I was hooked from the first sentence. Your prose style, is brilliant, witty, charming.... You have a powerful story to tell, and you write so beautifully.
- Lillian Federman, AUTHOR OF The Gay Revolution, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, Gay L.A., The Stonewall Riots, Gay Life and Culture, and other works
Recently I read the book Losing Time. I found it wise, passionate, sad and hopeful. As with any good text, it read me while I was reading it. It told me to read it as a "conversion in a dark time" and that in the end "love still remains the heart's yearning". I did.
I followed the author's advice that the text was "a mix of memory and imagination and narrative sequencing" and that he was attempting to "tell the truth in the best way I know how to invent it". Like Dickinson, "To tell all the truth, but tell it slant." This positioning allowed me to enter into the depiction of gay culture: its oppression, its fear of AIDS but not defeat, its joys, its sexuality and its loyalty to each other. This book took me into a world I never knew existed.
This is not just a book for gays. It speaks to straight men too.
- Robert Olmstead
Thank you, Lucien, for a moving and courageously honest personal account. You are one of a people, our people, who found themselves in a desperate war just when they had discovered and begun to celebrate their existence.
In the face of AIDS and its horrible effects on so many including your partner Dore, you and so many others rose above the shallows of gay clone mores to face the human condition in its full intensity: Love, compassion, loyalty, resilience, the unkind and ultimately inevitable failing of our body and death. A sense of dignity, faith and humor guides us readers through juicy and painful details and in the end you lift us up, sharing your new-found happiness. ‘Gotta give ‘Em hope’.
Your book is a pleasure to read. As to be expected from a Professor of Literature, your writing is impeccable and the full vocabulary of the English language at your command; not in an obtrusive, teachy way but fun to read in its richness. I did have to look up ‘chtonic’, though. Addressing your partner in the second person in the book is a smart choice that simply works.
Your book is a historic document. Just like a panel in the Names Project it needs to be part of the library covering an era that unfortunately is not over yet. AIDS is still around, maybe without the genocidal quality it initially had to decimated our emerging community. It still is a horrible disease causing havoc in many minorities and geographies.
As is the nature of an autobiographic story and the source of its authenticity, it’s a view from a particular age group, geography, spiritual and educational background. It’s also the view of a survivor. As in Mackie Messer, we don’t see the ones in the dark, we can only grief for them. Thank you, Lucien, for shining the light on Dore who stands for tens of thousands, not all treated with such loving care and receiving a beautiful memorial which is your book.
I also grief for the cultural loss. Not only the many young, talented vibrant and creative people cut down when their hopes and dreams were just about to blossom; Art that never was created. As blessed as we are to have marriage equality I wonder how many alternative ways of living and loving together never had a chance to evolve during the AIDS crisis. Not everyone is fortunate enough or makes the choice to find happiness in a romantic relationship. Maybe the younger, queer generation has a new shot at expanding the meaning and reality of community.
- Uli Paulin
As a gay man who lived in New York and Seattle in the 60’s, then Los Angeles and San Francisco in the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s, I found Lucien Agosta’s most recent book Losing Time provocative, insightful and moving. It brought back the bitter memories of the many friends who succumbed too soon from the complications of AIDS in the 1980’s, but also reminded me of the sweet caring and compassion so many in the community showed to those stricken with this insidious disease at a time when reliable, life-saving treatments weren’t commonly available.
Skillfully written, the author presents the reader with the tale of his brief, but intense relationship with Dore, a veritable earth angel, recounting their moments together with a profound depth of feeling, sincerity of love and appropriate measure of irreverent humor. From the beginning, this reader found himself drawn into the story willingly and completely, to such a degree that I too began to feel the full weight of the trials, tribulations and stresses one undergoes when supporting a loved one who’s committed to fighting the good fight, even as they remain keenly aware that this is a battle they are doomed to lose.
I highly recommend this well-written and engaging memoir, not only for people like me who have lived through this saddest of chapters in gay history, but also for anyone living in or outside of gay culture, who might seek a deeper, more intimate understanding of what it was like to suffer through and survive the bittersweet experience of finding the true meaning of love at last, only to lose the object of that love to the insidious viral monster stalking the gay male community during the Losing Time.
- Steve Markham
When I first read the synopsis on the back cover of Lucien Agosta’s latest book, Losing Time, I wondered if I was ready to relive those sad, somber days of the late 1980’s, when the gay community underwent a kind of reverse metamorphosis during which the exuberance and colorful expressions of pride we felt after our long, laborious battle for liberation were gradually replaced with the sobering reality that something onerous, mysterious and uncontrollable was moving quietly among us, selecting its victims seemingly at random, but always from the same social group: sexually active gay males.
Fortunately, my fears were completely unfounded. In fact, well before the end of the first chapter, I realized that not only was I ready to remember, I was anxious to continue on with the author’s epic journey; to share in the incandescence of true love ignited, to once again feel the wonder of it all as that love intensified and grew deeper, and to revel in wistful anticipation of a beautiful life together, stretching out for as far as the mind can imagine.
Like the author, I wished to hold on to my feeling of elation for as long as I could and to fully immerse myself in the fantasy that the future ahead could still be long and bright, despite all evidence to the contrary. Agosta’s experience, while specific to one man in one city at a certain point in time, is a universal love story. Like a latter-day Odysseus, he bravely explores love’s unfamiliar landscape, with its dazzling heights, soul-numbing lows, and unknowable future; ultimately condensing a lifetime of loving into a period of less than two short years.
