Picks and Pans Review: Sex Death Enlightenment
Can a man who has been put through the wringer by life—childhood abuse, the death of his closest friends and, finally, HIV infection—actually write a memoir free of self-pity? Mark Matousek, a former senior editor at Interview magazine, has done it. Even more remarkably, he has written a book about New Age fulfillment without once sounding flaky. Of course, his book still requires some suspension of disbelief. Skeptics won't believe, for instance, that Indian mystics like the one whom Matousek found in Germany can truly identify the path to wisdom and self-knowledge. But even if you don't buy this book's spiritual conclusions, you'll find it hard not to admire a man so determined to find deeper meaning in a difficult life.
Matousek began his search after a vacation in Jamaica in 1986. There, at the beach, he spotted on the sole of his best friend's foot a purple lesion the size of a dime. At that moment, he knew his friend was going to die, and he suspected that he too, as a gay man who had lived a less than circumspect life, would eventually succumb to AIDS. He also realized that what he was most afraid of was dying in his current state: cynical, soulless and without belief in God.
The ensuing years are described in detail—with many painful and personal particulars but in prose that sings. At the book's close, at the guru's home in Germany, Matousek comes to a realization of life's wonders in a scene that will leave no reader unmoved. (Riverhead, $22.95)