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Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival

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"Sullivan offers [a] profound, often beautiful appreciation of friendship. . . . [He can] fascinate us with the range and depth of his mind."--San Francisco Chronicle A New York Times Notable Book of the Year   "One of the great pleasures of this book lies in watching Sullivan's mind at work . . . [his essays] are filled with a passion and heat that most cultural criticism l "Sullivan offers [a] profound, often beautiful appreciation of friendship. . . . [He can] fascinate us with the range and depth of his mind."--San Francisco Chronicle A New York Times Notable Book of the Year   "One of the great pleasures of this book lies in watching Sullivan's mind at work . . . [his essays] are filled with a passion and heat that most cultural criticism lacks." --Katie Roiphe, The Washington Post When former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan publicly revealed his HIV positive status in 1996, he intended "to be among the first generation that survives this disease." In this new book, a powerful meditation on the spiritual effect AIDS has on friendship, love, sexuality, and American culture, we follow Sullivan on his path to survival.   A practicing Catholic, Sullivan reflects on his faith in God, and expresses his bittersweet joy upon learning about new AIDS treatments that he believes led to the virus's recent transformation from a plague into a chronic illness. He revisits Freud to seek the origins of homosexuality and reviews the works of Aristotle, St. Augustine, and W. H. Auden to define friendship for a contemporary, post-plague world. Sullivan's last essay extols the virtues of friendship, elevating platonic love over the romantic, as he memorializes his best friend, who died of AIDS.  Intensely personal and passionately political, Sullivan's essays are not just about his own experiences but also a powerful testament to human resilience, faith, hope, and love.   "Sullivan has found meaning in chaos. . . . With its paradoxical sense of beauty amid pain, Love Undetectable has something of the quality of a war memoir."  --The New York Times Book Review   "On display here are all of the author's many strengths--compelling, poetic prose style, some keen observations on faith. . . . Sullivan offers a moving defense of the open gay male urban sexual culture and his participation in it."  --The Boston Globe


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"Sullivan offers [a] profound, often beautiful appreciation of friendship. . . . [He can] fascinate us with the range and depth of his mind."--San Francisco Chronicle A New York Times Notable Book of the Year   "One of the great pleasures of this book lies in watching Sullivan's mind at work . . . [his essays] are filled with a passion and heat that most cultural criticism l "Sullivan offers [a] profound, often beautiful appreciation of friendship. . . . [He can] fascinate us with the range and depth of his mind."--San Francisco Chronicle A New York Times Notable Book of the Year   "One of the great pleasures of this book lies in watching Sullivan's mind at work . . . [his essays] are filled with a passion and heat that most cultural criticism lacks." --Katie Roiphe, The Washington Post When former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan publicly revealed his HIV positive status in 1996, he intended "to be among the first generation that survives this disease." In this new book, a powerful meditation on the spiritual effect AIDS has on friendship, love, sexuality, and American culture, we follow Sullivan on his path to survival.   A practicing Catholic, Sullivan reflects on his faith in God, and expresses his bittersweet joy upon learning about new AIDS treatments that he believes led to the virus's recent transformation from a plague into a chronic illness. He revisits Freud to seek the origins of homosexuality and reviews the works of Aristotle, St. Augustine, and W. H. Auden to define friendship for a contemporary, post-plague world. Sullivan's last essay extols the virtues of friendship, elevating platonic love over the romantic, as he memorializes his best friend, who died of AIDS.  Intensely personal and passionately political, Sullivan's essays are not just about his own experiences but also a powerful testament to human resilience, faith, hope, and love.   "Sullivan has found meaning in chaos. . . . With its paradoxical sense of beauty amid pain, Love Undetectable has something of the quality of a war memoir."  --The New York Times Book Review   "On display here are all of the author's many strengths--compelling, poetic prose style, some keen observations on faith. . . . Sullivan offers a moving defense of the open gay male urban sexual culture and his participation in it."  --The Boston Globe

