Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir

ISBN: 0156005816
ISBN 13: 9780156005814
By: Paul Monette

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About this book

This "tender and lyrical" memoir (New York Times Book Review) remains one of the most compelling documents of the AIDS era-"searing, shattering, ultimately hope inspiring account of a great love story" (San Francisco Examiner). A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and the winner of the PEN Center West literary award.

Reader's Thoughts

Leslie Nord

A tragedy, beautifully written. Two gay men who have a great love for each other, who succumb to aids in the 80s - he helps you empathize with what it felt like, to be a gay man and lose your great love to a disease that is only being discovered and understood. The heroic efforts they take, as we all would take, to save the person who means the most to them. Amazing piece that captures that space in time - puts a human face on it. Also shows their families - how they grow to adore the one who loves their son. I read this because it showed up on a banned book list.


I liked this book. It really gave an intimate look into living with AIDS in the '80s.


this book was incredibly sad and powerful. Paul Monette is an incredible writer – he has a way with words and writes with such sensitivity and power. In Borrowed Time we read the story of a man who watches his partner die slowly from AIDS. All the while knowing that he himself has tested positive for the virus and his own days are numbered. The story captures what it was like to be gay man in the early 80s – watching so many of your friends and loved ones die and suffer. it also captured the frustration of being unable to find the right medications, since so many were caught up in clinical trials, and anguish of the lack of coverage of the disease. People were dying left and right in the world seem to be ignoring it. What a terrible time –It is devastating to think about.through the book, we realize the gay people are no different from straight people – they love their friends and family members and partners just as much. It's easy to put yourself into the story and imagine what it would be like to live through everything that Monette lives through Many times, the book brought tears to my eyes.


What a marvelous book this was in its day. I am sure that if one looked they could find a better one. He was so brave to let us all look at his life and illness. I have lost so many friends and this book helped me in so many ways to help adjust to all the death around me. I would recommend this book to anyone who has lost/losing a love one to this disease even if it isnt immenent.

Guillaume Bourgault

I had mixed feeling about this book. On the one hand, I was deeply moved by the love and tragedy. It made me aware of the early days of the epidemic, where all the drama of being outcasted was re-enacted in another variation. On the other hand, there is the melo-dramatic side, some sort of over-emphasis on the painful side. It has a bad effect on me because I have the tendency to be like that and it's something I want to move away from. Still, I'm happy I read it.


This book was worth every heart-breaking sentence. I realize that it could not have been even a fraction as difficult (emotionally) to read as it must have been for Monette to write. I can only thank him for doing so. -----------Select Quotes:Just fifteen months between Roger's beginning suramin treatment and me on ribavirin. Now we know that stride could have been made in '82 or '83 if the government hadn't been playing ostrich. Spilled milk, people tell me; you can't undo the past. But can't we measure the spill? (p. 119)A man ought to be free to find his reason. Not that freedom alone will serve it up: it requires the gods' own fury of luck to get two people to meet. But when it finally happens, two men in love can't rejoice out loud--joy of the very thing everyone burns for--without bracing for the rant of prophets, the schoolyard bully, and Rome's "intrinsic evil." I try to remember that we fight as a ragged people to outlast the calamity so that others can sleep as safe as my friend and I, like a raft in the tempest (p. 125) You prove you are still alive in the smallest gestures (p. 214)Loss teaches you very fast what cannot go without saying (p. 227)


I couldn’t believe this was the very first memoir about living with (and in this case, dying from) AIDS. It is also the definitive memoir on the subject. I truly believe this should be mandatory reading for high schoolers, as any sexuality is only implicit and the perspective is invaluable. Monette eloquently pinpoints the effects of homophobia on the out-of-control AIDS crisis in the 1980s, showing how ignoring the problem and pretending it is restricted to an underclass of society can damage every part of that society. This memoir is sophisticated yet unpretentious, tragic but not self-pitying. Simply put: incredible.


I bought this from a search I ran on for memiors concerning AIDS.Wow. The writing was poignant and full of raw truth. It was not over indulgent in the writing, which is so easy for a talented author to do in a memior. As one would expect, it was loaded with sadness, but there were so many instances of light moments and memories that balanced the emotional tone of the work. It didn't push away heterosexual readers or people who haven't faced AIDS head on. I know it's hokey, but I felt as if I knew Paul and Roger both, and I felt some grief knowing that one died when I was in middle school and the other when I was in kindergarten. And the memoir captured the fright of the early days of the AIDS pandemic. I never knew until I read this. The details rocked me. I remember thinking to myself on how I wouldn't be able to recall such details about my life or my husband's life for such a book. I admire Monette's ability to comb it all together so beautifully.I think people should read this book. It delves into what love, real love, is, and it taps into the tunnels of fear we all have on the subject of losing our partners. It makes me appreciate my life and all that is still possible in it. It makes me angry at those who called it a "gay cancer" and thought it was God taking out the trash. How could they think that about people? What I like most is all that this book has stirred up in me. I revel in the awareness it's given me. The author wrote other books, but I don't know if I will read them.


