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Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

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This "tender and lyrical" memoir (New York Times Book Review) remains one of the most compelling documents of the AIDS era-"searing, shattering, ultimately hope inspiring account of a great love story" (San Francisco Examiner). A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and the winner of the PEN Center West literary award.


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This "tender and lyrical" memoir (New York Times Book Review) remains one of the most compelling documents of the AIDS era-"searing, shattering, ultimately hope inspiring account of a great love story" (San Francisco Examiner). A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and the winner of the PEN Center West literary award.

30 review for Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    LenaRibka

    "What am I going to do without him?" I asked in a hollow voice, and Cope replied immediately, with great force and conviction. "Write about him, Paul," he said. "That's what you have to do." It's a book about LIFE and LOVE, not about death, emotional lines full of overwhelming sadness and grief and painful lost and regret and beautiful lyric and heartbreaking tenderness and touching memories...and LOVE, REAL LOVE. ...we never talked about dying because we were fighting so hard to stay alive. "What am I going to do without him?" I asked in a hollow voice, and Cope replied immediately, with great force and conviction. "Write about him, Paul," he said. "That's what you have to do." It's a book about LIFE and LOVE, not about death, emotional lines full of overwhelming sadness and grief and painful lost and regret and beautiful lyric and heartbreaking tenderness and touching memories...and LOVE, REAL LOVE. ...we never talked about dying because we were fighting so hard to stay alive. Paul Monette and Roger Horwitz No Goodbyes by Paul Monette for hours at the end I kissed your temple stroked your hair and sniffed it it smelled so clean we'd washed it Saturday night when the fever broke as if there was always the perfect thing to do to be alive for years I'd breathe your hair when I came to bed late it was such pure you why I nuzzle your brush every morning because you're in there just like the dog the night we unpacked the hospital bag and he skipped and whimpered when Dad put on the red sweater Cover my bald spot will you you'd say and tilt your head like a parrot so I could fix you up always always till this one night when I was reduced to I love you little friend here I am my sweetest pea over and over spending all our endearments like stray coins at a border but wouldn't cry then no choked it because they all said hearing was the last to go the ear is like a wolf's till the very end straining to hear a whole forest and I wanted you loping off whatever you could still dream to the sound of me at 3 P.M. you were stable still our favorite word at 4 you took the turn WAIT WAIT I AM THE SENTRY HERE nothing passes as long as I'm where I am we go on death is a lonely hole two can leap it or else or else there is nothing this man is mine he's an ancient Greek like me I do all the negotiating while he does battle we are war and peace in a single bed we wear the same size shirt it can't it can't be yet not this just let me brush his hair it's only Tuesday there's chicken in the fridge from Sunday night he ate he slept oh why don't all these kisses rouse you I won't won't say it all I will say is goodnight patting a few last strands in place you're covered now my darling one last graze in the meadow of you and please let your final dream be a man not quite your size losing the whole world but still here combing combing singing your secret names till the night's gone

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ivan

    I don't know how this book didn't win every award the publishing world has to offer. Quite simply, this one volume is the most emotionally devastating work I've ever read. I've read about hate crimes, political assassination and Nazi persecution, but none touch this. Several times I had to set the book down because I was no longer able to read through great, racking sobs and eyes nearly swollen shut. I grieved. Paul Monette, author of the the award winning memoir "Becoming a Man: Half a Life I don't know how this book didn't win every award the publishing world has to offer. Quite simply, this one volume is the most emotionally devastating work I've ever read. I've read about hate crimes, political assassination and Nazi persecution, but none touch this. Several times I had to set the book down because I was no longer able to read through great, racking sobs and eyes nearly swollen shut. I grieved. Paul Monette, author of the the award winning memoir "Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story," died of AIDS not too long after losing his beloved companion Roger to the disease. That he was able to focus so much energy on chronicling the events of Roger's death in this memoir, was a mircle - and indeed this book is a miraclous gift. "Borrowed Time" is a story of pain, suffering, hope, strength and courage. However, and more importantly, it is a love story - the greatest I've ever read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ije the Devourer of Books

