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The Beauty of Men

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  556 ratings  ·  32 reviews
A universal tale of loneliness, aging, and the desires of the human heart, Holleran's long-awaited third novel tells the brilliant, passionate story of a man ashamed to be mourning the loss of his own youth as so many around him die young. Lark is obsessed with the beauty of youth and his own mortality, his hairline and the loss of so many of his friends to AIDS, and, abov ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by Plume (first published July 1st 1996)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Selected by my boyfriend after an argument where he accused me of never reading the books he recommends to me, I was disappointed that the entire reading experience made me feel like a passive witness, recognizing the undeniable literary brilliance, but only feeling it at a distant, cold remove. This was particularly disappointing considering this is one of his very favorite books. Rather than empathizing with the overwhelming despondency over the way the AIDs crisis, geographical isolation, per ...more
Jan 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, holleran
This is a very controlled novel about isolation. Published in 1997, it is the story of a gay man who has been almost entirely cut off by the gay community. Because of the AIDS crisis, he finds virtually no gay men his age to befriend. Younger men have no desire to know him, for a variety of reasons: He is not young, he is not powerful and he is not wealthy. Above all, the specter of AIDS causes other gay men to be wary of him. He is a pariah among gay men due to his date of birth.
This novel coul
Adam Dunn
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: glbt
More than a book about the aftermath of the AIDS crisis this is really a book about aging in a youth obsessed gay culture. I had made the decision to read all of Holleran’s work after reading Dancer from the Dance and Grief, but after reading this book and Nights in Aruba, I am rethinking.
Ultimately concern about growing old, especially to this mid-life crisis level presented in the book, just seems so vain. I’ve heard this story before from others, how they are now invisible when they go into a
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer-fiction
My feelings about this book are a little complicated. Very little happens - the narrator pines after a one-night stand while caring for his quadriplegic, elderly mother. Things don't come to a head until the book is almost over. Holleran is a real charmer with description, and I love how expansive and meditative he is. The main character is a self-admitted hypocrite when it comes to judging others for their age and beauty. He suffers a loneliness that we watch him inflict on those around him. Th ...more
Jul 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Although I find Holleran's writing to be beautiful especially when setting the scenes endlessly switching from flashback to flashback, I couldn't get into the content with enough conviction. Lark is our main character torn between leaving NYC for "twelve days" and now, twelve years later, Lark, 47 yrs old, is still here in Gainsville, Florida taking care of his quadriplegic mother and reminiscing on the earlier days of youth and beauty and men... He becomes a stalker, obsessing over a sexual enc ...more
Timothy Juhl
Apr 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gay men who think their skin will remain flawless
Perhaps one of the most haunting books I've ever read, with sentences that still resonate for me. It's a depressing read, if you're a gay man of a certain age, but it is Holleran's langorous writing that lifts this book into an art form.
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
I am glad this book exists, because it captures the impact of a horrible disease on a particular group of people at a specific moment in time. But man I did not love reading this book. The narrator is so sad, so defeated, in ways that elicit frustration more than sympathy.
Ghalib Dhalla
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Anything Holleran writes is pretty much sacred to me. An achingly beautiful novel with prose that practically sings.
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbt
Andrew Holleran strikes again with yet another story that strikes at the heart of gay life in his book being gay and aging, "The Beauty of Men."

Following the late-in-life story of Lark, a man reeling from the deaths of all his friends by AIDS the decade prior and living alone in North Florida to care for his dying mother, "The Beauty of Men" is a tale of the loneliness that seems to accompany gay life in the 90s, when all hope, friendship, and companionship has died and left you behind. Unafraid
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gay-fiction
Not necessarily universal, but an exploration of what can happen to Gay men who are aging and alone. It is colored somewhat by the effects of the AIDS epidemic on survivors in the 90's. Still for those who still have time, it is a warning to prepare yourself for your elder years.

The comparison of Lark's and his mother's situation is apt.