30 review for Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival

  1. 5 out of 5

    Simone

    I mainly wanted to read this because of a lovely piece on Brain Pickings about one of these essays. The essay on why friendship is better than romantic love is one for the ages. I really enjoyed the two other essays in the book as well. I wish I had more eloquent thoughts on this book, but these will have to do. I mainly wanted to read this because of a lovely piece on Brain Pickings about one of these essays. The essay on why friendship is better than romantic love is one for the ages. I really enjoyed the two other essays in the book as well. I wish I had more eloquent thoughts on this book, but these will have to do.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Serene Lim

    This is by far the most successful piece of writing I have encountered in tackling the complexities of humanity. I cannot overstate the profundity of the insights I have gleaned from Sullivan's simplistic prose. Simply put, this book is important as it proffers lessons in empathy, a value that our society is very much impoverished of. It is a shame that this is not a well-known title; I stumbled upon the book serendipitously whilst trawling the Internet for free pdfs (openlibrary.org is your bes This is by far the most successful piece of writing I have encountered in tackling the complexities of humanity. I cannot overstate the profundity of the insights I have gleaned from Sullivan's simplistic prose. Simply put, this book is important as it proffers lessons in empathy, a value that our society is very much impoverished of. It is a shame that this is not a well-known title; I stumbled upon the book serendipitously whilst trawling the Internet for free pdfs (openlibrary.org is your best friend for that). I have been on goodreads for years and this is the first review I have bothered to write - I hope that stands testament to how strongly I urge you to read it!

  3. 4 out of 5

    vittore paleni

    A beautifully touching triptych (even if the middle piece is a bit of a lull).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vito Alberto

    I'm not completely sold on AS's interpretation of the Aquinas' concept of caritas nor on his general argument about friendship, but I found this to be a great book nonetheless. I'm not completely sold on AS's interpretation of the Aquinas' concept of caritas nor on his general argument about friendship, but I found this to be a great book nonetheless.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alex Dimaio

    Beautiful. Wish it were more memoir though

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael Meeuwis

    Oh, Andrew Sullivan, you special Catholic gay person, you. I find this book ungainly in the way that I find the blog ungainly, although the writing here is much better: he gets passionate about things, and occasionally the passion throws him in odd directions. The description of life in the AIDS epidemic in the pre-cocktail years is very fine, and very informative, as is the description of the day-to-day effects of new medications on AIDS treatment. His essay on friendship is maybe even better Oh, Andrew Sullivan, you special Catholic gay person, you. I find this book ungainly in the way that I find the blog ungainly, although the writing here is much better: he gets passionate about things, and occasionally the passion throws him in odd directions. The description of life in the AIDS epidemic in the pre-cocktail years is very fine, and very informative, as is the description of the day-to-day effects of new medications on AIDS treatment. His essay on friendship is maybe even better, in parts--I find myself thinking of it from time to time, months after reading the book. It will give you a new vocabulary for talking about friendship. I do find his descriptions of the specialness of his friends to be a little bit much--it's obvious that he moved in elite circles, indeed, and I think that this clouds his judgment about some of the book's issues. And I do still find that the book's descriptions of Catholicism are problematic, although I worry that this is my own resistance to Sullivan's reconciliation of Catholicism and homosexuality more than perhaps the book's faults. Finally, the Freud business. I've had disagreements with friends that I've talked to about this, but I do find his Freudian narrative of homosexuality-as-unusual-development to be problematic. I think this dates the book, even though it's not more than a decade old: Sullivan's homosexuals are different and, well, special, in a way that I'm not sure I agree with. This might date me to this particular moment, but I don't know that homosexuality is as not-normal as Sullivan describes it. He's very invested in a wider application of the kind of homosexuality that he knew: initially closeted, then closeted in elite spaces, then out from a very high vantage point. I don't think this works for a model of homosexuality in general--I mean, I hope it doesn't, since it brings us closer to a sort of Alan Blooming of homosexuality than the years between Bloom and Sullivan might seem to suggest. Since the Freud essay is the entire middle of the book, this casts problems over the volume as a whole. I feel that, in years to come, this might be the insta-skip section of this book--don't look for the essay in "The Portable Andrew Sullivan," coming 2024! So: thought-provoking, but frequently (if suggestively, persuasively, maybe convincingly?) wrong.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mohammed