    People seem to think the 'war' against AIDS is over, done and dusted. But it isn't. We are not yet free. All these years after Paul and Roger passed away the battle is still being fought in different places and in different ways. The war that Paul Monette and Roger Horwitz fought is far from over and their story is a reminder that we shouldn't give up because we still have a long way to go. One of the things that challenges me about this story is the way in which it has become in part my story, my People seem to think the 'war' against AIDS is over, done and dusted. But it isn't. We are not yet free. All these years after Paul and Roger passed away the battle is still being fought in different places and in different ways. The war that Paul Monette and Roger Horwitz fought is far from over and their story is a reminder that we shouldn't give up because we still have a long way to go. One of the things that challenges me about this story is the way in which it has become in part my story, my life. A part of my life which is very painful for all kinds of reasons and yet also a part of my life in which there is hope. I was a young girl in the early days of the Aids pandemic when Roger and Paul were fighting the 'war'. I was stuck in a boarding school in the middle of nowhere in Africa. I went through University not hearing anything about Aids or HIV either. In fact it wasn't until the late 80's when I returned Europe that I began to hear about HIV and AIDS but it didn't loom large on my horizon even then because I had 'wars' of my own. I was caught up in a very difficult marriage, child birth and then divorce. It wasn't until the mid-nineties that HIV and Aids began to hit my radar and even then it was something distant, something that I didn't understand. I couldn't understand how the same disease was cutting down gay men in the global North and cutting down Africans in the global South especially African women, my beautiful, beautiful sisters who died in their millions, leaving millions of children behind. I couldn't yet join the dots and I had far too many difficulties in my own life to stop, to pause and to try to understand the bigger picture. But HIV and Aids was there, reaping havoc, destroying families, devastating lives. It wasn't until 2003 that I really began to understand and personally experience the devastation that is Aids. I did research into HIV services in London and I had the privilege of meeting many people living with HIV and the sterling organisations working for prevention, treatment and seeking to address HIV related stigma and discrimination. I was divorced, free and able to pause and finally able to listen to the lives of others and to hold my beautiful sisters and brothers and work alongside them. I was appalled to hear what people had gone through in the early days of the pandemic. I was appalled by the initial silence and condemnation of many churches. I was appalled by the complacency of certain Governments and the ignorance and myths that still abounded. I was appalled by the numbers of people who had died. I began to involve myself in the response and I opened my heart to my African sisters and gay brothers and I became a soldier just like Paul and Roger. Now years later responding to HIV and Aids is a major part of my life. I am grateful that I had a chance to put my own shoulder to the wheel and join the millions of people who are pushing against the injustice that lies at the heart of the HIV and Aids pandemic but there is a big part of me that regrets not being there at the beginning. There is a big part of me that still experiences pain when I read about the loss from the early years and the losses that still happen because it isn't over yet. This book is a testament to the early days of the Aids pandemic: the ignorance, the fear, the denial, the stigma and the suffering. It is easy to look back and lament over what should have been done but this book should serve as a reminder about what is still to be done. There is still ignorance in our world today about the HIV and AIDS pandemic. There is still fear, denial and now much more complacency. There is still injustice. Paul Monette and his beloved partner Roger Horwitz are gone along with 36 million others but 35 million are still alive and living with HIV, and the millions that are dead should spur us to keep alive the millions who are still with us. This book serves as a prophetic voice calling us to remember and not forget. Calling us to act in whatever way is possible for us and it has called me to keep acting and praying. Some of this story makes me angry. Paul and Roger were privileged and well-educated. They were able to access drug trials and push for treatment. They were able to spread the word and help others and in this way they contributed to the progress of the development of the treatment that keeps people alive today, but thirty years on we are still fighting the 'war' for access to treatment and so many people in countries with weak health systems are still dying. We still fight 'wars' about prevention strategies. We know how to prevent the transmission of HIV but utterly stupid debates about condoms and promiscuity have overshadowed the urgency of saving lives. Religious and political ideologies have become more important than saving lives and finding ways to help people who have limited choices and limited access to economic and health stability. We still fight 'wars' about stigma, discrimination and human rights as so many Governments criminalise HIV transmission and criminalise homosexuality. Imprisoning people and silencing them, eroding their human rights is simply waging war against the people not the virus. Blind and stupid leaders, rotten in their hatred and complacency they are paralysed by their ideologies and fail to hear the cries and struggles of the millions of people in need. Thirty something years on the 'war' that Paul and Roger fought continues along different perhaps more subtle and less visible battle lines. But along with sadness and pain and anger, as I read this story I am grateful. There is gratitude, gratitude that Roger and Paul were able to find love and create family with each other, gratitude that they had the love of their families and friends, gratitude that these two beautiful men were able to live their lives to the fullest despite the fact that Aids cut both of them down in such an untimely way. I am grateful that they did not die alone and that they were able to gain access to the limited treatments available at the time. I want to remember those many people who died and who were affected and the many still living with the virus. In this way I can enter into the frustration and the fear of the early days of the pandemic and I can use this to continue to work for a future hope. So this is my small response to this beautiful and yet challenging testimony. The author is no longer with us but his words remain and his story remains. It is a privilege to read his words. I am privileged to be able to hug and encourage the many positive people who are living and who are now my family and I am hugged and loved by them. They enrich my life today and the words of Paul Monette enrich my understanding of our journey and 'wars' together. His words awaken an ever deepening thirst in me for justice and a desire that everyone may have abundant life and not be excluded because they are positive, or gay or female or African. This is my dream and I hope the words from the battle front, the words from Paul Monette will continue to give me the energy and courage to dream and to write, to speak and to pray and to act.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    I loved anything Paul Monette wrote during his short lifetime, but Borrowed Time was so deeply personal, so painful, and so sadly mournful that I always come back to this one for a reread. As a nurse who cared for AIDS patients during the 80s and at the height of the experience,too many times I saw Paul's story in my patients and my friends. The chilling pages where Roger begins to become ill to the final pages of his death left me reminded of my own experiences with lost friends. Sadly, Paul I loved anything Paul Monette wrote during his short lifetime, but Borrowed Time was so deeply personal, so painful, and so sadly mournful that I always come back to this one for a reread. As a nurse who cared for AIDS patients during the 80s and at the height of the experience,too many times I saw Paul's story in my patients and my friends. The chilling pages where Roger begins to become ill to the final pages of his death left me reminded of my own experiences with lost friends. Sadly, Paul Monette's experience (and his own eventual death from HIV a few years later) are reflected in the experiences of millions of us. Imagine two infected men taking care of each other - both sick, both frightened, but both strong in their desire to live while they still could. Maybe you had to be old enough to have lived through the 80s and the early years of the epidemic to fully appreciate how frightening those years were. Monette wrote of the experience and his many losses with such simple dignity and such love that it brought tears to my eyes. There is a renewal of interest in what is now called "The Early Years" of AIDS and the death of a generation of innocent victims -- victims of the disease, of apathy, of political apathy and murder. Regardless of your own perceptions of the AIDS experience, this book is not to be missed if you want to know how it really was during a decade when there was no hope.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mel Bossa