For so many, the AIDS crisis and epidemic has become a footnote in gay history. Thank God, folks are living mostly normal lives today. But what Monette's writing so eloquently reveals is the way the community fought, struggled and in the end – suffered.What was also so beautiful was that this was as much a story about the incredible love between Paul and Roger....In fact, that may have been – at the core – its most central message.


Paul Monette is furiously emotional. This book will induce tears throughout, especially at the book's close. Metaphor and simile are used without restraint and not always with justification. He seems in love with flourish. I found the story line (which can sometimes be frustratingly out of sync) to make up for the ornamented writing style. I had to relinquish the desire to recognize every friend and family member he mentions so that I could focus on the larger story, a story of grief, illness, and uncompromising love.

Holly Procida

I don't think it is too much of a spoiler to reveal that Paul Monette's life partner dies at the end of the story. I got interrupted during the last few pages and had to put down the book for a day or two. I felt like I was abandoning Roger at his moment of death. Alas, he was still hanging in there when I went back to read those last few pages. AND he actually died about 30 years ago. But the writing in this memoir kept me right in the moment. I am reading another treatise on death Mortality and the point of both is, all you really have is this moment. My health is totally fine for all concerns friends... I just go off into little themed tangents here and there. Many of Paul's points reminded me of feelings and events during the very end of my Grandmother's life. Writing about someone is the blessing of immortalizing them. Paul gave that nice gift to his partner.

Christopher Parsons

What a painful, heartbreaking, beautiful book. Monette's poetic description of his partner's death from AIDS is a life changing read. Once you've finished weeping, check out his book of poetry called "Love Alone: 18 Elegies for Rog" which will give you more perspective on their relationship.


When I first began reading this book, I though "oh God, is this memoir going to be this depressing the whole way through?" It was.. but it got increasingly better. I initially felt it was overly cerebral for an AIDS memoir (that sounds terrible..) and a tad over-dramatic, but it comes together gracefully, powerfully, and lovingly. I felt there was a certain level of self-martyrdom in Paul's account of Roger's illness, but became convinced it was a memoir written purely for the honor of Roger's memory when Monette ended the novel without addressing his own issues with the virus. I'd only recommend this to certain people. The ones who are compassionate and patient.


One of the best memoirs I've ever read. It seems to be an easy thing for memoirists to descend into either whining, boasting, or self-righteousness. Paul Monette avoids any of these traps, and simply tells the truth with devestating clarity. He does not spare himself; his human frailty is on full view here, but he shows how his love for his friend redeems him, and makes it possible for him to rise above their difficulties. Their personal story helps put the emergent AIDS crisis in perpective: Paul & Roger were educated, wealthy, & connected. How much more difficult would it have been had they been ignorant, poor, or isolated?


Perhaps the most poignant, soul-stirring, achingly beautiful piece of writing I have read. It is so humbling to realize that if I had been born twenty years earlier, I would probably have had to watch many friends and lovers pass away -- if, that is, I had survived myself. Monette's depiction of the ravages of HIV cuts straight to the soul. And more than a polemic account of the Reagan administration's criminal, abhorrent neglect (for that, of course, it would be hard if not impossible to outdo Randy Shilts), it is a compelling and heartbreakingly tender love story. Monette's partner and best friend, Roger Horwitz, had to suffer a most undignified end, but in this superbly crafted, loving eulogy, his memory is exalted and imbued with utmost dignity. It is truly remarkable how little Monette focuses on his own HIV diagnosis; his slowly but surely failing health is a mere afterthought when the love of his life is in danger. I am usually able to intellectualize what I am reading, to separate myself from the text and to pause when the going gets rough. With this book, I was paralyzed with dread and could not tear my eyes away, and during the last chapters I literally wept. This is a sobering portrait of the horrors of the disease, relegated to the back pages until it had reached pandemic proportions, and still allowed to run rampant by profit-driven pharmaceutical companies today. It is one of the most horrific scourges our species has faced. This book takes us away from the figures and statistics that are too big to comprehend, and shows us what happens to individual lives caught up in the tide of war against an invisible and insidious enemy. It is stunning, harrowing, by turns lyrical and unbearable, and absolutely unforgettable.

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