Paul Monette life and biography

Paul Monette picture, image, poster

Paul Monette biography

Date of birth : 1945-10-16
Date of death : 1995-02-10
Birthplace : Lawrence, Massachusetts, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-08-26
Credited as : Writer and novelist non-fisction, poet, autobiography 'Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir'

0 votes so far

Paul Landry Monette, born October 16, 1945 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, United States - died February 10, 1995 in West Hollywood, California, United States was an American autobiographer, poet, and novelist who wrote two influential works on modern American gay life.


Paul Monette was a distinguished writer of poetry, novels, and autobiographical volumes, many dealing with the issues of homosexuality and AIDS. His nonfiction works include the acclaimed Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir and Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, the latter of which won the National Book Award for nonfiction. He first received critical attention in 1975 with the publication of the poetry collection The Carpenter at the Asylum. A Washington Post Book World reviewer described the collection as a "carefully wrought and dead-serious comedy of manners" and praised Monette for producing "a most promising debut."

The author next turned his attention to prose fiction. In 1978 Monette published Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll, his first extensive consideration of homosexuality. The novel's comic story involves a gay couple, Rick and David, who conspire with an aging actress in order to inherit a dead woman's considerable riches. Michael Dirda, writing in the Washington Post, described Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll as "a moving celebration of gay love," and noted that "pleasures abound in this often snappy, sometimes lyrical first novel."

Monette's next novel, The Gold Diggers, concerns homosexual lovers whose relationship is significantly altered by a female friend who moves into their Los Angeles home. Intruding upon the couple's professional and private lives, the woman further complicates the situation when she discovers a cache of hidden treasures in the house. Alfred Corn, writing in the Washington Post Book World, found The Gold Diggers notable for its "believable, in-the-round characters" and its "unerring presentation of the way people--at least some of them--talk and think nowadays."

In 1981 Monette published No Witnesses, a collection of poems featuring the imaginary adventures of famous figures, among them, Isadora Duncan, Noel Coward, and Henry David Thoreau. That same year he also produced The Long Shot, in which an unlikely pair--an avid shopper and a forger of celebrity autographs--team to solve two murders. In her Washington Post assessment of the novel, Carolyn Banks found Monette's prose style to be "too-often labored," but affirmed that The Long Shot "has plenty: good characters, super settings, strong plot, nice theme."

In Lightfall, Monette created a novel about a murderous cult leader, Michael Roman, who reigns terror on a small California village. Both Roman and a woman named Iris Ammons have been reincarnated from their original lives in the 1500s, and the two are soon pitted against one another in a supernatural battle. Lola D. Gillebaard, reviewing the novel in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, conceded that "Monette has a poet's way with words," but ultimately found the novel unsuccessful. "The mystery is too thin and slow to appeal to mystery buffs," Gillebaard wrote, adding that "the characters are too one-dimensional to appeal to escapist tastes."

Following the AIDS death of his longtime lover, Roger Horwitz, Monette addressed the tragedy in his writing. In 1988 he published both a collection of poems, Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog, and Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir. Borrowed Time presents a prose account of the Monette-Horwitz relationship, focusing on Horwitz's long, agonizing death. Here Monette writes of a world in which romance and pleasure is succeeded by fear and pain, where well-being becomes an obsession, and where death, though inevitable, becomes an outrage. William M. Hoffman, writing in the New York Times Book Review, reported that Borrowed Time "has the leanness and urgency of war reporting." The critic also declared that Monette "has etched a magnificent monument to his lover's bravery, their commitment to each other and the plague of hatred and ignorance they had to endure." Washington Post Book World contributor Dennis Drabelle wrote that Monette's book "navigates the reader through the maelstrom of deterioration that has become commonplace among urban gay men." For Drabelle, Borrowed Time constitutes "a book of terrible beauty."

Monette continued to write about AIDS with Afterlife, in which the lovers of three dying men form a strong friendship only to see it threatened one year later by fear and anguish. The novel's central figure is a young man who has himself been diagnosed with AIDS, and he consequently finds it difficult to enter into another intimate relationship. John Weir, writing in the Washington Post, compared Afterlife to a war novel, "a first report from the front, news flashes from the AIDS crisis, told by one of its soldiers and survivors." While Weir noted a lack of character development in the novel, he found that the book "holds your interest," and attributed this to "the urgency, and the immediacy, of the story." In the same year that Afterlife was published, 1990, Monette lost another companion--Stephen Kolzak--to AIDS.

