AIDS is now an unavoidable part of the gay male writer’s mental landscape and the world he knows. Unavoidable because any attempt he may make to avoid it draws attention to his need to do so, and hence to the enduring stubborn fact of its existence. In short, AIDS in contemporary gay male writing becomes conspicuous by its absence. But if the early years of the epidemic were dominated by the fearful, paranoid, apocalyptic response to the crisis, the longevity of the disease and the advances in medical understanding and treatment of it have permitted a more measured approach. The problem here, though, is that this approach may lead in turn to a view of AIDS at an opposite extreme from paranoia, a view that could be termed “denial.” According to this view, which places the epidemic within a long historical perspective, AIDS is an “irrelevance,” to quote Adam Mars-Jones-an irrelevance (and the tone here makes its own deft point) “even to those whose lives it threatens” (Monopolies 2). In Mars-Jones’s judgement, these extreme positions distort our view of AIDS, since “[the] present reality of the epidemic must lie somewhere in

the middle,” and thus what is needed to fi nd a “truer picture” is writing that addresses the subject without recourse to either (1). In other words, if I interpret him correctly, we need writing that is both suffi ciently involved to be able to bear witness to the impact of AIDS on the lives of individuals, and yet suffi ciently removed to be able to view the epidemic with some degree of contemplative detachment.