Spontaneous Combustion | EW.com

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Spontaneous Combustion Over 200,000 Americans, half of them gay men, have died from AIDS or are living with it. David Feinberg's prizewinning first novel, Eighty...Spontaneous CombustionNonfiction, Gay and Lesbian Over 200,000 Americans, half of them gay men, have died from AIDS or are living with it. David Feinberg's prizewinning first novel, Eighty...1992-01-31Viking
B+

Spontaneous Combustion

Genre: Nonfiction, Gay and Lesbian; Author: David B. Feinberg; Publisher: Viking

Over 200,000 Americans, half of them gay men, have died from AIDS or are living with it. David Feinberg’s prizewinning first novel, Eighty-Sixed, came straight from the heart — and the fresh mouth — of a subculture under siege. His hero, B.J. Rosenthal, was a young Jewish gay looking for sex, love, and solace south of 14th Street in the heady years before — and the panicked years after-the discovery of HIV. B.J.’s manic misadventures and sardonic one-liners launched a new genre: epidemic shtick.

In Spontaneous Combustion, five years and many deaths later, B.J. is still wisecracking, and still immune to phony sentiment and cant. This loose-knit group of stories reads like a survivor’s manual: Taking the HIV test, telling your mom, hospital visits, safe sex, strained ties between positives and negatives-all get the black-comic treatment. What do you say to a prospective date who tell you he’s HIV-positive? ”I guess that means I should pencil you in for this weekend instead of next.” The tragedy is mostly between the lines: Feinberg writes to comfort friends in dire need. But the message — that the gay community has met disaster with wit and resourcefulness — deserves the widest possible audience. B+