woman-identified artist--broke new ground in the genre of memoir by expanding it to include an unconventional subjectivity. This endeavor required a careful calibration of the writing, as it alternates between discretion and temerity.

Perhaps, this point is best evidenced by Reed's self-reflective comments in The Savage Garden, his most provocative journal: "There is certainly nothing wrong with full disclosure, and a clear record of sexual adventuring and obsessive compulsion. But the honesty and worth of any journal has less to do with this reportage of these baser aspects of life and more to do with the fact that the important stuff is happening at a much deeper level."

In his journals, Reed grapples with issues that face glbtq memoirists generally, especially the attempt to reveal honestly the private emotions and actions to a resistant, if not hostile, public.

Reed's Novels

The ever-evolving nature of HIV epidemiology and the physical and psychological challenges faced by people living with AIDS are explored in nearly all of Reed's writing. This perspective is particularly present in his three published novels: Facing It: A Novel of AIDS, Longing, and Vertical Intercourse (2000).

Reed's novels draw their narrative impulse from the negotiation of AIDS through personal transformation. The effects of the rapid changes experienced by individuals living with AIDS are often alleviated through an expansion of feeling in Reed's work, and a burgeoning sentience concludes each of his novels.

Reed credited Dorothy Bryant's A Day in San Francisco (1983) as the first novel to reference the disease, which it did while the epidemic was still in its embryonic stages, but Reed's Facing It was the earliest one to name and focus directly on AIDS.

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