    I'll never forget the two days I spent reading Paul and Roger's story. Life beautiful. Love, even more so. I cried a lot, but now I'm going to move on and try to celebrate the little victories. I wish I could have read this book in 1999, when my mother was dying of leukemia. The similarities between AIDS and Leukemia--at least the kind she had--are staggering. Some years leave a dent in the bark of your soul. 1999 was one of them. To love is to stand a chance of losing. I think of Paul Monette's I'll never forget the two days I spent reading Paul and Roger's story. Life beautiful. Love, even more so. I cried a lot, but now I'm going to move on and try to celebrate the little victories. I wish I could have read this book in 1999, when my mother was dying of leukemia. The similarities between AIDS and Leukemia--at least the kind she had--are staggering. Some years leave a dent in the bark of your soul. 1999 was one of them. To love is to stand a chance of losing. I think of Paul Monette's reference to A Christmas Carol, the movie, when Scrooge opens the window and yells out, "What day is it?" "Christmas!" a boy returns from the street. There's still time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    By far, the most memorable memoir that I've read this year, 2014. It's about being gay in the early 80's when AIDS awareness was just starting. It's like being helpless and clueless amidst a medical catastrophe. Especially if you are part of the marginalized group and in the 80's even in America, some people still thought that being gay was a disorder or a disease and that AIDS was God's punishment to them. I was in college during those years and being a medical technology student, we had to make By far, the most memorable memoir that I've read this year, 2014. It's about being gay in the early 80's when AIDS awareness was just starting. It's like being helpless and clueless amidst a medical catastrophe. Especially if you are part of the marginalized group and in the 80's even in America, some people still thought that being gay was a disorder or a disease and that AIDS was God's punishment to them. I was in college during those years and being a medical technology student, we had to make ourselves familiar with what was going on regarding that newly-discovered viral sickness that was said to come from monkey and seemed to have been targeting gay men. Of course, our laboratories here in Manila were not yet equipped to study it but our professors thought that some questions about it could come out in the national board exams so we researched everything we could get via published medical/laboratory studies. Paul Monette (1945-1995) is now dead from AIDS-related sickness. He wrote this book "Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir" in 1988 telling about his relationship with his lover Roger Horwitz who died of AIDS in 1985. At some point when the couple was in the hospital at the early part of their lives fighting AIDS, one of their doctors said to Monette: "You're a writer?" he (the doctor) asked with skeptical air, "Why don't you write about this. Nobody does." So, this book, this brave book, came about and it is disquieting. It put the much needed literary face to a disease that nobody wanted to hear or talked about then. For example at that time here in the Philippines, if somebody died mysteriously you would hear whispers that probably the person (especially unattached men) was gay and he died of AIDS and people would cower in fear to the extent of not going near his deathbed or even his sealed coffin. That was in the 80's when this book came out. Things have changed a lot now but still this book's message rings true: AIDS is a disease and we, regardless of our sexual preference, need to protect ourselves at all times. I always believe that married (or committed) people should practice monogamy as it is part of their vows made in God's presence. That's just about the best way to combat this disease. My heart wept for the couples in this book who had the right love at the wrong time. They were the intelligent gays: successful artists, writers, playwrights, businessmen, professionals. They are falling like good old soldiers one by one to AIDS. It's pitying. Total waste of precious lives. Gay love at the time of AIDS.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    Perhaps the most poignant, soul-stirring, achingly beautiful piece of writing I have read. It is so humbling to realize that if I had been born twenty years earlier, I would probably have had to watch many friends and lovers pass away -- if, that is, I had survived myself. Monette's depiction of the ravages of HIV cuts straight to the soul. And more than a polemic account of the Reagan administration's criminal, abhorrent neglect (for that, of course, it would be hard if not impossible to outdo Perhaps the most poignant, soul-stirring, achingly beautiful piece of writing I have read. It is so humbling to realize that if I had been born twenty years earlier, I would probably have had to watch many friends and lovers pass away -- if, that is, I had survived myself. Monette's depiction of the ravages of HIV cuts straight to the soul. And more than a polemic account of the Reagan administration's criminal, abhorrent neglect (for that, of course, it would be hard if not impossible to outdo Randy Shilts), it is a compelling and heartbreakingly tender love story. Monette's partner and best friend, Roger Horwitz, had to suffer a most undignified end, but in this superbly crafted, loving eulogy, his memory is exalted and imbued with utmost dignity. It is truly remarkable how little Monette focuses on his own HIV diagnosis; his slowly but surely failing health is a mere afterthought when the love of his life is in danger. I am usually able to intellectualize what I am reading, to separate myself from the text and to pause when the going gets rough. With this book, I was paralyzed with dread and could not tear my eyes away, and during the last chapters I literally wept. This is a sobering portrait of the horrors of the disease, relegated to the back pages until it had reached pandemic proportions, and still allowed to run rampant by profit-driven pharmaceutical companies today. It is one of the most horrific scourges our species has faced. This book takes us away from the figures and statistics that are too big to comprehend, and shows us what happens to individual lives caught up in the tide of war against an invisible and insidious enemy. It is stunning, harrowing, by turns lyrical and unbearable, and absolutely unforgettable.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Not a book for the faint of heart. This is a lyrical, heartbreaking and powerful look at one couple's battle and one half's eventual demise from AIDS as it was just coming into the national conscious. The amount of suffering and loss Paul and Roger experienced both personally and among friends and family during the early-mid 80s is astounding, especially when it's remembered that at the time, this was still a disease that was not acknowledged by the government. My office was heavily involved Not a book for the faint of heart. This is a lyrical, heartbreaking and powerful look at one couple's battle and one half's eventual demise from AIDS as it was just coming into the national conscious. The amount of suffering and loss Paul and Roger experienced both personally and among friends and family during the early-mid 80s is astounding, especially when it's remembered that at the time, this was still a disease that was not acknowledged by the government. My office was heavily involved with reporting of the first AIDS cases (though I was only a child when all this was happening), so it was interesting to read the stories presented in this memoir and relate them back to tales that I've heard from my co-workers from that time. Even though this is one man's account of the suffering, he did an excellent job of describing the dichotomy of terror and "head in the sand" mentality that could be seen in the gay community and eventually on the national stage. Be sure to have tissues handy, if not during the book, definitely at the end.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    One of the best memoirs I've ever read. It seems to be an easy thing for memoirists to descend into either whining, boasting, or self-righteousness. Paul Monette avoids any of these traps, and simply tells the truth with devestating clarity. He does not spare himself; his human frailty is on full view here, but he shows how his love for his friend redeems him, and makes it possible for him to rise above their difficulties. Their personal story helps put the emergent AIDS crisis in perpective: One of the best memoirs I've ever read. It seems to be an easy thing for memoirists to descend into either whining, boasting, or self-righteousness. Paul Monette avoids any of these traps, and simply tells the truth with devestating clarity. He does not spare himself; his human frailty is on full view here, but he shows how his love for his friend redeems him, and makes it possible for him to rise above their difficulties. Their personal story helps put the emergent AIDS crisis in perpective: Paul & Roger were educated, wealthy, & connected. How much more difficult would it have been had they been ignorant, poor, or isolated?