    A powerful trio of essays on the subjects of love, sex, solidarity, and friendship, and an insightful look into the battle of HIV and AIDS in the United States as well as the uprising of gays and their communities. Sullivan delves deep into philosophy as he tries to unravel the complex threads set by Freud on one spectrum and the reparative therapists on the other to determine what is homosexuality, how it was forced to appear on the surface, and how it's influenced by our homes, parents, and fr A powerful trio of essays on the subjects of love, sex, solidarity, and friendship, and an insightful look into the battle of HIV and AIDS in the United States as well as the uprising of gays and their communities. Sullivan delves deep into philosophy as he tries to unravel the complex threads set by Freud on one spectrum and the reparative therapists on the other to determine what is homosexuality, how it was forced to appear on the surface, and how it's influenced by our homes, parents, and friendships. The last essay on the topic of friendship was an incredibly powerful one and a recommended read by itself. Perhaps the only point that totally lost me is when Sullivan shifted the topic momentarily to faith and Christianity near the end. Ignoring that, Sullivan goes through universally acknowledged feelings that are deeply relatable; effective as they are affective.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jason Logue

    Sullivan's collection of part-memoirs and part-essays on homosexuality, surviving the AIDs epidemic, and friendship is well-written and thought provoking. Sullivan and I don't see eye to eye, but he is such an excellent writer, such an effective rhetorician, that I couldn't help but be compelled by his arguments and ideas. His final essay on friendship is probably my favorite thing I've ever read on friendship, though. It's a thorough exploration of the concept of friendship through the pain and Sullivan's collection of part-memoirs and part-essays on homosexuality, surviving the AIDs epidemic, and friendship is well-written and thought provoking. Sullivan and I don't see eye to eye, but he is such an excellent writer, such an effective rhetorician, that I couldn't help but be compelled by his arguments and ideas. His final essay on friendship is probably my favorite thing I've ever read on friendship, though. It's a thorough exploration of the concept of friendship through the pain and loss he suffered after losing his good friend Patrick to AIDs. As someone who lost my best friend a few years ago, this resonated with me on many levels. Sullivan attempts to revive a view of friendship that is seemingly lost in our sex or romance obsessed world.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    The Undetectable of the title is word play referring to very low levels of HIV antibodies in an AIDs patient; and to obscured emotional attachment. Andrew Sullivan, an erudite gay man who became HIV positive, knows of what he writes. If he weren’t so erudite, so parenthetical, so pedantic – this would be a better book. On the good side, there are a lot of painstakingly constructed arguments for why gay people are “normal” that would provide a lot of ammunition should you ever find yourself in a The Undetectable of the title is word play referring to very low levels of HIV antibodies in an AIDs patient; and to obscured emotional attachment. Andrew Sullivan, an erudite gay man who became HIV positive, knows of what he writes. If he weren’t so erudite, so parenthetical, so pedantic – this would be a better book. On the good side, there are a lot of painstakingly constructed arguments for why gay people are “normal” that would provide a lot of ammunition should you ever find yourself in a debate with a homophobe.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I alternate between a sense of enrapturement and annoyance with Sullivan. There are some very interesting points in this book, and some that, even though I know that they are coming, I still find disappointing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Harmon

    Eye opening and insightful on a level I never expected. Not always in agreement with Sullivan's politics but he was spot-on with the references and brilliant observations made in this book. I'm a fan for life after reading this. Eye opening and insightful on a level I never expected. Not always in agreement with Sullivan's politics but he was spot-on with the references and brilliant observations made in this book. I'm a fan for life after reading this.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Although I do not alwasy agree with his politics, this book was instrumental in helping me cope with a very personal event in January 2000. Without his words and understanding, I do not know how I would have managed that event.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Always loved this book. Especially the Essay 'If love were all'- Its worth it to re-read Always loved this book. Especially the Essay 'If love were all'- Its worth it to re-read

  14. 5 out of 5

    Arup

  15. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Perez

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  17. 4 out of 5

    Richard Pratt

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bruno Lages

  19. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  20. 4 out of 5

    Allison Grace

  21. 4 out of 5

    Marcelo

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  23. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lee Floersch

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dwight Welch

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ross Aronowitz

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maya

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Meneses

  30. 5 out of 5

    Erik

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