FABER & FABER £10.99 (151pp) £10.99 (plus £2.25 p&p per order) from 0870 800 1122
Buenas Noches Buenos Aires by Gilbert Adair
Journal of the plague years
Friday 13 February 2004
Gideon, the young gay protagonist of Gilbert Adair's new novel, comes out in what Edmund White has described as the halcyon period of unabashed hedonism between the repression of the Fifties and Sixties and the ravages of the Eighties and Nineties. It is an era when, despite crabs, rashes, inflammations, hives and hepatitis, an appointment at the STD clinic holds no more terror than a trip to the dentist.
Gideon is determined to enjoy all the fruits of liberation, first in London, where a job at Foyles enables him to experience the tawdry pleasures of the city's newly emergent gay scene, and then in Paris, where he lands a post in the Berlitz language school, whose English department is predominantly staffed by gay men. Chatting with his four colleagues (the would-be novelist George; the hypochondriac and masochist Fereydoun; the sexual predator Mick; and the unattainably gorgeous Ralph), he discovers the camaraderie he has lacked. He listens rapt as they recount their sexual adventures and, too ashamed to admit to his own ineptitude, invents stories to gain their respect.
Then, shortly after the first intimation of a "gay cancer" in America (which Mick dismisses as no more probable than gay gallstones), the horror of Aids hits the group. While his friends attempt to deal with their diagnoses - and the disease which, in those days, followed swiftly - Gideon, who realises that his fantasies have been the safest form of sex, is left regretting his isolation and prepared to take extreme risks for the sake of solidarity.
Gideon's death wish sounds the only original note in an otherwise predictable novel. Adair adds little to the graphic accounts to be found in works such as Alan Hollinghurst's The Swimming Pool Library and Renaud Camus's Tricks. Edmund White himself has famously chronicled the transition from nightclubs to night sweats, and orgies to funerals.
The banality of the plot might be less serious if either the characterisation or prose showed more distinction. Gideon, however, is less a character than a neurosis with erudition. Adair's usual linguistic precision deserts him as he indulges in a succession of clumsy images, such as the man with a penis so large that "when it was fully erect, I could barely move around his tiny room".
In his opening paragraph, Gideon declares that "Everything you read in the next 150 pages is true. Absolutely everything and absolutely true. This is a true story." The over-emphasis strikes a warning note to those familiar with the games-playing in Adair's earlier, more successful novels. Nevertheless, artistic - not biographical - truth is the determinant of successful fiction. On that count, Buenas Noches Buenos Aires sadly fails.
Michael Arditti's stories, 'Good Clean Fun', are due from Maia Press in May
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Rashida Jones speaks out against male-centric porn saying 'women should have sex and feel good about it'
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
The secret joke hidden in Silence of the Lambs' most famous line
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures