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What I Did Wrong by John Weir

What I Did Wrong

by John Weir

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John Weir's book, What I Did Wrong, tells the story of a single day in the life of an unattached college professor. Although the professor is gay, he is obsessed with the straight male students who take his class in New York City's Bronx neighborhood. He remains close with his best friend from high school, also a straight man, who offered him some protection during his youth. The professor accompanies his friend to a local bar to meet his first online date. While the two prepare for the date, the professor has a series of flashbacks about another close friend who died several years earlier from AIDS.

Throughout the novel the narrator tends to drop brand names along with references to current or hip music and film. It is possible to become more universal by becoming more specific, but a novel that does this risks becoming dated. One of my favorite movies has a character refer to the day Echo and the Bunnymen broke up. I was probably one of the few people in the audience who understood the reference back in the 1980's. How many people would get it now?

The book's narrative structure is problematic. The story of the friends death from AIDS is compelling, and how it haunts the narrator for years is interesting. So tell that story. The plot line about the straight friend's first online date did not add much to the novel. I did care enough about the characters to finish the book, and there is probably a set of readers out there who will identify with them and love them. Unfortunatley, I'm not a part of that set. ( )
  CBJames | Aug 13, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670034843, Hardcover)

The long-awaited second novel by the author of The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket

In 1989, John Weir’s debut novel, The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket, was one of the first novels to convey the horror of the AIDS epidemic and critics quickly recognized it as one of the truly outstanding works in that genre. Now, Weir follows up with another terrifically moving— and often disarmingly funny—book about loss, survival, and sexuality in the post-AIDS era.

Returning to a Manhattan haunted by the memory of all the young men who died in the late 1980s and early 90s, What I Did Wrong has at its heart a protagonist for whom that loss is still all too palpable. Tom, a forty-two-year-old English professor, watched his best friend die years earlier and now finds himself sliding into middle age while questioning everything he thought he knew about his "gay identity." His Queens College classes are filled with borough boys displaying their own bravado along with their confused masculinity. As Tom balances their friendship with the occasional displaced erotic overtones, he finds an unexpected common ground with these proud young men and, surprisingly, claims his place in the world and in history. What I Did Wrong is a dazzling work juxtaposing low comedy and heartfelt tragedy with astonishing finesse, a book worthy of John Weir’s return to fiction that will be warmly welcomed by critics and readers alike.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:47 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"What I Did Wrong is a book about loss, character, and sexuality in the post-AIDS era, a survivor's tale in an age when all the certainties have lost their logic and force." "Set in a New York determined to move beyond the decimation of a generation a decade earlier, What I Did Wrong has as its protagonist a man for whom memories of that time are still all too palpable. Tom, a forty-two-year-old English professor, watched his best friend, Zack, die a terrible, raging death, and finds himself haunted by it as he himself slouches gingerly and precariously into middle age, questioning every certainty he had about his identity as a gay man. That "gender trouble" is played out on the field of his college classes, populated with testosterone-fortified street-wise guys from Queens whose cocky bravado can't quite compensate for their own confused masculinity. Hardly immune to the occasional unnervingly romantic jolt from his students, Tom tries to balance his awkwardly developing friendships with them. In the process, he begins to find common ground with these proud young men and, surprisingly, a way to claim his own place in the world, and in history."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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