Close to the Knives


By Emily Drabinski

Before big pharma's marketing of multidrug cocktails plastered cheerful HIV-positive models on billboards and at bus stops, there was David Wojnarowicz, a raw and wrenching voice from the burning belly of the AIDS beast. His essays, eight of which are collected here, testify to the rage of dying in a culture that refused to recognize, much less save, the lives of gay men. 'I needed to be shook,' he wrote of hustling in Times Square at 15, and his Beat-inflected prose still does the same to us. Wojnarowicz paid urgent attention to the complicated pleasures and dangers of the flesh -- the violent, transitory nature of bathhouse sex, the way an arm turns green and black after too much heroin, Kaposi's sarcoma on the body of a lover. Close to the Knives reminds us that an insistence on living our queer lives is its own kind of beautiful resistance.