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On Holding The Man

Mon 4 Apr 2011 In: Books View at Wayback View at NDHA

Holding The Man has been released as part of the Popular Penguin collection and a number of people seem to be picking it up for a first or second read. The beautifully, brutally, heartbreaking story is one that will sit heavy in your chest. In 2009 I saw the Silo Theatre production of Holding The Man. It was opening night, where traditionally you hang around for free drinks afterwards, but my gay friend and I were out of there like a shot. He was in pools of tears and had to walk up the street with me for hugs so he could compose himself. I wasn't in a much better state.     Holding The Man is a powerful story. A heartbreaking, horribly beautiful, raw, powerful story. Because it's a true story. A story of how HIV came along and ripped our beautiful men from us like a thief in the night. And Charlie McDermott's portrayal of a young man who goes from the highs of the footy field and young love, to a slow brutal death in a hospital bed, has haunted me since. A few months ago I was browsing a bookstore and saw Penguin had put out copies of Holding The Man in its Popular Penguins series and picked up a copy for an utter bargain. It sat on my shelf for a number of weeks because I guess to be honest part of me dreaded reading it and knowing I would end up in buckets of tears. Then one day I just really needed something new to read so I picked it up and was drawn into the world of Tim Conigrave. Conigrave's account is honest. There is no bullshit. He doesn't skirt around his mistakes or his failings.. I think about all the mistakes I have made in my 28 years and it strikes me that Tim and the boy he fell in love with, John Caleo, never really got a chance to begin. The writer's pure humanness is what makes the book hurt so much more when it plunges into the reality of trying to survive a virus which very little was known about at the time. Reading Conigrave's writing is like nattering with a gay mate on your couch over a couple of beers. It's just so personal. I'm only a generation or so behind the time when HIV suddenly ripped through our community and I just can't imagine losing my lovers, my best friends, or my family to such a thief in the night. Holding The Man and the story of Tim Conigrave will forever sit heavy in my chest. Jacqui Stanford - 4th April 2011    

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Monday, 4th April 2011 - 10:56am

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