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The Nearness of Others

Searching for Tact and Contact in the Age of HIV

2014
Author:

David Caron

The Nearness of Others

An intimate look at the experience, meanings, and politics of HIV disclosure

In this radical, genre-bending narrative, David Caron tells the story of his 2006 HIV diagnosis and its aftermath. The Nearness of Others examines popular culture, politics, literary memoirs, and film to ask deeper philosophical questions about our relationships with others, demonstrating a form of disclosure, sharing, and contact that stand against the forces that work to separate us.

In this extraordinary work of personal and social exploration, David Caron devises a new literary form that enables him to touch the reader with his HIV-positivity as well as a new ethics that explains why that touch is both necessary and desirable. Learned, witty, provocative, moving, edifying, and brilliantly written in a simple, conversational style, The Nearness of Others demonstrates the intellectual advantages of being HIV-positive, which emerges from these pages less as a medical condition than as an epistemic one, a position from which it is possible to know the world and to make us see it differently. This is no longer cultural analysis of HIV, but cultural analysis by HIV. A significant breakthrough.

David Halperin, author of How to Be Gay

“Funny how a gay man’s hand resting heavily on your shoulder used to say let’s fuck but now means let’s not. Funny how ostensible nearness really betrays distance sometimes.” —from The Nearness of Others

In this radical, genre-bending narrative, David Caron tells the story of his 2006 HIV diagnosis and its aftermath. On one level, The Nearness of Others is a personal account of his struggle as a gay, HIV-positive man with the constant issue of if, how, and when to disclose his status. But searching for various forms of contact eventually leads to a profound reassessment of tact as a way to live and a way to think, with our bodies and with the bodies of others.

In a series of brief, compulsively readable sections that are by turns moving and witty, Caron recounts his wary yet curious exploration of an unfamiliar medical universe at once hostile and protective as he embarks on a new life of treatment without end. He describes what it is like to live with a disease that is no longer a death sentence but continues to terrify many people as if it were. In particular, living with HIV provides an unexpected opportunity to reflect on an age of terror and war, when fear and suspicion have become the order of the day. Most of all, Caron reminds us that disclosing HIV-positive status is still far from easy, least of all in one of the many states—such as his own—that have criminalized nondisclosure and/or exposure.

Going well beyond Caron’s personal experience, The Nearness of Others examines popular culture and politics as well as literary memoirs and film to ask deeper philosophical questions about our relationships with others. Ultimately, Caron eloquently demonstrates a form of disclosure, sharing, and contact that stands against the forces working to separate us.

The Nearness of Others

David Caron is professor of French and women’s studies at the University of Michigan. He is the author of AIDS in French Culture: Social Ills, Literary Cures and My Father and I: The Marais and the Queerness of Community.

The Nearness of Others

In this extraordinary work of personal and social exploration, David Caron devises a new literary form that enables him to touch the reader with his HIV-positivity as well as a new ethics that explains why that touch is both necessary and desirable. Learned, witty, provocative, moving, edifying, and brilliantly written in a simple, conversational style, The Nearness of Others demonstrates the intellectual advantages of being HIV-positive, which emerges from these pages less as a medical condition than as an epistemic one, a position from which it is possible to know the world and to make us see it differently. This is no longer cultural analysis of HIV, but cultural analysis by HIV. A significant breakthrough.

David Halperin, author of How to Be Gay

Caron’s powerful and painful reflection on being HIV-positive in a postepidemic era is wrapped within layers of philosophical discourse, political reflections on Muslims becoming the social pariahs that people with AIDS once were, academic analysis of pertinent films and literature, and nostalgia for more permissive, more connected moments in gay culture.

Library Journal

The Nearness of Others

Contents

Diagnosis
I Got Slim
Footnotes
RB on TB
All AIDS, All the Time!
It Is Tempting to Forget
Nights You Can’t Sleep
Depression Is Crazy
Depression and Life
Depression and Metaphor
Passing
Depression and Incongruity
Depressed Thinking
Making Sense
Political Discomfort
Thinking of Bleeding
Kids Say the Darndest Things
Negative Logic and a Positive Point of View
“How Can Plain Curiosity Be Unkind?”
Towel Stories (I)
Diabetes? Cholesterol? Something Else?
The AIDS Crisis Is Not Over
Speaking of HIV
Old Friends, New Friends
Famous Last Words
Tough as Nail Polish
No Therapy
Unspoken Knowledge
From Hervé Guibert’s Hospital Diary (I)
Hospital Visits
From Hervé Guibert’s Hospital Diary (II)
Star Entrance
Star Exit
The Dream Sequence
I Died a Thousand Deaths (All of Them Gorgeous)

Others
The New World
Three Thousand Deaths in One Day
Waiting
Nearness and Neighborliness
Beckoning and Appealing
Incomplete Strangers
Ground Zero
“I’m Going to Die, Aren’t I?”
Happy Hour at the Cox
Naked Arab Bodies
S-21
Shaming the Torturers
The Modernity of Torture
The E.R. Episode
Truth and Torture
Dining with French People
Encountering the Strange
Times Square Lost
In the City and Out
From Public Schools to Public Pools
Particular Bodies
The Falling Man
Towel Stories (II)
One Drop of Blood

Disclosure
Shame and Experience
The Doorstep of Shame
Forget Your Health
Disclosures and Surfaces
Obama’s Disclosures, Forever Deferred
Chat (I)
Chat (II)
Adventures in Online Cruising
On the Question of Barebacking, Very Briefly
Coda to the Story of K***
Touchiness
Reason to Exclude
The Stories of AIDS
Academic Talk
A Brief History of HIV/AIDS Disclosure
Founding Mothers
Look Back in Anger (When AIDS Was All the Rage)
Uttering AIDS
Where’s the Police When You Need ’Em?
What I Said and How I Said It
The Purloined Letter
So Am I
Small Talk
I Know, It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll, But . . .
Compatible Discordance
The Battlefield of the Body
Dysclosure
Towel Stories (III)

Taste
Intimacy in Public
Accounting for Taste
Reembodiment and Discomfort
Reentering the Movie Theater
Moving in Queer Circles
Spaces, People, and Actions (I)
The Return of Tosca (Entr’acte)
Spaces, People, and Actions (II)
Again, Where’s the Police?

Tact
My Contact in the Underground
Hostile Bodies (and the People Who Love Them)
Sharing: From Disclosure to Tact
Tact and Delicacy (I)
Tactlessness
Tactful Encounters
Tact and Delicacy (II)
The Shower Scene
Tact and Delicacy (III)
Tact, Power, and the Police (I)
Tact, Power, and the Police (II)
Tact and Contamination
Tact and Silence
Tact and Failure
Tact and Unreason
The Kindness of Strangers
Sunday in the Park with . . . ?
The Yellow Star
Tact as Social Musicmaking
A Fart Joke from Proust
Touch and Other Senses
Immodesty
Reentering the Movie Theater’s Restroom
Tact and Intimation
Found Objects (I): Tact and Bearing Witness as Forms of Bricolage
Tactfulness to the Dead
Found Objects (II): Some Beauty

Contact
Leaving the Door Open
The Unexpected Coda: May 24, 2011

Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography