Bo Ravich opens Adam in the Morning lying on the steps of the theatre where he works, on Sixth Avenue, and in the next two or three hours he becomes a different person. Narratives—stories—seem to require that characters change in some way, either suddenly, like Bo, or even more suddenly, like Fair Shaw in Race Point Light, who opens the Sunday paper on June 30, 1969—he’s reading about the same riots that are affecting Bo—and discovers that his life is transformed. But more usually, change comes gradually, over decades, somewhere between one’s twenties and one’s forties, or between one’s forties and one’s sixties. The biggest change people seem to experience is acceptance—of themselves, of other people, of their place in the scheme of things.

This may sound bland enough, but what is interesting about this process is that what people often come to accept is the need to fight. It is relatively easier to go on the way one has been going since one was born on the first page of the book, to allow inertia to carry one from day to day, avoiding the issues that are going to disrupt one’s life. As Derek says, in Ceremonies, “I wanted a good part with one good scene—Macduff, say, weeping for his children—and a pretty boy in my bed,” but whatever it was he wanted, he’s caught in the middle of a fight he didn’t start but can’t walk away from, even though he tries. He’s gay, and he can’t walk away from that, and when the bigots come out to fight, Derek finds there is no where safe to go. His change is his acceptance—of the need, in this case, to shed blood. This is a tough one.

Some people come to this acceptance early. Jack screams, “Fight, you son of a bitch! Come back and fight!” as some drive-by bigots get away. Some wait until the last possible moment, running from place to place until events and bigots catch up with them, and, their backs against the wall, they have to fight, have to transform themselves into something heroic. It may be that there are many heroic people who might not have chosen to be heroes if they had had a choice.