Friday, May 23, 2014

Now that we are all assimilating Larry Kramer

The cultural whale is full, these
days, of notable bits of Larry Kra-
mer, Ahab of homophile New York be-
fore there was a whiff of HIV, and
ever since its default Father Map-
ple. This alimentary reconciliation
almost makes one sentimental for
Danton, Desmoulins, and St Juste, 
scions of the Panthéon and vision-
aries of Les Invalides. A first-
class crank, afloat in any status-
driven society, is selected from
his class to sit next to Alice
Longworth, so long as he sustains
his malice. Mr Kramer does no less.

If one hasn't anything nice to say
about anybody, it's shrewd to con-
fide this where saying anything of
the kind would sound monstrously
insensitive. And so it was, that
Mr Kramer was given an epidemic,
to leverage his contempt for ho-
mophile culture in Faggots into 
a much more gloriously universal
alarm in The Normal Heart. Like
Danton, Desmoulins and St Juste,
he was the beneficiary of a sys-
tem, compounded by unexpected
circumstances, which gave almost
infinite scope to febrile griev-
ance. This was to be expected.

      So, grabbing Nephew and a load of implements,
      he allowed the former to guide him and his lat-
      ter, recollecting from somewhere "and a little
      child shall lead them," hoping he'd soon be
      leading himself toward that more propitious spot
      in The Meat Rack where he was going to dig his 

Years before the news broke of the
Terror on that silent summer morning
in The New York Times, his own dark
vision undressed itself in satire.
We'll never know, if Kramer was
the necessary prophet that he is
now being hailed for being. Men
and boys deserve some of the cred-
it, surely, for their honest, cruel 
deaths, of which no measure will
ever be possible. He hardly mat-
ters; his tremors are behind us, 
and we are left with sharing his 
survival. It's more than we can 
claim to do with Danton, Desmou-
lins, and St Juste. But would they 
stand for it, Ishmael?

Larry Kramer
Random House, 1978©

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