Paul Monette, an author and poet, was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1945. A respected author, Paul wrote thirteen books, or “glib and silly little novels” as he called them, before he died in 1995 at the age of 49.
Paul attended Philips Academy in Massachusetts before arriving at Yale in 1963. He was a member of Jonathan Edwards College, served as the editor of a number of Yale literary publications and, in his senior year, was the Class Poet and a member of Elihu. Throughout his time at Yale, Paul remained conflicted about his sexuality, and told no one—not even his secret society friends—about his attraction to men.
It was not until 1974 when Paul met lawyer Roger Horwitz that he began to accept his sexuality. After several years teaching literature at Milton Academy and Pine Manor College, Paul and Roger moved to West Hollywood where Paul started to explore his gay journey through novels, many of which featured gay protagonists.
The pair lived together in Los Angeles for 10 years until Roger died of AIDS-related complications in 1985, an event that had a lasting impact on Paul’s life. He chronicled Roger’s final years in his acclaimed memoir Borrowed Time and in the following years penned a number of novels about the effects of the AIDS epidemic on the lives of gay men. His most praised book, Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story won the 1992 National Book Award and details Paul’s life until he met Roger. In the book, he wrote: “I can’t conceive the hidden life anymore, don’t think of it as life. When you finally come out, there’s a pain that stops, and you know it will never hurt like that again, no matter how much you lose or how bad you die.”
Paul lived another ten years after Roger’s death, spending the last five in Los Angeles with his husband Winston Wilde and their two dogs, Puck and Buddy.
Paul is no longer.
I don’t get to talk to him on the phone. See him at his house. Meet him and Winston for dinner at Hamburger Hamlet. I don’t hear publishing gossip from him. I don’t hear his galloping sentences, prodigious collections of thoughts tumbled together, each breath bringing a new idea connected to the last or to the one before that, and all tied up neatly at the end of one huge run-on sentence. Or somewhere over the course of the evening.
I watched Paul fight for his life. When I first met him, he was writing Halfway Home. He talked about dying; he lived on the battlefield. He was HIV-positive then, counting his days, wondering if he’d live to finish the book—a worry he had expressed in the first paragraph of Afterlife, and again to friends with each subsequent work. Perhaps there were other things he despaired of leaving undone, but I only heard his concern in context of his work: Would he get to finish? Obsessed, possessed, he hurled out his words, challenges to the enemy but also to us. Pay attention. He wrote tethered to his IV, pushing the pole that had been Roger’s from one room to another to write. Halfway Home, Becoming a Man, Last Watch of the Night. Mounds of pills. Gallons, eventually, of infusions over the years.
I worried as he sped through Becoming a Man, afraid he would die when it was done. His life story, the half before Roger. And he’d gotten Winston into it, so maybe he’d finally said everything.
No. He was still fighting. Distracted by the hoopla surrounding honorary doctorates and awards, he started a short piece about his dog Puck. Ostensibly about Puck and Buddy, Winston’s dog, learning to live together, but really about Stephen, and about how we all learn to live with loss. The strength of love.
He wrote that and the other essays in chunks. Gulps more likely, knowing Paul. Submerged in doctor’s appointments and allergic reactions to drugs and just the day-to-day battle with the plague, he’d come up for air—or writing, perhaps the same thing for Paul.