  10. 4 out of 5

    Katerina

    This is one of the most emotionally moving books I read. And it touches me on so many and very different levels. On the one hand there is the deep love between two partners, then there is the relationship with friends and relatives, later then you experience the awful suffering of a much beloved partner, what is predetermined and what must be endured. The question is, why to endure it. Could I stand it? The unbearable cruelty of helplessly watching the partner's torture. To know that you will This is one of the most emotionally moving books I read. And it touches me on so many and very different levels. On the one hand there is the deep love between two partners, then there is the relationship with friends and relatives, later then you experience the awful suffering of a much beloved partner, what is predetermined and what must be endured. The question is, why to endure it. Could I stand it? The unbearable cruelty of helplessly watching the partner's torture. To know that you will follow him in the same way. How is that to endure? Could I do that. Would I? Would I seek a way out to end all suffering? Or would I fight for every single minute that remains? And then is there the medical aspect at this time. So little was known. There was so little help to alleviate the suffering. Paul Monette made the final journey with his beloved partner. This book describes his and Roger's pain. First and foremost it is about the disease of AIDS. However, this biography is parallel to many other infaust prognoses. And reading about it somehow gives strength and takes the reader by the hand. It enhances perception and changes attitudes in dealing with serious, life-changing illnesses. “What am I going to do without him?” I asked in a hollow voice, and Cope replied immediately, with great force and conviction. “Write about him, Paul,” he said. “That’s what you have to do.” Roger Horwitz * 22. November 1941; † 22 October 1986 Paul Monette * 16. Oktober 1945; † 10. Februar 1995

  11. 4 out of 5

    David

    Whenever wed visited Madeleine in Paris she always took us the first night to her favorite restaurant du quartier, which no outsider could possibly know about. My HIV/AIDS season continues ... I must admit that I twice stopped reading this because Paul's somewhat ... as the quote above is intended to demonstrate ... well.... there's three eyerolls there, isn't there?: 1) "Whenever we'd visited Paris" 2) "restaurant du quartier" 3) "no outsider could possibly know about". Oh, fuck off. Let's break “Whenever we’d visited Madeleine in Paris she always took us the first night to her favorite restaurant du quartier, which no outsider could possibly know about.” My HIV/AIDS season continues ... I must admit that I twice stopped reading this because Paul's somewhat ... as the quote above is intended to demonstrate ... well.... there's three eyerolls there, isn't there?: 1) "Whenever we'd visited Paris" 2) "restaurant du quartier" 3) "no outsider could possibly know about". Oh, fuck off. Let's break this down. It's not that he's a bit pretentious. I'm a bit pretentious. But I have no cash and I like to pretend I believe it's "better old poor than new rich". Paul can be as artsy-fartsy and as pretentious as he likes ... but he's not really allowed to talk about having lots of money. And Paul can't help himself. He even tells us which class he flys! This is all very shallow of me. I'm not a very nice person. But it gets annoying. Poor people die of AIDS too! Bits: “‘If you don’t like AIDS get out of medicine, because this is where it is.’” “Those were the days when the Hollywood Hills were known as the Swish Alps.” “The shock of the sudden deaths is still disorientating, especially among the celebrated. It’s like they’re snatched out of a chorus line with a hook.” On the de-brief: “Whenever Cesar was down, we’d always say we couldn’t wait for the parties we gave to be over. At midnight Cesar would murmur about the guests who had settled in: ‘Don’t they understand we have to analyze all of this?’” “Now we know that stride could have been made in ‘82 or ‘83 if the government hadn’t been playing ostrich. Spilled milk, people tell me; you can’t undo the past. But can’t we measure the spill?” “‘Look, Rog, the worst that can happen is both of us will die,” “It’s common among gay friends now to say we’re all eighty years old, our friends dying off like Florida pensioners.” “‘The cure for metaphysical pain is physical pain.’” “‘Does it all go too fast?’ ‘You mean life? Just the summers.’” “The indifference of the press remained deafening; AIDS activists liked to talk about the occasion when the New York Times devoted front-page space to a disease that felled seventeen Lippizaner stallions in Europe, when no story about AIDS had ever appeared on page one.”

