Unrequited Love by Dennis Altman
Dennis Altman is a close friend of mine, but I needed to read Unrequited Love to discover the richness of his life. His work in gay politics has taken him across the globe – and still does. (The unrequited love of the title refers to his long romance with the US.) He has friends everywhere, including France, Croatia, the US, and Ecuador. He’s spent time with the likes of Susan Sontag, James Baldwin, Kate Millett, Edmund White, Julia Gillard, Neil Blewett, Gore Vidal, Christopher Isherwood; he’s shared a lift with Jackie O and sun-bathed with Joni Mitchell. Dennis Altman relates all these encounters with sharp insight and at times a laugh-aloud humour – familiar to those who have read his many books.
The structure of Unrequited Love is inspired. Altman tracks his life – international and local academic meetings, operas seen, people met – from late 2016 to January 2019. The current events trigger pivotal events from the past: the son of central European Jews growing up in Tasmania, the move to New York in his twenties, involvement in gay politics, the enduring influence of the AIDS epidemic, meeting his partner Anthony, and dealing with Anthony’s death twenty years later, marriage equality, and so much more. This is an idiosyncratic and generous memoir – I couldn’t put it down.