In his next novel, Halfway Home, Monette again charted the damage of AIDS, but presented a significantly different view of the disease. Here an AIDS-afflicted artist finds that he can continue to live an enriching, fulfilling life in spite of his increasingly weakened condition. Time's Janice C. Simpson criticized some of the book's "heavy-handed riffs," but praised Monette's "particularly relevant" message that "there is life after AIDS." William J. Harding, writing in the New York Times Book Review, was more enthusiastic, calling Halfway Home "a satisfyingly sane novel about living in an insane time."

In 1992 Monette published Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, in which he recounts his difficult years prior to meeting Roger Horwitz. Coming to terms with his homosexuality, Monette relates, was a difficult process, as was disclosing it to others. Publishers Weekly reviewer Genevieve Stuttaford called Becoming a Man "a heartfelt illumination of how a gay person overcame the self-reproach that societal condemnation enacts." The memoir won the prestigious National Book Award for nonfiction in 1992.

Last Watch of the Night: Essays Too Personal and Otherwise was Monette's final published work before his death from AIDS in 1995. In this collection of ten essays, Monette explores such topics as his beloved dog, Puck; the 1993 Gay and Lesbian March on Washington; and his attitudes toward contemporary religious figures. Several reviewers commented that the collection contained Monette's trademark literary idiosyncrasies, both good and bad. Daniel Mendelsohn, writing in the Nation, remarked that Monette's celebrated ability to infuse his nonfiction work with raw, unfiltered emotion is present throughout Last Watch of the Night: "It's a far from perfect work--like much of Monette's writing, it's overstuffed and tends to be impulsive, characteristics that are least desirable in the essay as a genre--but it is ultimately moving, precisely because, even in extremis, Monette still won't compromise any component of his identity--political, sexual or personal." Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Lawrence Chua, however, averred that the collection failed to reach the powerful heights of Monette's previous nonfiction works: "For all the emotionality Monette invokes,... most of the essays in `Last Watch' feel strangely tepid." Although Monette was still alive at the time of the book's publication, Washington Post Book World contributor Richard Lipez noted that "there's a sense about this bittersweet collection of tying up loose ends, of telling some good stories he left out of his two earlier autobiographical works ... and of saying goodbye."

In February of 1995, Monette did indeed say goodbye, finally succumbing to the disease that had claimed two of his companions and countless friends and that had fueled his most-successful writing. Placing Monette's legacy within the tradition of gay male literature, Mendelsohn concluded: "Monette's may not be the most melodious in the choir of gay voices, but it's unmistakably his, still too gay, too personal; and that distinctiveness, which has evolved over a long and ultimately brave career, makes it all the more difficult to imagine the gay literary stage without this particular player."


National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, best biography or autobiography, 1988 and Lambda Literary Award, Gay Men's Nonfiction, 1989, both for Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir; National Book Award, nonfiction, National Book Foundation, 1992 and Lambda Literary Award, Gay Men's Nonfiction, 1993, both for Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story.

Writer. Taught at Milton Academy and Pine Manor College.


* The Carpenter at the Asylum, Little, Brown, 1975.
* No Witnesses, Avon, 1981.
* Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog, St. Martin's, 1988.
* West of Yesterday, East of Summer: New and Selected Poems, 1973- 1993, St. Martin's, 1993.


* Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll, Little, Brown, 1978.
* The Gold Diggers, Avon, 1979.
* The Long Shot, Avon, 1981.
* Lightfall, Avon, 1982.
* Afterlife, Crown, 1990.
* Halfway Home, Crown, 1991.


* Nosferatu: The Vampyre (adapted from Werner Herzog's screenplay), Avon, 1979.
* Scarface (adapted from Oliver Stone's screenplay), Berkley, 1983.


* Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, Harcourt, 1988.
* Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, Harcourt, 1992.


* The Politics of Silence, Library of Congress (Washington, DC), 1993.
* Last Watch of the Night: Essays Too Personal and Otherwise, Harcourt, 1994.
* (Contributor) David Schorr, Songs with a Dying Fall: Various Accompanying Texts, Orchard (New York City), 1996.
* Sanctuary: A Tale of Life in the Woods, illustrated by Vivienne Flesher, Scribner (New York City), 1997.

Contributor to periodicals, including Interview.

Read more

Please read our privacy policy. Page generated in 0.089s