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
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Man to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia after ripping up a Koran and hitting it with his shoe
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 5 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
Skrillex and Diplo's 24-hour DJ set shut down by police after 18 hours
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl: First look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Drake matches The Beatles' record with 14 singles in top 100 chart at the same time
Aidan Turner interview: 'being a sex symbol is a little awkward'
Oscars 2015: Get a sneak peek inside this year's outrageous $125,000 goodie bags
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'