Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Acknowledgements, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: The American Sublime: Living and Dying as an Artist

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pp. 3-12

When I hold these essays in my hand I can feel the heat rising off them—theintense, baked terra-cotta heat of longing and desire, or the headachy, sobbing heat of grief writhing on the mattress, pounding it like a defeatedwrestler. And I can feel the simple, blunt fact of the heat of human pres-ence—of eyelashes brushing the pillowcase, of breath held, heart bursting,...

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Through the Looking Glass

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pp. 13-19

The present does not resemble the past. We went through a mass death experience and then we took a break. Instead of constant morbidity there waspuking, diarrhea, never-ending adjustments to toxic drug combinations, alot of swallowing and a certain facsimile of robustness, everyone feeling“great.” Back to the gym. The funerals slowed or stopped and the neighbor-...

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After Peter

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pp. 20-36

His name was Peter David Kelloran, Peter D. Kelloran, as he liked to appear in print, and he was a painter. He died in his bed at the Maitri Hospice in San Francisco at the age of thirty-three on the afternoon of May 10, after he decided he could no longer care for himself in his apartment at the edge of town, where he had lived until then. There was a solar eclipse that day, and...

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Howard, Art, and the Seventies

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pp. 37-49

Three nights ago I went with Moses—a twenty-six-year-old Israeli who had just released a dance cut, “Don’t Let Me”—to a party at the apartment of friends of his who live above the sex shop the Pleasure Chest, which they own. Their online catalog sales for dildos, candy-flavored panties, and toy handcuffs must be brisk these days because not only did our hosts have hills...

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Where R U, John Crussell? Or, Inventing Humanity, One Play at a Time

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pp. 50-60

We met in 1990 in Peterborough, New Hampshire, at the MacDowell Colony, a retreat for composers and painters and writers and artists of all kinds. Located on a farm, its headquarters in a large farmhouse with two smaller buildings alongside, dotted by cabins here...

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Self-Portrait with Rivals

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pp. 61-87

In “Nothing Personal,” James Baldwin describes how your feelings for a city are transformed when someone you love lives there. I’ve always loved New York, but I wouldn’t have stuck around there if I hadn’t met Tucker Ashworth in 1973. In late summer of that year, I came to town for what I thought would be a short stay. I had vague plans to catch up with friends in Morocco in December. Tucker was seven years younger...

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Corpses Dancing, Dancing Ghosts

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pp. 88-97

Over the course of my life, I have enjoyed ample interchange with both corpses and ghosts. As a child, I witnessed my first human corpse when my great aunt Louella was laid out in the parlor of her creaky old house in the Pennsylvania town where she had been born, raised, taught school, grew old, and died while waiting for a friend...

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Who Turned Out the Limelight? : The Tragi-Comedy of Mark Morrisroe

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pp. 98-112

Mark Morrisroe loved ice cream. We ate it a lot. In fact, we started our relationship in 1987 by having ice cream in the East Village of New York right after he lured me into an art gallery to look at his photographs. He mesmerized me with his artistic talent, then took me to an ice cream parlor and with french vanilla dripping down his chin asked me to take him home and screw him. Later on in our relationship, we...

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Robert Ferro

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pp. 113-130

“To Lou-Lou,” minuets the dedicatory handwriting across the title page of Robert Ferro’s novella, The Others, “with love, across the ages!” He gave me the book several years after we’d become friends. Published in 1977 by Scribner, it was already out of print by then, and we were playing with the possibility of the SeaHorse Press, which I owned and operated, reprinting the book. That never...

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Warren Sonbert

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pp. 131-146

Until complications from AIDS claimed him in 1995 at forty-seven, the avant-garde filmmaker Warren Sonbert was the picture of robust health. Tall, curly hair kept trim, with a triangular mustache that extended from a strong nose, and warm, often ironically amused eyes, his lank, tanned physique toned from regular workouts at...

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Prodigal Son

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pp. 147-151

We thought it the funniest thing to phone up some fleabag hotel of the redlight district and attempt, in elevated language, to make a reservation. Or else we’d sit in his mother’s Cadillac and be a couple of stars driving from Fort Worth to New York to open in a Broadway show. While others were outside playing ball, Robby and I would lie around his house or mine listening to Sophie Tucker, last of the red-hot mamas...

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Chris DeBlasio

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pp. 152-167

Chris DeBlasio died of AIDS in 1993 at the age of thirty-four. His life had been busy, challenging, and intense. He was an ardent activist, a perfectionist who strove for excellence in everything he did, and a great pain in the neck if he felt that he, or you, were not giving one hundred percent to the task at hand. He may not have been the most difficult person...

