Review of How To Survive a Plague by David France
History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind -- Edward Gibbon
Don't read it over the holidays. It's too grim -- Former ACT UP member when I said I was going to read the book over the holidays
And yeah, it is grim. In fact, it is more than a whole thesaurus-entry full of words synonymous with grim. Everyone dies, basically. Needlessly, both in hindsight and also in actual at-the-time fact. It's almost like bearing witness, reading this book. I lost track of who some of the people were, but that hardly mattered. This document exists now, but it's hard to say what to do with it. It won't bring anyone back. It isn't to offer absolution. Just witness. Like a writing down of an oral history.
France weaves his own story of a gay man in 1970s/80s/90s New York throughout. It's done deftly, unlike me writing this paragraph, his insertions. Obviously, he didn't die, as all the others around him did.
Then it ends. With protease inhibitors abruptly. It feels like being dragged through trials of Greek-mythic proportions and then stop. The lack of resolution stings, but not as much as all the senseless deaths.
How to Survive a Plague by David France went on sale November 29, 2016.
I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.