In advance of the HBO release of "The Normal Heart", Frank Bruni writes about Larry Kramer in today's New York Times.
[Eleven] days ago, The New Yorker’s Daily Comment blog published an essay by Michael Specter titled “What Young Gay Men Don’t Know About Aids,” in which Specter points to the increase of “unprotected anal intercourse among gay men,” claims that “the rates of HIV infection will surely follow,” and then identifies the cause of this shift as the ignorance of my generation, who weren’t around to see the AIDS epidemic for themselves. The piece is a call to arms of sort, stating the need for increased public funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, and concludes by quoting Larry Kramer’s famous 1983 warning, “1,112 and Counting.” It’s a familiar argument—one that, in my lifetime, I have heard repeated ad nauseam and, I fear, largely misses what AIDS means to me and many other young gay men.
It begins: “Thank you for coming to see our play. Please know that everything in ‘The Normal Heart’ happened. There were and are real people who lived and spoke and died, and are presented here as best I could.” The letter goes on to name some of the people on whom he based his characters (the central figure, Ned Weeks, is based on himself) and describe what became of them. [more inside]
"Anyone who was around New York City in the late 1980s and early '90s couldn't have missed the work of the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, better known as ACT UP. Its group's activism reached a fever pitch during the early '90s, when the iconic black 'Silence=Death' posters and t-shirts seemed ubiquitous downtown and served as somewhat more defiant symbols for the Gay community than the rainbow flags that took over to serve that role slightly later. ... So what were we to think as we wandered through Barneys Co-op in Chelsea yesterday when we spied a whole shelf full of T-shirts featuring ACT UP's famous imagery [priced each at $50 ... 'a portion of that price tag will go to the activist group'] as if they were magically transported there from 20 years ago?" [more inside]
From a simple insight, it has grown to some 4,000 pages. ... Whatever it is (he grudgingly calls it a novel, for legal reasons), [Larry Kramer] believes it to be an entirely true work. Certainly it’s epic. From primordial Florida swamps to the homophilic colony at Jamestown to Lincoln’s male love and the “holocaust” of AIDS, he reframes the country as a gay creation, culminating with the advent of modern antiviral drugs: “the single greatest achievement that gay people have accomplished in history.” (previously)