Hard, by Wayne Hoffman, is is his literary fiction lifestyle drama novel, free for a limited time courtesy of LGBT specialty publisher Lethe Press.
This was originally published in 2006 by Carroll & Graf. The story is set in New York City during the 1990s, in the immediate aftermath of the AIDS crisis, and explores how its impact on the gay community affects characters from all walks of life over the course of a single year. This is apparently meant as a sort of companion novel to an earlier work by author Larry Kramer, which similarly explored the NYC gay community in the 1970s during the height of the sexual revolution.
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Taking place over the course of a single year, Hard periodically stops the action to delve into the sexual psyche of its main characters, exploring what motivates them, what turns them on, what defines their identity — what makes them hard. As Faggots explored the 1970s sexual universe of gay men in New York, Hard takes a serious look a generation later, taking readers into adult theaters, online chat rooms, bedrooms, and into the minds of the gay men who have sex there.
But while Faggots was written before AIDS, the characters in Hard are very much affected by the epidemic: Frank lost his lover to the disease, Gene is HIV-positive, Aaron’s lover unwittingly puts them both in danger, and Moe’s sexual politics are deeply informed by AIDS. There’s nobody in Hard who hasn’t had his sexuality and politics shaped by the epidemic. There’s also a motley crew of activists and sex partners, co-workers and family members, porn stars and B-list celebrities.
The complex web of characters and subplots create a rich portrait of New York in the 1990s. And, like Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, Hard does it with edgy humor, snappy dialogue, and a scene-driven episodic structure.