Dan Loughry :: reliving the AIDS crisis with ’Patchwork’

by Bill Biss

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 30, 2011

"I would hope that younger readers get a sense of what great loss was experienced and then, what great sort of very cautious hope happened. What always astounded me about the AIDS Crisis was that in the middle of all this insane devastation as a community, and this is happening in gay marriage but in a very different way... we banded together more than I've ever seen." - Dan Loughry.

"Patchwork" is an emotionally riveting, powerful and true-to-heart novel of two men whose relationship unravels in the initial AIDS crisis. It's also a telling tale of family dynamics, picking up the pieces of shattered dreams and finding the strength and courage to move forward.

Dan Loughry gives EDGE an up-close and personal account of writing "Patchwork"... a novel that brilliantly captures a truly devastating time period by telling the story of just one couple.

Initial impetus?

EDGE: For you as a writer, what created the initial impetus to capture these moments in time of the AIDS crisis in your novel?

Dan Loughry: I came of age in the 1980s. I was in college at the time and I was fascinated by the AIDS quilt and The Names Project. I saw it in 1987 at the "March on Washington." The seeds of this book were first a novella and grew very much out of that. At that time, I had done a one-act play set at the quilt. When I moved to Los Angeles, I started studying with John Rechy ("City of Night") and used that as an impetus for a story and obviously... changed a great deal but that was basically the inspiration for "Patchwork."

EDGE: For a relatively short novel, you have managed to bring forth an intricate well of emotions in regards to the two men’s relationship, how parents deal with the loss of a child and how a person can move forward after the loss of a loved one. This is exactly what makes the book so real. How would you describe your writing process or style in doing this and accomplishing that?

Dan Loughry: That’s a tough question and it’s a good one. I want to talk about the length for a second. I read a lot as do you... I read a lot of great novels and a lot of great novels are just way too long. Like movies, like everything else. So, the length of the book sort of dictated itself. It could have been epic and had all sorts of other things but in a sense for me it was a chamber piece. It was set against this background that just happened to encapsulate or incorporate a lot of history while at the same time, being very particular to these five main characters in the book.

My writing style... you always find your style as you’re in the process of doing it. This one, I think in retrospect, tends to look or feel at least to my eyes, it’s dense. The prose for this book is relatively dense for the most part. I think the subject matter should dictate your style, not vice versa.

EDGE: Also, the fact that you made it so up-close and personal. The book brought back so many difficult emotions for me. I lost my first partner, Chuck, to AIDS in 1994.

Dan Loughry: I’m sorry to hear that. I am. It’s an unbearable period of time for a very long time.

EDGE: Oh yeah. When the character of Randy dies in the book... I literally had to stop reading because I was crying. It would seem you must have experienced a loss like this as you wrote this so eloquently.

Dan Loughry: I have not actually gone through that with a partner. I’ve definitely gone through it with friends as we all have. The two characters are based very much on two particular men. My friend said these are very archetypal characters and they were. They were those men who were lost in the first wave of things, who had grown up in the late 1970s and before anybody knew what was going on. Before they could change their behavior... etc, I just wanted to pay homage to that. To the insanity of the time which was let’s ignore what’s going on and this horrible Reagan-specific indifference to the AIDS crisis and this attitude of "you brought this on yourself" because of your behavior. I wrote this very much because it was something I just had to do. That sounds pretentious I know, but there are certain subjects that won’t just let you go and this was one of them.

Sense of loss

EDGE: What would be you hope that younger readers take away from "Patchwork?"

Dan Loughry: I would hope that younger readers get a sense of what great loss was experienced and then, what great sort of very cautious hope happened. What always astounded me about the AIDS crisis was that in the middle of all this insane devastation as a community, and this is happening in gay marriage but in a very different way... we banded together more than I’ve ever seen. There was such a sense in the gay community before that of a fragmentation. We have splinter groups like any other group. In that particular case, what was amazing to me is how fast we came together and how quickly we disseminated information throughout our communities and came up with a way to move forward.

EDGE: Let’s talk about the relationship of Barbara and Sal in the novel and how they deal with the loss of Randy. It is just one of the great facets of the book. Who comes to mind for the character of Barbara? I could see this book being adapted into a film.

Dan Loughry: Umm, really quick off the top of my head... Jessica Lange.

EDGE: I thought the same thing!

Dan Loughry: It’s so funny. You do that sometimes right when you’re reading anybody’s book. Lange has that mid-western feel. I was really affected by the first realm of AIDS films, specifically "Parting Glances." It’s just a beautiful independent film to me. And, after that... "Longtime Companion." It was definitely in my mind when I was writing "Patchwork." Not in a "I’m gonna steal from these places" but just from a sense of what they had accomplished and leaving an impression.

EDGE: Those are my questions... it’s really an excellent piece of work.

Dan Loughry: Thank you so much. It’s all a new process for me. I’m astounded by what’s going on and the great response I’m getting from people. Thank you for taking your time to talk to me.

For more on "Patchwork," visit this website.

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