  12. 4 out of 5

    Skip

    For so many, the AIDS crisis and epidemic has become a footnote in gay history. Thank God, folks are living mostly normal lives today. But what Monette's writing so eloquently reveals is the way the community fought, struggled and in the end suffered. What was also so beautiful was that this was as much a story about the incredible love between Paul and Roger....In fact, that may have been at the core its most central message. For so many, the AIDS crisis and epidemic has become a footnote in gay history. Thank God, folks are living mostly normal lives today. But what Monette's writing so eloquently reveals is the way the community fought, struggled and in the end – suffered. What was also so beautiful was that this was as much a story about the incredible love between Paul and Roger....In fact, that may have been – at the core – its most central message.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Monkey

    This is a hard read. It's about a tough subject matter, and it's also now a book that is of a somewhat historical nature. I loved it and found it touching and it was enlightening in that it really gives an accurate and detailed portrayal of a gay relationship, the begining of the AIDS crisis and what it was like then to try and survive the disease. The author is now himself passed in 1995- it is amazing to have this account of one couple's fight at a time when social services were non-existant This is a hard read. It's about a tough subject matter, and it's also now a book that is of a somewhat historical nature. I loved it and found it touching and it was enlightening in that it really gives an accurate and detailed portrayal of a gay relationship, the begining of the AIDS crisis and what it was like then to try and survive the disease. The author is now himself passed in 1995- it is amazing to have this account of one couple's fight at a time when social services were non-existant and the stigma about HIV was perhaps at it's height. Still the couple is quite lucky to have two sets of surviving and enlightened parents and family and friends to rely on. i can't imagine the person, and there were are are many, who had no support system at at time like this. The writer also admits freely they were privileged to have connections to drugs and doctors and resources because of their friendships and their positions. Which again, makes it all more clear why even today we need to have social services available for those who are not that lucky. My only complaints about this book was the level of detail about things like what they were reading and the smart-snobery of the couple-but that is just a matter of my taste, and really also helps flesh out who they were- intellectuals, educated at harvard and yale, and living in a insular world they had created with intelligent and creative friends. Overall- if you are looking for a history of the epidemic told through memoir this is as good as it gets. The shock is not so much about what they endured for me, but what people living with HIV are still enduring over 20 years later.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Deeply sad and yet carrying a small spark of hope for the future, Borrowed Time is a harrowing, poetic story of AIDS and the effect it has not only physically, but mentally and socially as well. These days AIDS isn't really the huge scare it used to be (if you're an Eighties kid you might recall the AIDS epidemic and the frequent public service announcements about it), but this book isn't really about AIDS. It's about love and life and learning how to live with what life gives you, even if it's Deeply sad and yet carrying a small spark of hope for the future, Borrowed Time is a harrowing, poetic story of AIDS and the effect it has not only physically, but mentally and socially as well. These days AIDS isn't really the huge scare it used to be (if you're an Eighties kid you might recall the AIDS epidemic and the frequent public service announcements about it), but this book isn't really about AIDS. It's about love and life and learning how to live with what life gives you, even if it's devastating.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    One of the best memoirs I have ever read. I wept, openly wept like my heart was being ripped out of my chest -- as I read this. God, this man can write. He writes so beautifully and tells such a heartbreaking story -- you will weep at both the beauty of his words and the loss of his friend and love. Go read this book. Now.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Jane

    How can I not give this book 5 stars? This is probably the most well-written memoir I have ever encountered. It reads like the most painful of poems, and I was entranced and horrified and saddened all at the same time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    During a critique session, someone in my writing group asked me about my motivation for my novel-in-progress. Its set in the midst of the AIDS epidemic and is a young adult novel based on real-life experiences. Its a story that Im compelled to tell for several reasons. I thought about my answer for a minute before responding to my friend. I dont want this story to be forgotten, I said simply, adding that for my kids generation, the fear and the panic of AIDS not to mention the blatant During a critique session, someone in my writing group asked me about my motivation for my novel-in-progress. It’s set in the midst of the AIDS epidemic and is a young adult novel based on real-life experiences. It’s a story that I’m compelled to tell for several reasons. I thought about my answer for a minute before responding to my friend. “I don’t want this story to be forgotten,” I said simply, adding that for my kids’ generation, the fear and the panic of AIDS – not to mention the blatant indifference from the government – has become the stuff of ancient history. Borrowed Time brings it all back. Paul Monette’s memoir about caring for his partner Roger Horwitz during his fight with AIDS is, without a doubt, one of the most powerfully affecting memoirs I’ve ever read – about AIDS or otherwise. It doesn’t matter that this was published in 1988. This is timeless. Drawing heavily from Paul’s journals, Borrowed Time has a chronological feel to it, giving the reader the feeling of being in medias res during the nineteen months from Roger’s diagnosis in March 1985 to his death in October 1986. It’s unabashedly human and raw, as Paul spills emotions of anger and frustration, admitting what he doesn’t remember and portraying vividly what he does. Living with AIDS feels akin to living on the moon, Paul writes, and that metaphor – along with the symbolism of light and dark – shows up frequently in Borrowed Time. In 1985, that’s how it was; AIDS patients and those caring for them were very much on a different planet than the rest of society. The writing in Borrowed Time is spectacularly gorgeous. There’s not a single page where Paul Monette doesn’t leave a piece of his heart while taking part of his reader’s. “Hope had left us so unprepared. We had grown so grateful for little things. Out of nowhere you go from light to dark, from winning to losing, go to sleep murmuring thanks and wake to an endless siren. The honeymoon was over, that much was clear. Now we would learn to borrow time in earnest, day by day, making what brief stays we could against the downward spiral from which all our wasted brothers did not return.” (pg. 183) Borrowed Time is a lot of things. It’s a roller-coaster ride; one minute Roger is well and the next he is near death. It’s a testament to the bond of friendship, because not only do Paul and Roger have a support system of close friends, they also know the right people in 1985 to be able to access drugs like suramin and AZT and protocols that buy Roger extra time. Borrowed Time is maddening as hell, because of what we know now. (“It will be recorded that the dead in the first decade of the calamity died of our indifference.” (pg. 18). It’s about family. It’s about the very real emotions of being the primary caregiver for someone who is terminally ill. It gets at the unbearable burden of secrecy that was absolutely necessary to protect the people we loved. Above all, Borrowed Time is a story about what it means to truly love someone. It’s impossible to come away from this without realizing how very much in love Paul and Roger were, which is part of what gives this memoir its overwhelming sadness. Paul Monette died of AIDS in 1995, nine years after Roger’s passing. From a literary perspective, the mind reels at the loss of such an immensely talented writer as Paul Monette. It’s impossible not to think of what might have been if things had been different, in so many ways.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Smiley938

