Cousins Roger and Alistair become lifelong friends when they meet as boys in 1954. They discover their homosexuality and their lives intersect against the backdrop of 20th-century gay culture, from the beachboy surfer days of the 1960s, to Greenwich Village AIDS activism in the 1990s.
From Publishers WeeklyThough Picano's latest may lack the significance implied by its subtitle, his memorable characters and wonderfully dishy dialogue evoke changing gay sensibilities with affecting measures of both tragedy and comedy. The novel opens in New York City, 1991, with literary maven Roger Sansarc, who narrates, and his current boyfriend attending a 45th-birthday celebration for Roger's flamboyant second cousin, Alistair Dodge. Alistair is suffering from AIDS, and Roger has brought the requested pills to hasten his demise. The action flashes back to 1954, when Roger and Alistair first meet, as fourth graders; subsequent sections alternate between the present?detailing Alistair's fate, as well as a heated ACT UP demonstration?and assorted professional and amatory episodes in the lives of the conservative Roger and his ever-outre relation. Comparisons with Ethan Mordden's similarly themed How Long Has This Been Going On? are inevitable: both books portray America's evolving gay culture during the past few decades. Picano's tale is the more traditional in style and structure, while Mordden brings greater scope and sweep to his freewheeling, in-your-face novel. Despite the dramatic events and requisite period references here (e.g., mentholated Kent cigarettes, Mary Renault's The Persian Boy), the historical perspective Picano brings seems somewhat forced. Nevertheless, his finely crafted prose makes these People consistently absorbing. Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From BooklistPicano's big new novel is the story of two cousins, Roger Sansarc and Alistair Dodge, from their boyhood through Dodge's death in his forties from AIDS. The two live through several major cultural moments in later-twentieth-century America: Woodstock, San Francisco in the days of Harvey Milk, Fire Island's heyday, and recent AIDS activism and gay militancy in New York. Both manage to have incredible (literally!) lives--managing expensive stores and art galleries, inheriting fortunes, editing highfalutin opera magazines, having long-term relationships with Adonises, and generally making Lives of the Rich and Famous look like middle-class America. Picano fills the dialogue with humor and the plot with interest, yet his characters lack the depth and genuineness of Armistead (Tales of the City) Maupin's. So, ultimately, the book doesn't work all that well as a serious chronicle of gay America. Rather, being both gay and an epic (i.e., it's campy and it's long), it succeeds as a story that doesn't take itself too seriously and will be much in demand as a beach book. Charles Harmon