When Paul Lisicky arrived in Provincetown in the early 1990s, he was leaving behind a history of family trauma to live in a place outside of time, known for its values of inclusion, acceptance, and art. In this idyllic haven, Lisicky searches for love and connection and comes into his own as he finds a sense of belonging. At the same time, the center of this community is consumed by the AIDS crisis. What might this utopia look like during a time of dystopia?
His analysis of...relationships is part revelatory for his keen powers of observation, part heartbreaking, and all human ... Lisicky is a gifted writer. With meticulous emotional nuance, he not only captures his day-to-day, but manages to translate lessons from the day-to-day into a manual for living ... gorgeous ... Later is beautifully composed and structured ... 'every death will always be an AIDS death; everyone will always die before their time, whether they're twenty-one or ninety-one.' And that perhaps, is Later's greatest lesson.
Later takes us on a heart-wrenching journey through Lisicky’s transition from living with his mother to his exploration and discovery of gay communities, and finally to his encounter with death and illness as a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. But, more specifically, Later asks us to consider the power of retrospection, a timely consideration given the global confinement regulation in the face of the current COVID-19 outbreak ... urgency can often be found lingering in the work of many gay writers publishing during or reflecting on the ’80s and ’90s. And Lisicky masterfully situates himself within this history ... Lisicky beautifully renders the readers complicit in this act of survivance. Readers see through the eyes of a visitor who becomes a local through his constant exposure to death and illness but also through the opening of his heart to the possibility of love and community in epidemiological time ... the memoir, the narrative ultimately arrives at a present that feels full, manageable, and free ... Lisicky invites his reader into this delicate, brutal, and moving psychoanalytical terrain, and for those of us cut off by birth and history from the peak of the AIDS crisis, this intergenerational invitation is irresistible. He seduces us, breaks our heart, and helps us put it back together—but not once does he allow the space for a post-memorial nostalgia.
The chapters are full of named sections, lists of what makes up his life in Provincetown: Haven, Movie, Pilgrim, Foglifter, Wally, Imposter Syndrome. This pointillistic style allows Lisicky to build his story impressionistically. There are no surprises in the general plot, per se: Lisicky becomes the published writer and openly gay man we’ve come to know. But the 'how' of it fascinates ... He especially captures the fear I’d almost forgotten—the intensity with which we as gay men so often feared one another ...This memoir is much like his Provincetown, exulting in tenderness and lust, lit with flashes of poignant spectacle, even the majestic—the way a drag queen at night can become, in sequins under a spotlight, full of the fire and beauty we associate with goddesses, before descending back to the realm of the human.