    I just could not connect with the author at all. I'm sorry for his loss and ultimately, his own untimely passing, but he did not come across as a likable person at all. He comes across as a very privileged person who only understands suffering because he's suffering. If he or his partner or his friends didn't get AIDS, it sounded like he would have been just as happy ignoring everyone else who got AIDS. In fact, he said somewhere (I skimmed because I couldn't finish reading) that once his I just could not connect with the author at all. I'm sorry for his loss and ultimately, his own untimely passing, but he did not come across as a likable person at all. He comes across as a very privileged person who only understands suffering because he's suffering. If he or his partner or his friends didn't get AIDS, it sounded like he would have been just as happy ignoring everyone else who got AIDS. In fact, he said somewhere (I skimmed because I couldn't finish reading) that once his partner got sick, he didn't care much about his friends who were also suffering. I mean... gosh. "That is something very important to understand about those on the moon of AIDS. Anything offered in comparison is a mockery to us. If hunger compares, or Hamburger Hill or the carnal dying of Calcutta, that is for us to say." -p83 Taking his personality out of the picture, I just didn't think the writing was even that good. I'm confused about why this book is so well-reviewed. I only made it to page ~85.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Addicted to Books

    5 heartbreakingly beautiful Poignant Stars. Paul Monette, your book will always stay with me forever. This is one of the most beautiful books I have read this year. A Very emotional and great reading experience. I teared up and cried numerous times. Rest In Peace Paul Monette. Your heart has been immortalized through your book. The pain of dying from a disease which was not understood much(back in the 80s), struggling with losing your passionate life and the man you love so much to that same 5 heartbreakingly beautiful Poignant Stars. Paul Monette, your book will always stay with me forever. This is one of the most beautiful books I have read this year. A Very emotional and great reading experience. I teared up and cried numerous times. Rest In Peace Paul Monette. Your heart has been immortalized through your book. The pain of dying from a disease which was not understood much(back in the 80s), struggling with losing your passionate life and the man you love so much to that same disease and facing all of it dignity and beauty and a whole lot more was discussed very piganantly oberserved and discussed very poignantly. This might be the greatest memoir written by a man losing someone he loves. I will be back with a review. Gonna let it all sink in!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    The single greatest memoir about love and loss EVER written. Greater than C.S. Lewis' "A Grief Observed," for example? Yes. I know, a strong statement, but if you know someone who can read this book and not be forever changed, well, as playwright Tony Kushner says about skeptical people who refuse to come to the theatrical experience with gullibility, "Run away from them. They're not good people." All of those so-called "Christian" fools who think that AIDS was a plague brought on my gay men's The single greatest memoir about love and loss EVER written. Greater than C.S. Lewis' "A Grief Observed," for example? Yes. I know, a strong statement, but if you know someone who can read this book and not be forever changed, well, as playwright Tony Kushner says about skeptical people who refuse to come to the theatrical experience with gullibility, "Run away from them. They're not good people." All of those so-called "Christian" fools who think that AIDS was a plague brought on my gay men's "sin" or who think gay and lesbian people are not worthy or equal in the eyes of God or in their ability to love should have to read this book. Shakespeare and Paul Monette - give me my desert island with those two.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bev

    What can I say about this book. Hmmmm! I liked it OK, but I wasn't in love with it. Borrowed Time is a first-person account of AIDS. Roger and the author, Paul Monette were lovers and Roger contracted AIDS. The story is about the 2 years that he suffered with AIDS before he died. It is basically a love story that is very detailed (and not necessarily richly), and tells a story about two gay men and the world they lived in in the 1980's. Sorry, but I couldn't finish this book - it was 342 pages What can I say about this book. Hmmmm! I liked it OK, but I wasn't in love with it. Borrowed Time is a first-person account of AIDS. Roger and the author, Paul Monette were lovers and Roger contracted AIDS. The story is about the 2 years that he suffered with AIDS before he died. It is basically a love story that is very detailed (and not necessarily richly), and tells a story about two gay men and the world they lived in in the 1980's. Sorry, but I couldn't finish this book - it was 342 pages of constant whining.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ron Popp