Author Agosta moves seamlessly in both character and style throughout the book. From detached academic observer to cerebral poet, from jaded cynic to love-sick philosopher, from randy romantic to Lord of Dark Humor, Lucien adapts to whichever role fate has cast him in for that moment, be it lover, best friend, life coach, soulmate or caregiver. Like a well-crafted script, the story line plays out as a series of vignettes placed in roughly chronological order, each one offering the reader a fresh glimpse, a new clue or an unexpected insight into their budding relationship, each building on the other so successfully that by the time one gets to the part near the end where his dear Dore takes his leave of this world, the reader understands and appreciates the words and actions of all who assisted in making sure Dore’s passing is a peaceful one.
Losing Time should be required reading for everyone whose life have been impacted by AIDS. It captures perfectly the collective experience of a generation who has lived through and thrived beyond this most painful chapter in LGBTQ history. And I pray that the younger generations —those who came of age after treatment options had progressed to the point where AIDS became a less fatal, more manageable disease— will take an interest in this very personal, very meaningful autobiography, with hope that in doing so, it will greatly increase their understanding of just how profoundly the “Gay Plague” affected the course of gay history. To realize how, even as the AIDS epidemic chastened us, terrorized us, and brought us low, it has also strengthened us as a community and endowed us with a maturity of the sort one can only develop by confronting one’s fear of total annihilation, staring it squarely in the face and then making a conscious decision never to allow it to defeat you.
Thank you, Lucien, for sharing your story with the world and, in doing so, sharing the story of the countless friends, family members, coworkers, strangers and lovers whose presence in our lives has faded or whose life stories have otherwise been lost to time.
- William M Checkvala
Losing Time is a vivid account of how because of AIDS, one couple lost the time they wished to have together. It also personalizes an era, the "losing time" within which they and so many others lived and continue to do so.
When I told a friend about the book, she was eager to read it because the title reminded her also of how "the queer community in general" lose time "in coming out, finding our way, finding our voices, finding community."
Like its title, Losing Time has much to offer, including to persons like me who do not belong to the queer community.
It is a powerful love story, vividly detailing how love is distinguished from and rises above sexual gratification. Love for a specific person but also love for a community, in its depiction of how its author and others assisted AIDS victims in their losing journeys towards death.
It is a moving depiction of profound grief as well as the slow climb out of it, in part through the writing of this memoir.
It is a celebration of a love lost but always remembered even as one goes on to enjoy another always unique experience of love.
Finally, it is simply a good story. Agosta's narrative gifts invite one to keep turning the pages even as his rich language often causes one to pause and savor a new insight.
I hope it finds its way into the hands of the many I am sure will appreciate it.
- Phyllis Kidron
Though Agosta's account covers well-trodden ground in that it centers on a white middle-class couple in the 1990s, its power and uniqueness reside in how vividly the author reconstructs day-to-day life with a terminally ill lover.
Poetically written and rich with physical detail, Losing Time recounts Agosta's love affair with Dore Tanner (1949-98) in 1990s Sacramento. Dore was already HIV-positive when they met, a challenge that gave Lucien pause, but falling in love was as irresistible as it was surprising. Agosta was teaching English at Cal State and enjoying the sexual freedom of Sacramento's gay bars after closeted Kansas. He didn't want or believe in anything permanent. This passage about their first meeting in a bar called the Wreck Room typefies the lyrical writing that made this book such an immersive experience for me: "Fickle, fascinated with sex, eschewing human complexity and claims, I sought pleasure, always willing to give it to get it. But in the Wreck Room that night, I had a collision with what I would come to recognize as the real, though I would not realize the impact of that crackup for some time. My lightsome blood would thicken on later learning what coiled in yours, had insinuated itself into your very DNA like the poison sap from the apple eaten in Eden…I was to learn in you the resonantly human at last, its text of sorrow and joy. Human fullness would in time be love-taught." (page 37)
The 1990s were big on AIDS martyr melodramas written to tug the heartstrings of straight people, like the musical "Falsettos". Such appeals to the majority's compassion were politically necessary so that medical care would get funded. Losing Time is not that kind of story, and that's refreshing. Agosta is candid and explicit about what makes (some) gay male partnerships different from mainstream expectations about love and sex. Reflecting on a bathhouse hookup he engaged in while Dore was sick at home, Lucien argues with the ghost of his Catholic guilt: "Is it right to use someone who wants to be used, who obviously takes pleasure in being used…Isn't there a reciprocity there, a kind of mutuality, in a way a kind of instant and satisfying intimacy, even affection, however temporary? (page 194)" The irony is that his partnership with Dore is equally temporary, tragically so. Love has to be distinguished from mere lust by something other than its permanence. Immediately after this Saturday night scene in the bathhouse, Lucien describes Sunday afternoon caring for his lover, who is feverish and can barely eat. "I propped myself up with pillows against the arm of the couch. You lay between my legs, your head resting on my chest, directly over a heart ever true to you, ever faithful. (page 195)"
Agosta comments on his subculture's superficial obsession with youth and good looks, but he could have used more self-awareness about his own prejudices. He frequently comes across as judgmental of other people's bodies, with "humor" that shades into classist and racially problematic caricature.
One might think it incongruous to call this tragic story "a pleasure to read," but the talent for finding beauty in fleeting and even painful moments is a gift from the gay culture of Agosta's generation, which he has shared with us in Losing Time.
- Jendi Reiter
Reviewer, North Street Book Prize
Losing Time won a 2022 North Street Book Prize for Creative Nonfiction