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Remembrance of Things Past: Marc Lida’s Proust Watercolors

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pp. 168-181

“Art is long, life is short,” or so we are told. Art bestows immortality on the artist. But what if the artist never becomes famous and death comes before his or her art ever becomes known? Another cliché has it that works of art only become really valuable after their creator dies. Of course, it is the story of van Gogh’s troubled life, and the astronomical auction prices of his canvases, that fuel this myth. In truth...

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Trying to Find Words for Things Unspeakable

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pp. 182-194

David Wojnarowicz lived a bizarrely harsh life—most of it mean beyond easy comparison—and events of his past were both his motivation to create and his subject. He described what he lived and dreamed, recounting events of his external and internal life. He especially addressed sex and sexuality, finding it “necessary to define [his] sexuality in images, in photographs and drawings and movies in order...

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Bruce Kelly, Landscape Architect

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pp. 195-205

Not long after John Lennon died in December 1980, the New York City Council voted to create a memorial to him in Central Park and to name it “Strawberry Fields.” They chose a three-acre site just inside the West 72nd Street entrance, directly across the street from the Dakota apartment house where Lennon and Yoko Ono lived. In response to the city’s gesture, Yoko Ono announced she would contribute a million dollars toward...

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Fucked

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pp. 206-212

“What do you mean?” “You know, cornholing. The guy puts his thing in the other guy’s butt.” “Really?” As shocking as death, this. As absurd as that first rumor of procreative sex. Not right. Always knew I wanted to be with men, held and holding, caressing and lapping, nursing on their cocks. But this? Going the wrong way where all that shit has been? The first person who ever fucked me, or tried to, was my classmate at Boston University’s School of Fine and Applied Arts. If ever there was a fine and applied art, it’s fucking...

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Two Deaths, Two Lives

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pp. 213-239

With a flamboyance that still makes me wince, Paul Monette decided to die in public. I watched it unfold in a small Manhattan movie theater. A new documentary had opened, by filmmaker Monte Bramer. It was called Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer’s End. For several years before Paul’s death, Bramer and his crew had followed Paul through his daily routine and public appearances, lecture circuit, and travel abroad...

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Scott Burton

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pp. 240-244

Scott Burton streaked through our lives like a comet, a human phenomenon of such blazing intelligence and energy that, when he left a room, everything seemed to get dim as we returned to dull, familiar earth. Even if he hadn’t given the art world a legacy of masterful, three-dimensional public and private works that, against all odds, fused sculpture and furniture in what he referred to as “pragmatic sculptures...

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Robert Farber

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pp. 245-255

As I write this, I am flying to Europe to negotiate with local authorities for an exhibition of my friend Robert Farber’s paintings in a historic building in a city that received pilgrims during the time of plague. I will discuss his work with people who never knew him, who will not understand why he was important to me. Robert would have been astonished to think of his paintings moving around the world,...

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Homage to Joe

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pp. 256-269

In a photograph taken in 1980, Joe wears his shirt—as always—unbuttoned to expose a moderately hairy chest and a very flat stomach. His lips are parted in a sexy dumb way, but dark-framed glasses slightly nurdify the whole openshirted, open-mouthed look. Next to him—upside down—is another figure, identifiable only as a pair of high-top sneakers, blue jeans and T-shirted torso cropped at the nipple line. With one arm...

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The Art of Losing

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pp. 270-278

There is always the Mozart story out there: someone died young with a whole lifetime already achieved. Then there are the rest: those who slowly, over perhaps three score years and ten, built up bodies of work informed by experience. Beethoven? If he’d died in his thirties, there would for all intents and purposes be no Beethoven. Verdi? My father used to shake his head with wonder when he told me how...

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James Merrill

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pp. 279-285

James Merrill is widely considered the greatest poet of his generation. In work of wild imaginative force, employing an insouciant and unequaled technique, Merrill’s voice continues to awe, charm, and instructively reverberate. His poetry still contains the dewy force of a prodigy, alternating with the wisdom of some ancient courtier-sage. Merrill’s first poems appeared while he was still an undergraduate at Amherst. His lifetime’s work can now be seen as his age’s most spiritually attuned, its most urbane and candidly human. James Merrill was always...

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The Estate Project for Artists with AIDS

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pp. 286-290

There is a custom observed all over the South which is touching. When a hearse followed by a convoy of cars passes in the street, pedestrians stop. Men remove their hats and women hold themselves in silence until the cortege passes. Whites and Blacks equally observe this custom regardless of the race of the people who occupy the vehicles. I am reminded that there is a religious sect which believes that death levels all. There...

Subject Biographies

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pp. 291-298

Contributor Biographies

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pp. 299-305