For a generation or more, literary theorists have used the metaphor of "the death of the author" in considering the observation that to write is to abdicate control over the meanings one's text is capable of generating. But in the case of AIDS diaries, the metaphor can be literal. Facing It examines the genre not in classificatory terms but pragmatically, as the site of a social interaction. Through a detailed study of three such diaries, originating respectively in France, the United States, and Australia, Ross Chambers demonstrates that issues concerning the politics of AIDS writing and the ethics of reading are linked by a common concern with the problematics of survivorhood. Two of the diaries chosen for special attention in this light are video diaries: La Pudeur ou l'impudeur by Hervé Guibert (author of To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life), and Silverlake Life, by the American videomaker Tom Joslin (aided by his lover and friends, notably Peter Friedman). The third is a defiant but anxious text, Unbecoming, by an American anthropologist, Eric Michaels, who died in Brisbane, Australia, in 1988. Other authors more briefly examined include Pascal de Duve, Bertrand Duquénelle, Alain Emmanuel Dreuilhe, David Wojnarowicz, Gary Fisher, and the filmmaker (not a diarist) Laurie Lynd. Finally, Facing It takes on the issue of its own relevance, asking what contributions literary criticism can make in the midst of an epidemic.
Ross Chambers is Distinguished University Professor of French and Comparative Literature, University of Michigan, and author of Room for Maneuver: Reading (the) Oppositional (in) Narrative and Story and Situation: Narrative Seduction and the Power of Fiction.