Paul Monette (left) and his partner Roger Horwitz (right) | The Monette-Horwitz Trust | 15191
Writer Paul Monette, whose autobiography, “Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story,” a memoir of suppressing and then celebrating his homosexuality, won the US 1992 National Book Award for nonfiction, died at home of complications from AIDS on February 10, 1995 aged 49. New York Times writer Esther B. Fein observed that
Mr. Monette’s memoir and a previous book about nursing a lover who died of AIDS humanized the tragedy of the disease and the torment of denying one’s homosexuality, but it also brought to life the rich relationships that some gay men enjoy.
Born in Lawrence, Mass., on Oct. 16, 1945, he described in “Becoming a Man” growing up in an ordinary middle-class world in which he became obsessed with his homosexual yearnings but had to suppress them: “Never lost my temper, never raised my voice. A bland insipid smile glazed my face instead, twin to the sexless vanilla of my body.” He went to Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Yale, then taught English at Milton Academy in Milton, Mass., and Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Mass. He noted that his background was frighteningly similar to many of the “conservative homophobes” with whom he crossed political swords.
Mr. Monette came out in 1974 when he met Roger Horwitz and the two set up home in Los Angeles, where they lived together for 10 years while Mr. Monette wrote what he described as “glib and silly little novels,” many with gay protagonists, including “Taking Care of Mrs. Carrol” and “The Gold Diggers.”
Mr. Horwitz died of AIDS in 1985 which Monette chronicled in the best-selling and acclaimed “Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir” (1988). In a review in The New York Times, William M. Hoffman praised the book, saying,
“Mr. Monette has etched a magnificent monument to his lover’s bravery, their commitment to each other and the plague of hatred and ignorance they had to endure.”
A few years later, Monette lost a second companion to AIDS, Stephen F. Kolzak, a casting director for several television shows, including “Cheers” and “Starsky and Hutch.” When he was found to have full-blown AIDS he wrote his last book, “Last Watch of the Night,” while hooked up to three intravenous tubes and taking a mound of tablets every day.
Paul Monette mentored many aspiring writers. He said that the torment of suppressing his sexuality for so long and the inescapable threat of AIDS inspired him to become active in gay politics and to encourage young writers, whenever his health allowed.
The Monette-Horwitz Trust founded in his and Rogers’ names, honours individuals and organizations making significant contributions toward eradicating homophobia.