It’s the 1980’s and Eddie Socket, a gay man in the second half of his twenties, is still waiting for his life to really begin. Certain that he will someday be some kind of artist he scrapes by on the odd temp job, word processing mostly, and shares an apartment in New York’s East Village with his long time friend Polly who spends her nights in acting classes. Neither of them have been successful in love yet. Neither of them have found the career they wanted. They’re not really sure what career that was anymore.
If these sound a little like the characters in Rent keep in mind that Mr. Weir’s book predates the hit musical by about two decades.
Eddie’s story isn’t really a story. He’s on hold, waiting for something to happen. He thinks it might be Merrit, the older man he meets and has a brief affair with, but it’s not. However, this won’t stop Eddie from longing for Merrit even after AIDS rears it’s ugly head.
This is the East Village in the mid 1980’s remember.
The thing that finally happens to Eddie, the event which gets his life going at last, is the discovery that his life won’t last much longer.
Since it’s publication The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket has been in and out of print but the book has still managed to find a following, especially among people who spent their 20’s in places like the East Village. While I could find much in Eddie’s story to identify with, the series of San Francisco apartments I spent the 1980’s in are very much like Eddie’s, I didn’t connect with the book the way others have.
I think the problem for me is that Eddie’s life ended before he could become someone I would really be interested in reading about. Which is probably the point. He doesn’t really have the potential to become an artist of any kind, even he had the drive. Neither did most of us. But before Eddie can realize this and get on with the rest of his life, he dies.
The Irreversible Decline of Eddie Socket is a very funny book. Eddie and his circle of friends are kind of fun to listen in on, even if I wouldn’t want to spend time with them in real life. There are plenty of references to 1980’s culture that will entertain anyone who lived through the 1980’s. What there wasn’t was any mention of ACT-UP.
How could a gay man with AIDS spend the 1980’s in New York City and never run into ACT-UP? You couldn’t get away from them if you tried in San Francisco. On night, while on my way to a friend’s house to watch videos, I got caught in and ACT-UP demonstration and had to hide in a Castro Street bookshop while the police swept the streets arresting all the protesters in their path. Eddie never does anything. Never goes to a meeting. Never marches, never chains himself to a doorway.
But that is completely true to his character. He is not a person who does things. He waits for life to provide. Unfortunately, what it provides is his end.
For the record: I went to meetings and I marched, but I never chained myself to anything.