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November 02, 1995 - Image 17

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-11-02

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The Michigan Daily - Wt/u#44 e4. - Thursday, November 2, 1995 - 78

LQUGAN IS
CoitInued from Page 1
Moving On
I hope my story will help anyone who
has to face adversity, young people in
partlar - especially those who face
ch rges like the ones I've had. I also
ho to dispel myths about gay people,
son of which I have struggled with for
most ofmy life. Maybe I can prevent one
teenager from being infected with HIV
AniMaybeIcangive hopetopeoplewho
are! abusive relationships: You can get
out'and start over again. You 've got to.
"Breaking the Surface"
A:}ig focus of Louganis' speech to-
niglitwill be coming out, a step which
he'very proud he's taken. "I view it as
lett go of secrets," he explained. "You
bui hesesecrets up tobe these monsters
that metimes exist but most of the time
don so I talk about the process of com-
ing it - or what my experience has
beef And for me it's kind of twofold:
Cotang out as a gay man and coming out
withilIV."
Iegnows his experiences can be diffi-
:ult~br many to swallow- one of the
pubi'sinitial reactionstohistell-allautobi-
og y. "There was a lot of concern," he
bega',"When the information was first out
ther: I'm a gay man living with HIV. I
did'tgetitthroughatransfusion.Ididn'tget
it though drug products. I didn't get it
sleeping with women. I'm a gay man. So
that's kind of a double whammy.
"I thought ofit that way (then). 'Oh my
god, I'm asking people to accept me for
who I am, for my sexual orientation -
and oh top of it I'm HIV-positive.' It's
scary, you know?"
Hejaused. "I don't read my press or a
lot N'other press (an embarrassed laugh),
but I think I'm probably one of the first
people who's here and healthy, and not
beifig chased into a hospital by the
paparazzi. That's scary - stepping out,
sayinig 'This is who I am' - because
yo'i-te putting yourself up to be judged,"
he said.
AndLouganis would know-afterall,
he' been the victim of all sorts of judg-
meits since the "20/20"interview and the
release of "Breaking the Surface." His
decision to conceal his HIV-positive sta-
tus after he cut his head has been called
right, wrong, fair, unfair, spiteful, mis-
guided; it's been debated again and again
invariousmediavenues. He's beenjudged
all his life. He titled one chapter of his
book, "Sissy, Nigger, Retard." But he
seems to gain strength by defying judg-
meit.
Another goal of Louganis' speech is
humanization. He talked about a mean-
ingful response he received after a speech:
"Onegirl brought her boyfriend who was
rather homophobic, and who felt sexual
orientation was achoice. And afterlisten-
ing to me speak it really changed his view
on homosexuality and sexual orientation
... which was great.
"Anybody who fears something -
like; HIV or homosexuality - I encour-
agetto get to know somebody who is
living with HIV or somebody who is gay,
lesian or bisexual," he said with an ur-
gent yet still humble tone. "When you
humanize it, it's less frightening, less
intimidating."
Beyond the spotlight
In addition to the speaking engage-
mets, Louganis is occupied by a wide
variety of activities and work. He's been
doing fund-raisers for AIDS, and volun-
teer dog grooming for an organization
calld PAWS - Pets Are Wonderful
Suport, which helps people living with
HIV and AIDS take care of their pets.
Louganis loves dogs, andhas many ofhis
own which he breeds and shows. Last fall

he began teaching a theater movement
clasp at the University of Southern Cali-
fornia, drawing on the extensive dance
and, acrobatic training from his child-
hood He's also very interested in inter-
acting with gay and lesbian youth; per-
haps his difficult experience growing up
gay can serve as something positive and
energizing for them.
All this activity from a guy who's most
comfortable away from the spotlight. "I'd
just rather load up the RV, head out with
my dogs, find a nice quiet place with no
phones or anything, and play," he said.
Now that I don't have to hide the fact
that I'm both gay and HIV-positive, I
have a lot more that I want to say. I just
hope I have enough time to make a difer-
ence. . Wish me luck. I'll need it.
- "Breaking the Surface"

