… In his just released brilliant collection of poetry, biography and fiction The ninth satire, Melbourne writer Stephen J. Williams covers wider territory. He includes ‘First and Last Words’, excerpts from a journal written and tape-recorded by James during the last four months of his life in 1987. The irony of us reading his description of his failing vision is both powerful and moving. Williams follows this piece with ‘Uncle Stranger’, another editing of someone else’s work, this time the diary of a member of a care team providing services to a PLWA.
The expected story isn’t told because no one behaves as they should. The PLWA is a bisexual husband with a wife and kids. The whole family is pissed off and angry. The wife doesn’t like having gay carers in the house. The kids have nits and are “a mess”. The carers are over-worked, underappreciated and stressed out. Nothing is neatly resolved, even when the husband dies.
With these two pieces, Williams demonstrates that AIDS biography can be constructed in ways other than as an almost classical tragedy with pre-determined roles.
As the nineties plod on, our need to hear the bereaved significant other’s story is likely to diminish. It’s now familiar territory for too many of us. The challenge for those inscribing AIDS will be to tell tales of the living …
Gary Dunne, reviewing the current literature on AIDS