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.
Lisicky writes in waves, as if to mirror the shore. Paragraphs that wash through you. Phrases that crash upon you. At first, it seems like bursts of prose with only a headline to collect thoughts and demarcate them into sections of each chapter. Only over time do you realize that you have been swept up. It’s a form of literary sprezzatura, one that is years in the making. It is a collection which keeps building upon itself; its heft is in the stories and small details it amasses. Because of this, it’s easy to get lost in this book. Knowing which long term relationship he was in (Hollis or Noah?), only helped to orient me so much. But I encourage letting yourself get lost, to letting feelings take over, on the first read. Then you can return to Town for the prose, both generous in detail and thoughtful in diction. Despite such a tight perimeter around Paul’s personal experience of Town, he avoids solipsism. Both Paul and the book are often asking where they situate in a larger picture ... To sum up the experience of reading Later with a metaphor, it would be like being held—vertically or horizontally, your choice. You feel the topography of someone, the smooth and coarse. You hear the thumping of their heart and you smell the scent of their body. You feel the comfort of their warmth and the pressure of their body against yours. It is the holding but also the eventual letting go.