Author Wolff captivates with memoirs

By Dean lakopoulos
Daily Books Editor
His first memoir, "This Boy's Life,"
took Tobias Wolff, one of the country's
best fiction authors, into a new genre.
That leap to the memoir genre brought
Wolff even greater critical acclaim and
spawned the movie of the same name
starring Robert DiNiro. Now, Wolff
has returned once again to the memoir,
this time recapturing not a troubled
childhood, but a troubling war.
"In Pharaoh's Army," a National
Book Award finalist, recounts Wolff's
experiences in Vietnam. But those
looking for vivid descriptions of battle
will not find such scenes in this book.
Wolff, who learned to speak Viet-
namese as a member of the Special
Forces, served as an adviser to a Viet-
namese battalion in the Mekong Delta,

and spent much of his tour on the
outskirts of the battle. Instead, read-
ers get not only a memoir of war, but
a remarkable picture of a young man
trying to find a place in the world.
Above all, "In Pharaoh's Army," like
"This Boy's Life," is a coming-of-
age story, the tale of a young man's
search for maturity and meaning in a
chaotic world.
Wolff's memoirs read much like his
fiction. They are captivatingly written
and possess a perfect blend of detail and
observation, emotion and restraint. As

a Newsweek reviewer proclaimed last
year, "Wolff writes with such spare,
whistling prose that you'd follow him
anywhere, even into battle."
Wolff admitted his roots in fiction
writing help him greatly in crafting his
memoirs. "I tend to remember things in
terms of stories ... but in writing these
memories I had to take them beyond the
level of mere anecdote and find out
what was underlying them, what was at
stake in them so to speak."
Wolff said that in some ways the . .
process of writing memoirs isn't as
tedious as fiction, because there are
certain facts that aren't negotiable in
recalling actual experience. But he
doesn't feel that makes the memoir
genre any easier to write. "A memoir
has to have a pattern or form that
emerges from experience," he says.
"It's like sculpting ... knocking
chunks of the essential form of
memory."
The "sculpting" process, Wolff said,
was easier to do some 20 years after the
events than it would have been to write
the book immediately after his war ex-
perience. Wolff's book avoids the po-
tential pitfalls of self-pity and self-in-
dulgence that plague so many memoirs
written today. Wolff explained that the
number of years that elapsed between Tobias Wolff is an experienced and engaging writer.
his tour of duty and writing the book
was essential to the success of "In

A glossy 'Gc
America's gi

By Matthew Benz
Daily Arts Writer
Politics, by its very nature, seems to
be a beast that seeks to be unknown.
That both Rolling Stone and the New
Yorker consistently devote pages to
politics points to the differing defini-
tions that may be applied to it.
Perhaps this is because politics is less
an entity than a process: An ill-defined
means of effecting change. It is some-
thing that can be more readily discerned
by looking for the effects that it has on
other, more concrete realities than by
seeking to observe it directly - in the
same way that astrophysicists detect an
otherwise invisible black hole by the force
that it exerts on observable bodies nearby.
Rolling Stone and the New Yorker's
coverage of poli-
tics also points to ®®.
Americans' fas- The Magaz
cination with po-
litical processes
- a fascinationt
that has been
steadily increas-
ing since perhaps
the 1992 elec-
tion. Or so goes the thinking of John
F. Kennedy Jr., editor-in-chief of the
new magazine George.
"Whether it's violence in the movies
or free speech on the Internet, culture
drives politics. The public arena is not
a hothouse sealed off from the general
climate. It partakes of it, changes it and
is changed by it." With this in mind,
Kennedy and the rest of the staff at
George have set out to make their maga-
zine one of politics with a twist.
"[W]e will define politics extrava-
gantly, from elected officials to media
moguls to movie stars to ordinary citi-
zens. And we will cover it exuberantly,
showing the unexpected, meaningful
and whimsical ways that it affects your
daily life." For "Politics," writes
Kennedy, "has migrated into the realm
of popular culture, and folks can't turn
away."
What George's "Inaugural issue" has
to offer folks is a mammoth affair -
280 pages - that seems to go in
several directions at once. Following
Dick Lugar through New Hampshire,
author Mark Leyner reveals an insidi-
ousness that develops in such stan-
dard campaign trail activities as speak-
ing on radio and television shows and
giving speeches to associations of
business persons. He does so not in an
alarming tone but in a style that is
absurd and, by article's end, elucidat-
ing. Aware of his own inexperience,
Leyner nonetheless writes with com-
petence and humor.
As he makes known on the contribu-
tors' page, "I mangled a cliche with
one of his co-workers. I said, 'I guess
over the next few weeks, Lugar's go-
ing to have to be doing a lot of

