Just to set the mood for this post, here’s a video from K’s Choice (PJ and I saw them open for Alanis Morrisette in Knoxville years ago, though that’s neither here nor there):

Today I taught Larry’s Kramer’s 1985 play, A Normal Heart, one of the first AIDS plays produced in the U.S. I’m a little surprised by the fact that a) I enjoyed reading and teaching it and b) my students seem to have a lot to say about it too. It’s not only an important play; it’s a thought-provoking one.

I decided to teach it as part of a unit on Kramer, AIDS, and their literary legacies. Next we’ll read Angels in America, and we’ll end the course with Wayne Hoffman’s Hard. I’ll be emphasizing these next two works as responses to The Normal Heart. Parenthetically, I wish that I had had time to show them The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, a dvd of David Drake’s one-man show about how Kramer inspired him to political activism.

One of the things that hit me about A Normal Heart today was a speech that Ned makes about gay men of the late 70s and early 80s. When a physician tries to get him to become a leader in the gay community and tell his fellow homosexuals to stop having sex as a preventative to spreading AIDS, he rejoins that this would be an impossible message since for gay men sex is an “addiction.”

My students responded to this by agreeing that people — all people, not just gay men — would find it impossible to give up sex but that it’s not quite right to see it as an addiction. Instead, they see it as a necessity, different but no less important than eating and drinking. (I should say that we read Dorothy Allison’s great story “A Lesbian Appetite” for Monday’s class; we talked some about the similarities and needs for food and sex in that piece, so we have comparisons between the two on our minds this week!)

(more…)