    If I rated this by simply how much I enjoyed it I would have rated it less stars. Its well written and at times poetic. However, as other reviews pointed out, the two lovers are incredibly affluent (and good for them) so it made it very hard to relate or even understand them at all. Id recommend Profiles in Courage: Tales from the AIDS epidemic or And The Band Played On for a more common man approach. If I rated this by simply how much I enjoyed it I would have rated it less stars. It’s well written and at times poetic. However, as other reviews pointed out, the two lovers are incredibly affluent (and good for them) so it made it very hard to relate or even understand them at all. I’d recommend “Profiles in Courage: Tales from the AIDS epidemic” or “And The Band Played On” for a more common man approach.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    Any gay man today who has any shred of honesty or happiness in their life today, owes it to themselves and those before them to read this book. We are extremely fortunate to be who we are WHEN we are - because if we had randomly been born 20 years prior, our lives as gay men would have been a terrifying, defeating nightmare. This book is hopeful, delicate, human. Filled with rage and with grace - it is an important reminder to me, in my life, how lucky I am.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    This book was amazing. Before I finished it I told a friend it was depressing. But I've just finished it now, 2 days after World AIDS Day 2007, I find it sad but also so very inspiring. It shows a love so deep in a time of utter crisis and chaos. Just beautiful. I will never forget the book or Paul & Rog.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Evan Pickett

    Borrowed Time begins with Paul Monette and his partner, Roger, reading about the impending AIDS crisis, and ends a few years later with the death of Roger. I expected this book to be a tragedy, with the major emotion being one of sadness. And it was sad, as it was the first book I've cried to. But the predominant emotion is one of dread. The magnitude of loss, and the sheer confusion and lack of knowledge, is terrifying. And Paul Monette's skill to express this eloquent; there's no other way to Borrowed Time begins with Paul Monette and his partner, Roger, reading about the impending AIDS crisis, and ends a few years later with the death of Roger. I expected this book to be a tragedy, with the major emotion being one of sadness. And it was sad, as it was the first book I've cried to. But the predominant emotion is one of dread. The magnitude of loss, and the sheer confusion and lack of knowledge, is terrifying. And Paul Monette's skill to express this eloquent; there's no other way to say it. The story of the AIDS crisis was one of euphamism, lies and the closet. As a gay kid growing up in the 90s, my exposure to AIDS began with the death of celebrities. A celebrity might announce their status once it became impossible to ignore, and shortly thereafter, we'd lose them. This was clearly the norm amongst gay men in the AIDS crisis. Having just come out of the closet post-Stonewall and the sexual revolution, men were crammed back in for fear of seclusion. This meant the story and progression of AIDS rarely made it out, even among friends of the afflicted. Infection was hidden, hospital visits were hidden, and the only public exposure was the funeral. Monette breaks this silence, and does so with such honesty that you are transformed to the dark days of the crisis. His love, anger and fear are so clear that the real story of AIDS is finally brought into the light. One of the biggest lessons of Borrowed Time, for me, was the ignorance. Five years after the first AIDS cases, and treatments were incredibly primitive. As a modern gay man, I regularly get tested for HIV antibodies. Modern treatment dictates you get in early, treat the virus and AIDS will never come. But of course, the antivirals were slow to develop, so this was seen an unneccessary step. Throughout most of the book, Monette does not know his status despite his partner dying of AIDS. He has yet to develop any symptoms, and whilst he has a T4 count on the lower edge of normal, he refuses to take the HIV test and get treatment. That's because treatment began with symptoms. Symptoms began with AIDS. By then it was too late. But here is where the AIDS story was very different to my expectations. As most people announced their status towards the end of their life, it felt like AIDS was a quick death: after the first symptoms, they quickly died of infection. And this was true in some cases, but most people survived multiple rounds of infection. Roger got through multiple outbreaks of pneumonia, a shingles outbreak, uncountable fevers, a herpes infection of the eyes that made him blind, and finally lost his battle with meningitis. A 19-month fight. The most unexpected twist of this fight was that the entire time, both Roger and Paul were optimistic that they would beat it. They rarely spoke of death, and their faith in medical breakthroughs far exceeded the progress science had made. Roger was one of the first people to take AZT, an effective anti-viral for HIV. But again, the ignorance of the disease was terrifying. Resistance was not considered, and because AZT had some dangerous side-effects, they were constantly taking him off the drug. A practice that drastically increases the chances of resistance. However, Borrowed Time is not just any memoir. It is beautiful. Monette has a style that really brings you into his life, and into his head. His love for Roger so clear and so strong. Early in the book, he describes his relationship with Roger. He says they're married, if not by law, but doesn't like the words husband, or partner, or lover. He uses friend. And whilst this sounds distant, or cold, he explains 'friend' so well, and so beautifully, that you can feel the love radiate whenever it's used. I couldn't recommend this book enough.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marci

    For those of us who grew up in this time period this gives a different perspective than what we heard at home. Other than the Ryan White after school special AIDS really wasn't talked about - especially if kids were around. We weren't told the very human stories of what it was like to be intimately involved - losing entire friend circles and lovers. This book is heart-wrenching but also speaks to the power of love.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    Even though I know now that the drug had turned on Roger, I still can't understand how we could have had no warning. Hope had left us so unprepared. We had grown so grateful for little things. Out of nowhere you go from light to dark, from winning to losing, go to sleep murmuring thanks and wake to an endless siren. The honeymoon was over, that much was clear. Now we would learn to borrow time in earnest, day by day, making what brief stays we could against the downward spiral from which all our Even though I know now that the drug had turned on Roger, I still can't understand how we could have had no warning. Hope had left us so unprepared. We had grown so grateful for little things. Out of nowhere you go from light to dark, from winning to losing, go to sleep murmuring thanks and wake to an endless siren. The honeymoon was over, that much was clear. Now we would learn to borrow time in earnest, day by day, making what brief stays we could against the downward spiral from which all our wasted brothers did not return. (183) As Paul Monette's partner of ten years, Roger Horwitz, declines in health from the AIDS virus, all of his friends tell him to do what no one else is doing in the early '80s: write about it. And so after Roger's death two years later, Monette begins the painful journey of remembrance, tracing the warning signs, treatments, and tragedies that marked Roger's final months. As with his other memoir, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, Monette writes about homosexual issues to bring them out of the closet (sorry, had to do it, ba dum chhhhh). Here, "God's Wrath" on America's sinners is instead treated as the tragedy that it was/is, and imbued with the sweetness of Monette and Roger's relationship. It's an incredibly brave move, especially considering the turmoil it caused for Monette: remembering Roger's first treatments that turned out to be only poisonous, the treatments that turned on him halfway through, Roger's blindness, and Monette's own burgeoning struggle with AIDS. I admire the man, and the couple, even more now for their honesty, bravery, and love. The problem here, and the only reason this book gets three stars, is a lingering cowardice. Brave as it is, Monette seems to go to great lengths to hide behind extraneous details, and so buries the emotions of his most tumultuous experiences. In Becoming a Man, Monette confesses to waxing poetic when he's uncomfortable, and it's plainly evidenced in Borrowed Time. He introduces too many friends and loved ones, popping in to show their concern and support for Roger. There are so many, that they seem to blur together into a veritable cyclone of homosexuals (Hurricane Cher, if you will), touching down in the memoir sporadically, and distracting me. In retrospect, I suppose this establishes a sense of community, this outpouring of support in a historical time of darkness. And yes, okay, Monette's celebrity connections are kinda fun, irrelevant as they are: lunch with Whoopi Goldberg to discuss a movie that never happened, talks with the cast and crew of Scarface over Monette's novelization, and a few eminent literary figures like Marjorie Perloff (totes cited her in essays before) make appearances. One other teensy-weensy point of contention: Monette refers to Roger as his "friend" throughout this book. Irritating. Even Monette's explanation, that Roger cannot be confined to the label of lover or the bourgeois labels of husband or partner, just seemed pretentious and counterintuitive. It felt at odds with his objectives, of honoring Roger, of exposing AIDS for what it is, and for bolstering homosexual love. I see your reason, Monette, but I disagree. Beyond my bitching and moaning, however, Monette's first memoir has proven to be just as moving as his later works, and leaves me excited to dive into his essays, Last Watch of the Night: Essays Too Personal and Otherwise. Buy this title from Powell's Books.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Samer Lawand

    The true story of human neglect due to ignorance and self indulgence in what does not impact us is truly sad. This is a story that had opened my eyes to the horrors caused by AIDS. The sad truth I think the horrors caused by those that ignored AIDS and tried to hide the truth are more severe than the devastation of the disease.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Celeste

    I bought this from a search I ran on Amazon.com for memiors concerning AIDS. Wow. The writing was poignant and full of raw truth. It was not over indulgent in the writing, which is so easy for a talented author to do in a memior. As one would expect, it was loaded with sadness, but there were so many instances of light moments and memories that balanced the emotional tone of the work. It didn't push away heterosexual readers or people who haven't faced AIDS head on. I know it's hokey, but I felt I bought this from a search I ran on Amazon.com for memiors concerning AIDS. Wow. The writing was poignant and full of raw truth. It was not over indulgent in the writing, which is so easy for a talented author to do in a memior. As one would expect, it was loaded with sadness, but there were so many instances of light moments and memories that balanced the emotional tone of the work. It didn't push away heterosexual readers or people who haven't faced AIDS head on. I know it's hokey, but I felt as if I knew Paul and Roger both, and I felt some grief knowing that one died when I was in middle school and the other when I was in kindergarten. And the memoir captured the fright of the early days of the AIDS pandemic. I never knew until I read this. The details rocked me. I remember thinking to myself on how I wouldn't be able to recall such details about my life or my husband's life for such a book. I admire Monette's ability to comb it all together so beautifully. I think people should read this book. It delves into what love, real love, is, and it taps into the tunnels of fear we all have on the subject of losing our partners. It makes me appreciate my life and all that is still possible in it. It makes me angry at those who called it a "gay cancer" and thought it was God taking out the trash. How could they think that about people? What I like most is all that this book has stirred up in me. I revel in the awareness it's given me. The author wrote other books, but I don't know if I will read them.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael Andersen-Andrade

    Borrowed Time was written almost 30 years ago, yet I've only just read it now. Thirty years ago I couldn't read a book like this. I was at Ground Zero of the Plague Years, San Francisco, and my coping mechanism at that time didn't allow me to read books about the Plague. I'm not proud of that fact, but we all have our ways of coping with acute danger and fear. Although I escaped the virus, at that time I still didn't know I was not personally at risk, and every small bruise or cough could Borrowed Time was written almost 30 years ago, yet I've only just read it now. Thirty years ago I couldn't read a book like this. I was at Ground Zero of the Plague Years, San Francisco, and my coping mechanism at that time didn't allow me to read books about the Plague. I'm not proud of that fact, but we all have our ways of coping with acute danger and fear. Although I escaped the virus, at that time I still didn't know I was not personally at risk, and every small bruise or cough could trigger a massive anxiety attack. Although I was a prolific reader, this was one subject I could only process in tiny bits, like a short article in the gay press, but an entire book? No. During the late 80's I was a Shanti volunteer who provided practical in-home support to several clients--all of whom died, of course--so I didn't completely hide my head in the sand, but reading about the Plague was a huge trigger and one I avoided in large doses to maintain my sanity during those horrific years. Paul Monette, on the other hand, was a profile in heroic courage. Both this book and his autobiography, "Becoming a Man", are brilliant. I'm grateful I survived the Plague Years, and that I'm mature and centered enough now to truly appreciate the heartbreaking beauty of this book.

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