9 of 10 stars
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
What a miserable book. Extremely reptitive with no pathos, catharsis or movement of plot. At 270+ pages it’s too long and the titular character is rather unlikable with little redeeming qualities (even molesting an unconscious man). A painful read even if enlightening on the ramifications of the AIDS crisis.
Mikael Kuoppala
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
In his third novel Andrew Holleran explores the subjects of aging and loss. The protagonist is Lark, a middle aged gay man who is faced with the cold truth of lost youth. Lark's life is filled with aimless midnight cruising and lonely moments of despair in his empty apartment. He has lost his professional drive a long time ago and most of his closest friends have fallen victim to the AIDS epidemic. Lark's whole existence is completely saturated with the dull despair of someone who grieves after ...more
Jan 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
"The Beauty of Men” is a poignant story of loss and loneliness told from the perspective of Lark, 47 years old, residing in Florida to take care of his invalid mother. Lark was young in the heyday of the 70’s when beautiful men enjoyed a carefree hedonism yet unaffected by the AIDS epidemic. It is a sad story filled with pathos and angst, as Lark recounts his friends from his glory days (all of whom have died), while he is aging alone without love, yet continually seeking it in the places he fee ...more
Ronald Wilcox
Very eloquent description of life of a gay man in the mid-1980's. Lark has moved to Florida to care for his mother for the past twelve years after she fell and broke her neck. Over the same time period he has watched several of his New York friends die from AIDS. He has a sexual encounter with Becker, a man a little over a decade younger, and becomes almost obsessed with the man. While dealing with his mother's care and his loss of friends, he also tries to deal with growing older in the gay com ...more
Mar 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love how many truths there are in this book related to aging, sexuality and being alone. There's an unforgettable line in it - "When you need a mother, anyone's mother will do." A good friend of mine is a gay man serving a long prison sentence, and he has lamented about aging and living a life devoid of healthy romantic fulfillment. I gave him a copy of this book and it was great conversation fodder. This is a powerful, honest book.
Jul 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Maybe the most depressing and one of the most beautiful books I've ever read.
Patrick Santana
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Painfully true. Awfully real. Wonderfully incisive.
May 15, 2020 rated it liked it
If I could give stars just for the ending, I would give this book 4 stars, because the ending was very moving, but I don’t think as a whole it’s a great book. It’s about a pathetic man who whole-heartedly embraces a value-system that devalues and rejects him, and it makes him miserable and lonely. I think this book showed less maturity, and demonstrated less talent, than “Dancer from the Dance,” which Holleran wrote in the 70s. The writing is good, though, and he really does know how to bring a ...more
Raymond Luis
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book made me rethink my life as a gay man. I realized through this novel that youth and beauty are not all they are cracked up to be. I recommend this book to any millennial gay male, and reconnect with the pain suffered by our gay forefathers. AIDS ravaged a whole generation and this book is a recollection of that aftermath. The pausing of death through injury and disease, is a deep theme here and it came at a time in my life when I needed to hear about it.
Richard Jespers
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel is a bleak but beautiful rendering of a forty-seven year-old man who has buried most of his friends having died from AIDS. He also takes care of his mother (for twelve years) until she dies.

Answer to the question why gay men are promiscuous is so great:

“‘Because,’ he said—thinking, Because sex is wonderful, and who wouldn’t want to do it as much as possible? Because sex is ecstasy, and there’s no ecstasy left in this civilization anymore. Because we thought penicillin could cure every
Fiona Pearse
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this bleak story of loneliness. So cleverly written. I'm afraid it only goes in one direction though so be prepared to feel melancholy! As often when I choose a book, I was intrigued by a world I knew little about and that world was revealed - during a sad time - the 80s and the explosion of AIDS.
Feb 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queerinterest
This book is pretty reflective on the consequences of vanity in gay male culture. I'm enjoying it quite a bit, and have always enjoyed Andrew Hollerans' books for the cattiness and their frank discussion I find missing from most mediums that depict gay men.
Jun 22, 2008 rated it liked it
indulgent and great for anyone who loves holleran because he's oh-so consistent in themes (indulgent male homos pre and post the insurrection of AIDS).
Jul 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone.
A must read for people aging and revising their outlook on life. The main character in this book is much deeper than the main character in Holleran's first novel (Dancer from the Dance).
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
A sometimes melancholy, sometimes depressing look at aging in the gay culture, a post-AIDS crisis look at a survivor, beautifully written by a gifted author.
Scott Morrison
Feb 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Would have been 5 stars, but it was utterly depressing.
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The most depressing thing I've ever read, but amazingly well written.
Angel Pedroza
Jul 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have read every book by this author. This book does not disappoint.
Feb 03, 2016 added it
Shelves: favorite
So sad but so like the era it is written about. Written beautifully with prose.
F.J. Commelin
Sep 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
again a well written book about gay life.
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Born in 1943. Andrew Holleran is the pseudonym of Eric Garber, a novelist, essayist, and short story writer. He is a prominent novelist of post-Stonewall gay literature. He was a member of The Violet Quill, a gay writer's group that met briefly from 1980-81.

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“Because,’ he said—thinking, Because sex is wonderful, and who wouldn’t want to do it as much as possible? Because sex is ecstasy, and there’s no ecstasy left in this civilization anymore. Because we thought penicillin could cure everything. Because people are looking for Love. Because in this society we can’t find support for stable partnerships. Because we’re ashamed, and seek out sex with a stranger we don’t have to say hello to in the street the next day, much less mention at our funerals. Because, because, because, he thought, and then he turned to her and said. ‘Why do you smoke?’ (196).” 0 likes
“But still we go on, he thinks with a sigh as he crosses his legs, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the police station and doctor's office.” 0 likes
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