A writer recalls his search for love and community in Provincetown, Mass., during the AIDS epidemic in this melodramatic memoir. Fiction writer and memoirist Lisicky (The Narrow Door) spent several years in the early 1990s in Provincetown, a Cape Cod resort, artist’s colony, and gay mecca, doing a writing fellowship and trying to sort out his late-20s life. He found the town an exhilarating haven, where he could finally live his homosexuality loud and proud—“Hey, do you want to get high and have sex?” inquired one random guy on the street shortly after he arrived—but also a death-haunted place where recently healthy acquaintances faded from AIDS before his eyes. Lisicky finds affecting moments of pathos in the declining health and deaths of friends (“The churches in Town turn their backs on the sick in Town, but that is not why I turned my back on God”). Unfortunately, much of the book’s endlessly complex and neurotic rumination is lavished on trivial matters: casual hookups in the dunes; longer-term relationships, riddled with small insecurities and betrayals, that feel paper-thin; and simple mishaps (“It feels like the toppling is connected to some secret instinct in myself that is driven to ruin,” he frets when a fake oversized ice-cream cone he is wearing in a parade falls off his head). The result is a callow and uninvolving coming-of-age narrative. (Mar.)
Later: My Life at the Edge of the World intimately and extensively recounts the time [Lisicky] spent [in Provincetown] in the early 1990s, growing into his own, sexually and emotionally, in a community grappling with the AIDS epidemic.”The New York Times
“This memoir is much like [Lisicky’s] Provincetown, exulting in tenderness and lust, lit with flashes of poignant spectacle, even the majesticthe way a drag queen at night can become, in sequins under a spotlight, full of the fire and beauty we associate with goddesses, before descending back to the realm of the human.”The Los Angeles Times
“Part Lonely Planet guide, part ghost story, Paul Lisicky’s latest memoir may well cement his status as queer king of the genre. Encompassing the author’s time in Provincetown in the early 1990s, Later charts Lisicky’s journey of coming out and coming of age amid the backdrop of a gay idyll still reeling from the AIDS crisis.”Harper’s Bazaar
“[A] coastal elegy . . . ravishing in its precision and restraint. . . . What’s affecting here is Lisicky’s preservation of a multitude of subtle, ambivalent feelings, of small kindnesses and cruelties. Nothing is simplified in a bid for universal resonance, and the text is richer for that.”Harper’s
“Later takes us on a heart-wrenching journey. . . . Lisicky masterfully situates himself within [a queer history of the 80s and 90s], giving his readers a unique glimpse into his fear of getting tested, the Provincetown-specific frailty of human relationships in the face of contagion, and how death looms as would a shadow in the daily life of a meandering writer. . . . [Lisicky] seduces us, breaks our heart, and helps us put it back together.”Los Angeles Review of Books
“Delving into the dichotomy of utopia and dystopia; into bodies, love, community, and queer life; Lisicky brings his signature attentive and sumptuous prose to yet another tender, vital work of literature.”Literary Hub
“A sobering sense of impermanence permeates the pages of Later, which acts as a ruminative guide to an exhilarating queer utopia, one reeling from the impact of a dystopian age.”them.
“Lisicky invites his reader into this delicate, brutal, and moving psychoanalytical terrain. . . . He seduces us, breaks our heart, and helps us put it back together.”Los Angeles Review of Books
“With deep sensitivity, love, and gravity, Lisicky finds connections both haunting and liberating in this tender and energetic book.”New York Observer
“[Lisicky’s] prose is beautiful but never overwrought, and almost aphoristic at times. . . . This heartfelt memoir will appeal to literary readers and certainly those with ties to Provincetown and its gay community.”Library Journal
“This is such a sexy, funny, sad book. . . . Paul Lisicky’s energized and deeply frank prose makes living (as he shows it) feel like a bit of a miracle.”Eileen Myles
“With searing, sexy candor and heartrending tenderness, Paul Lisicky chronicles the grace of finding, after a youth of displacement, a haven where he wholeheartedly belongs; and chronicles too the grief of seeing that haven devastated by AIDS.”Garth Greenwell
“Lisicky returns us to the art-making and joy; the dancing in and through sorrow; the sex; and the potential, both squandered and realized, of finding oneself at the end of the world.”Justin Torres
“Later is a vital, dazzling memoir. . . . This story challenges and illuminatesand, as only the best books do, leaves the reader fundamentally transformed.”Rebecca Makkai
Lisicky, known for his lyrical writing, has published several novels (Unbuilt Projects; The Burning House) and memoirs (The Narrow Door; Famous Builder). This latest work offers poetic recollections about his life in Provincetown, MA, located on the northern tip of Cape Cod. Lisicky's love letter to "Ptown" explains how the location became a haven and a heaven for many gay men. He evokes his literary friendships, notably that of Elizabeth McCracken, the great contemporary fiction writer, and limns the atmosphere of Provincetown when he arrived in the early 1990s. There are chapters detailing his coming-of-age as a writer and the various love affairs he's had throughout the years. Lisicky also waxes philosophical about an array of topics: death, family, and aging among them, much set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis. His prose is beautiful but never overwrought, and almost aphoristic at times. VERDICT This heartfelt memoir will appeal to literary readers, and certainly those with ties to Provincetown and its gay community.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia
Lisicky (MFA Program/Rutgers Univ.-Camden), 60, returns to his early days as a young, gay man, which he previously wrote about in The Narrow Door (2016, etc.).
Throughout the author's memoir, the focus is Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the early 1990s, when the author was awarded a residency fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center and was looking forward to escaping dark and dispiriting times at home. It was October as he drove over the hill to view the small town nestled in the "curved coast of the harbor, shining." Town, as he calls it, and his small room were his new home: "There's no other place I'd rather be." At the time, writes Lisicky, he felt he had been "dead too long," and he was anxious to visit the catwalk that is Commercial Street. The first night, he picked up a tall, blond guy, and they had sex. Lisicky writes a great deal about sex in this memoir. "Sex for me is as essential as food," he explains. This was the time of the AIDS epidemic, and the author cites a series of statistics that are still shocking nearly three decades later. In 1991, 20,454 people in the U.S. died of AIDS. By the mid-1990s, notes the author, 10% of Town's gay population died. Written in short, titled sections, the memoir is brutally honest as Lisicky chronicles his search for companionship and love amid sadness, illness, and death. The next few years were a sexual roundelay as the author moved from lover to lover, with assorted affairs along the way. With each new issue of the Town's Advocate, he turned to the obituaries: "Oh—that guy!...When he looked at me last week I looked back at him, and we were both citizens of Town." Some readers may wish for more about literature and writing, but that is not the author's focus here. Lisicky does a fine job capturing the emotional ambience of a special place consumed by both joy and fear.
A candid, scorching memoir that emits tenderness and sweet sorrow.