Modern Nature: The Journals of Derek Jarman

Tom Crewe writes:

Aids starts with the deaths. With the dying. At first there was only confusion, incomprehension. Bodies that quickly became unintelligible to themselves. Nightsweats, shingles, thrush, diarrhoea, sores that crowded into mouths and made it impossible to eat. A fantastically rare form of pneumonia. Dementia in men of twenty: brains that shrank and withered. Tuberculosis of the stomach, of the bone marrow. A cancer meant to be slow-moving, to manifest benignly in elderly men from the Mediterranean, which burrowed from the outside in: from marks on the skin, to the stomach and lungs. Non-human illnesses: men dying from the blights of sheep, of birds, of cats, diseases no man had ever died of before. Men dying in the time it takes to catch and throw off a cold: ‘One Thursday,’ David France writes in How to Survive a Plague, ‘sexy Tommy McCarthy from the classifieds department stayed out late at an Yma Sumac concert. Friday he had a fever. Sunday he was hospitalised. Wednesday he was dead.’

(LRB 27 September 2018)

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