|After his life partner dies from AIDS-related illness, New York playwright Avery Walsh travels to London to research a biography on the family of Colley Cibber, an English dramatist of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But as much as he tries to focus on the task at hand, he is often distracted by thoughts of his lover's death. In his loneliness, he shifts back and forth between"two separate kinds of estrangement—the survivor's and the expatriate's—just as you sift a heavy suitcase from the left hand to the right, a regular pendulum swing of pain that makes time pass." Gradually, Avery begins to circulate in London society and to make new friends, among them two Irish expatriates—Maeve Findlater, a young woman active in political causes, and her brother Derek, a former addict. It is through his relationship with Derek that Avery ultimately experiences what David Plante, writing of the novel, calls "transforming love—love that turns grief into a sense of life, turns sexual attraction into the deepest personal commitment, turns even the horrors of political terrorism into a new world of loving relationships."
Part of His Story is a powerful treatment of the destinies of men and women confronting a global epidemic, and the promise of renewal to be found in the context of tragic losses.
Finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize
“Writers who contend with the impact of AIDS face a terrible dilemma. If you write toographically on the subject, you risk alienating readers with compassion fatigue. But if you write lyrically or satirically or in any other indirect fashion about the horrors of the epidemic, you risk being accused of sentimentalizing or trivializing the subject. And yet you have to keep writing; silence is intolerable. In his first novel, Part of His Story, Alfred Corn has tried to deal with the dilemma in several ways at once. His story of grief and love in the age of AIDS alternates between sadness and hope, between sensitive examinations of emotions and diverting observations about culture, theater and literary history.… Part of His Story contains some insightful, elegant writing and succeeds in demonstrating that works dealing with AIDS can also deal with topics like love and art as well.” —The New York Times Book Review
“In the part of history illuminated by this quiet, honorable novel, the AIDS epidemic has slashed, punctured and burned the fragile mesh that holds us together.… Corn, though he delineates the contradictions the liberal-minded intelligentsia inhabited in the decade of Reagan and Thatcher, declines to accuse its members of hypocrisy. …[He] has set for himself the difficult and necessary task of granting the value and interest of such conversation in a world shadowed by violence and disease.… Part of His Story is a modest and unassuming book. I hope this doesn’t sound like faint praise, because its modesty is what makes this novel a brave and necessary part of our story.” —The Nation
“Award-winning poet Alfred Corn has delivered, with his first novel, a stunning, sensitive fusion of intelligent writing and shrewd storytelling. Set in London in the mid-1980s, this meditative tale of love and loss follows an American playwright as he reflects on his recently deceased lover and contends with his new attraction to a sexy foreigner. Corn revisits the construct of the AIDS novel with stylish characterizations and atmospheric prose. Part of His Story is packed with literati and filled with the sorrow of loss, yet it avoids pretense and flowery writing. Instead, we get a graceful narrative with irony and insight. It’s a gorgeous take on a sorely overworked category.” —The Advocate
“A graceful and sensitive mix of art and insight, compassion andintelligence.”—Mary Gordon