i

!orge from
cilen boy
fleshpounding.' It was at this moment
that they realized I wasn't the typical
political correspondent."
In "It's the Media, Stupid," Demo-
cratic political correspondent Paul
Begala articulates with ease the rela-
tionship between the press and politi-
cians. Rush Limbaugh's verbal at-
tacks on the "liberal media elite" are,
by Begala's reckoning, misguided.
"Ideology has very little effect on the
news," he writes. "It is instead tech-
nological, institutional and competi-
tive pressures that distort what we
see, hear and read." Like a quality
New York Times guest op-ed piece,
the article offers pleasure in its com-
pact form - it's one page in length -
and in its precise, tightly woven prose.
John Kennedy
Jr.'s interview
re Column with George
Wallace, by con-
trast, is disap-
pointingly for-
mulaic Kennedy
lobs familiar-
sounding ques-
tions about his
subject's segregationist past, and
Wallace dismisses them expediently,
in half-unanswered form (Wallace, to
be fair, has Parkinson's disease and
difficulty in both hearing and speak-
ing). What one is left with is a conver-
sation that chips away at the surface
of a man but that never truly climbs
under his skin in any revealing man-
ner.
Thanks to photographs by Herb Ritts,
the interview takes on an almost fash-
ionably serious and somber look. In
general, the layout of George is appeal-
ing, though the manner in which the
paragraph-length segues that precede
certain articles fail to end with any
punctuation is initially vexing.
Curious also is the recent phenom-
enon that manifests itself in the pages of
George. Titles of articles and tradition-
ally capitalized items being left in all
lower-case letters. Even the banner
("George" obstensibly refers to George
Washington) on the cover of the maga-
zine seems to strain against capitaliza-
tion.
Perhaps this fashionable trend has
been borrowed from the world of elec-
tronic communication, where so many
names and addresses are exclusively
lower-case. As Kennedy himself notes
with an air of pride in the editor's letter,
"George will be the first feature maga-
zine to be launched simultaneously on
newsstands and on the World Wide
Web [http://www.georgemag.com]."
Whether or not Kennedy's sense of
the American people and politics is
accurate remains to be seen. What does
seem clear is that George knows the
readers it seeks and how to appeal to
them.

Pharaoh's Army."
"There's a tendency to paint our-
selves as either hero or victim, always
the virtuous one among the pagans. A
certain distance in time allows us to
relax that defensiveness a bit and to see
things more truly," he said.
One of the most compelling ele-
ments of "In Pharaoh's Army" is the
fact that Wolff's compulsion for go-
ing to war was based on a desire for
experience. Wolff noted that he had
been thinking of himself as a writer
since he was 15 or 16. "It was impor-
tant to me to look at myself in that
way, because it gave me a way of
looking at the world and a way of
looking at my relationship to the world
that was indispensable to me."
That viewpoint, coupled with a cer-
tain amount of youthful naivete led
Wolff to Vietnam, driven by a desire
to be like the hero of his youth, Ernest
Hemingway. He writes that he looked
to Hemingway "for guidance in all
things," and marched to war seeking
what he thought every great writer
must have, a wealth of experience.
Now, older and wiser, Wolff sees
that his quest to fill his life with "ex-
perience" that he could use in his
writing was largely unnecessary.
While his experience did help his
writing, Wolff explained that he real-
izes many great writers - Faulkner,
Fitzgerald, Flannery O'Connor and

Saul Bellow for example - did not
have the kind of experiences
Hemingway had, but instead relied on
"hard work and study and application
to their art."
"The responsibility of a writer is to
develop a consciousness. What you
want to do, is not set up this bank
account of 'experience,' but to de-

velop your consciousness so you can
tell the stories that you want to tet,
that need to be told, in a forceN
way," Wolff said.
Tobias Wolff brings together experi-
ence and years of developing a con-
sciousness to make both his memoirs
and his fiction stories powerful and
enveloping.

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