Fair Shaw, who is narrator of Race Point Light, finds that each new phase of his life is not what he expected. Shaw has an education, and he has some experience—he was in the Army and on the fringes of the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement—but each time when he finds himself thrown into a new situation, he feels unprepared. The Army, graduate school, marriage, Stonewall, the city at the middle of AIDS. His world seems to change radically every eighteen months. It would be possible to break up Race Point Light into at least two novels, and perhaps more, divided after Fair receives a divorce at the end of Part 4, to make an entirely separate novel about a man’s life in the city in the middle of AIDS. But that is to make of these two novels, narratives about distinct subjects—a gay man who gets married, and a gay man living in the city in the middle of AIDS—and those subjects have been written about.
What needed to be written about, because no one had done it, is a man who experiences all these things during one lifetime, which is what actually happens to hundreds of thousands of gay men and women in our culture. What would make a gay person get married? What is it like being married? What would make a gay person leave a marriage? What wounds, what scars does he or she have afterward? How would he or she live after divorce? What would he or she find in the place he or she went after divorce? What are the years of AIDS like in the city? The compelling quality of such a narrative lies in the fact that all these things happen to the same person. And the question such a novel would answer would be, What would that be like? It would not be a novel about a gay man in a marriage so much as it would be a novel about a gay man who leaves his marriage and moves to the city in the middle of AIDS, and then makes a life for himself in the city with all the memories, objects, relationships, scars, decisions accumulated from earlier decades and earlier lives. It would be in that accumulation that the power of such a novel resides.
Everyone just has to keep going in their lives, from one day to the next, one decade to the next, down to the end, and I didn’t want to structure Race Point Light in such a way as to imply that anything is ever a fresh start. Before Fair Shaw has gotten over the trauma of his divorce, he is face-to-face with a man who is breathless with pain because he has found out that he has Karposi’s sarcoma. One loss is experienced simultaneously with the other loss. After Fair Shaw has made a commitment to a marriage in a pre-Stonewall time, gay men riot in the streets of Greenwich Village, and gay people are now out and proud. The gay person finds himself living in two distinct worlds simultaneously, the past and the present and maybe even the future. The future arrives before we are ready for it, and we bear the scars of living in our time. This is uniquely stressful on gay people who came to adulthood in the ten years before Stonewall. They made commitments and promises, and then Stonewall called, “Come out into the street with us!”