Stuart Klawans
April 16, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Martin and John

Current Status
In Season
Dale Peck
Farrar, Straus & Giroux

We gave it an A

How do you write a novel that describes the impact AIDS has had on you and still take into account all the other people who are suffering the consequences of the disease? Dale Peck has come up with his answer in Martin and John — a book that marks the debut of a remarkably accomplished young writer.

In this kaleidoscopic novel, separate stories come together to form a shifting picture of gay life in the time of AIDS. In each fragment, a character called John tells the story. In most, a character named Martin appears as the object of desire. Always there is the threat of death — especially death by AIDS. Always John is the survivor, while Martin is out of reach, or at risk. By the end, it might be possible to say that everything has resolved into mourning over Martin’s death — but that’s no resolution, and Peck refuses to make it into one. It might be truer to the book to say that it simultaneously reflects one man’s experience and the experiences of many men. A

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