Paul Lisicky first tried writing about the early-’90s era in Provincetown back in 1997. “Aspects of it were OK to good,” he said of that book, but it wasn’t quire right. What he needed, he added, was “some kind of form to hold irreverence and dread and rage and joy and all these aspects of that period.”
He came back to the idea every few years, but it wasn’t until his father’s death that he started writing what would become “Later: My Life at the Edge of the World,” a memoir set during Lisicky’s time as a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center during the height of the AIDS crisis.
“I’ve always been interested in community and in people who want to make community happen,” Lisicky said. “What was entrancing to me about the Provincetown of the early ’90s was that all of a sudden I felt welcomed and grateful to be in a group. There was something thrilling about that.”
As a gay man coming of age in the time of AIDS, he added, “I don’t want to sentimentalize it, but I think there was something about living in proximity to death that created a very unique sense of community. The world that I’m writing about in the book was born under very specific circumstances.”
Lisicky still visits Provincetown regularly (“often enough that townies think I live there,” he said) but the town now is a different place than the one that emerges as a non-human character in “Later.” For one thing, its population is older. Back then, Lisicky added, “not that many gay men lived past 40.”
Now past that age himself, he said, “I’m surprised every day to be alive. I wonder whether, if I had lived in other circumstances, I’d feel that sense of awe about every day. I don’t like to waste time.”
Paul Lisicky’s reading at Newtonville Books will be rescheduled. His book can be purchased through the bookstore’s website.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.