Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival

Sullivan, Andrew

Published by Knopf, 1998
ISBN 10: 0679451196 / ISBN 13: 9780679451198
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Synopsis: "I intend to be among the first generation that survives this disease." That was former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan's first public statement about his HIV diagnosis. Speaking to heterosexual and homosexual audiences alike, this book is about the first steps in that journey of survival.

If Sullivan's acclaimed first book, Virtually Normal, was about politics, this long-awaited sequel is about life. In a memoir in the form of three essays, Sullivan asks hard questions about his own life and others'. Can the practice of friendship ever compensate for a life without love? Is sex at war or at peace with spirituality? Can faith endure the randomness of death? Is homosexuality genetic or environmental?

Love Undetectable, then, refers to many things: to a virus that, for many, has become "undetectable" in the bloodstream thanks to new drugs, and to the failed search for love and intimacy that helped spread it; to the love of God, which in times of plague seems particularly hard to find and understand; to a sexual orientation long pathologized and denied any status as an equal form of human love; and to the love between friends, a love ignored when it isn't demeaned, and obscured by the more useful imperatives of family and society.

In a work destined to be as controversial as his first book, Sullivan takes on religious authorities and gay activists; talks candidly about his own promiscuity and search for love; revisits Freud in the origins of homosexuality; and makes one of the more memorable modern cases for elevating the virtue of friendship over the satisfactions of love. Scholarly, impassioned, wide-ranging, and embattled, Love Undetectable is a book that is ultimately not about homosexuality or plague, but about humanity and mortality.

Review: In November of 1996, Andrew Sullivan wrote an article in the New York Times Magazine entitled "When Plagues End" in which he claimed that then-new treatments for the HIV retrovirus had signaled the end of AIDS. The article drew much criticism from activists and health professionals; in Love Undetectable, Sullivan--who is himself living with HIV--elaborates upon his argument, embellishing and embroidering it with nuance and context to make it at once more personal and universal. His thinking about AIDS leads him to a philosophical contemplation on the "causes" of homosexuality in which he discards all of the negative psychological theories, then rejects genetics as well. In the following essay on the nature of friendship and love, Sullivan finds his voice and true topic--using "friendship" as a lens through which he can wed his autobiographical musings and speculative theories on how we, as mortal humans struggling against time and the body, can make sense of the world.

Always provocative--the chapters on the plague will still rankle those who see AIDS as an ever-present and growing danger--Love Undetectable proves that Sullivan has a voice and a heart that can reach across the borders of experience and politics. --Michael Bronski

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Title: Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex,...
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Fine
Edition: First Edition

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