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.
Sexual politics-both public and private-play out against the cityscape of mid-1990s Manhattan in Hoffman's absorbing year-in-the-life of a group of gay men. Amid a citywide crackdown on public sex venues, the editors of two gay newspapers take opposing sides. One editor, Moe Pearlman-the 26-year-old grad-school dropout at the heart of the novel-is a founding member of the Alliance to Save Sex (get it?) who participates in civil disobedience more Candace Bushnell than Thoreau: with promiscuous oral sex, he "tak[es] a stand on his knees." The other editor, Frank DeSoto, remembers the AIDS epidemic of the '80s-when he lost his lover- and sees the crackdown as a matter of public health. Humanizing the story are the characters occupying the space between: aspiring photographer Kevin, who makes ends meet turning an occasional trick, endangering both himself and his lover, Aaron; and Gene, who must learn to give up his only fetish-control-when he's diagnosed with HIV. Though shallow characters initially stunt the narrative, the larger issues of sexual rights and AIDS add depth to their voices, making this sexually explicit debut novel an intriguing exploration of politics and psyche. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.