The Brocken Spectre. ©Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

Book Review: Smash Cut

A #tbt book review originally published in A&U Magazine

Smash Cut: A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s and ’80s *
by Brad Gooch

Reviewed by Alina Oswald

There’s always a song, a poem, or a verse that sticks with us from the moment we first hear it or come to understand its meaning, and follows us through most of our lives. In the very first pages of his new AIDS memoir, Smash Cut, Brad Gooch mentions such a verse by the German poet Heinrich Heine, from a poem about a mermaid (called Lorelei) who sings on a giant rock in the middle of the Rhine River, luring boatmen to their death. In Smash Cut, the Lorelei legend comes to life, yet again, luring many—too many—individuals to what turned out to be one of the most ravaging plagues of modern days—the AIDS pandemic.

Smash Cut tells a story from the early years of AIDS, offering a complete and intimate narrative of a time before, during, and also after the height of the epidemic. In many ways Smash Cut is a love story like no other, documenting the ardent relationship between the author, Brad Gooch, and film director Howard Brookner during the seventies, surrounded by glitz and glamour, and the likes of Robert Mapplethorpe and Madonna, and also by temptations, such as drugs and random sex. But the AIDS epidemic of the eighties put an end to the show, and to the lives of many individuals, including Brookner.

Few were able to steer clear, and, like Gooch, be alive and well today to tell their stories of what life could have been for so many others, had they not fallen prey to the siren’s song.

Smash Cut is an eye-opening read, an intimate account of the silence before the AIDS storm, a silence deafened by the bright lights of the glitz and glory we all may long for at times. A testimony to what could happen when the bright lights dim down to the blackest darkness, Smash Cut is also a lesson in survival, teaching present and future generations how to avoid mirages and obstacles, while living the best life possible.

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