Neal Kane and David Feinberg, 1991

Neal 4 - Neal Kane.jpg
feinberg - Neal Kane.jpg


Neal Kane and David Feinberg, 1991




Who made this?

Photo: David Herder

Where was it made or acquired?

Cambridge, MA


I met David Feinberg in the spring of 1991. Our relationship combined two of the leitmotifs of the time: the growth of the nation’s gay literary scene, symbolized locally by events such as Boston’s OutWrite conference; and the continued, pervasive, relentless presence of AIDS, which showed no sign of abating as the crisis entered its second decade. Dave was an alumnus of MIT who, after living in New York City for a number of years, received positive notices for Eighty-Sixed, his first novel—a haunting, mordantly humorous chronicle of the early years of the epidemic and the years preceding it. We saw each other a number of times in the ensuing months; the accompanying photo was taken at his friend David Herder’s apartment in Cambridge. Dave was funny, subdued, and distracted; he was an exceptionally bright, intense guy whose looming medical plight lingered over every interaction and every conversation—a ubiquitous, lugubrious presence, the sword of Damocles. In those days, if you were among the worried well, you quickly learned a cardinal rule: when it came to discussing AIDS with someone who had been diagnosed, you always, always took your cues from them. If they wanted to talk about their treatments or their fears, you went there; if they wanted to talk about anything and everything else, you obliged. My conversation with Dave tended to focus on gossip about the gay literati (also known as the “glitterati”), culture, politics, and activism. Occasionally (OK, more than occasionally) he would make clipped, sardonic references to the catastrophe surrounding us, and him; gallows humor for the Age of AIDS. Romantic frustration was a constant theme in Dave’s life and work. When Spontaneous Combustion, his second novel, was published, I received a signed copy with a quasi-lovestruck inscription in which he referred to me as “half Pollyanna, half Lili Marlene”—a preternaturally accurate description of my persona at that time. Dave and I eventually lost touch; he died in November 1994. (I recently stumbled upon a blog post written by his close friend John Weir, which recounts Dave’s harrowing, horrifying—and yet, in their way, hilarious—final days.) Twenty-five years later, what endures? The exquisite pain that comes with remembering yet another deep, complicated, talented, entertaining guy gone fifty years too soon.


Neal Kane, Boston, MA, @nealkane (Twitter)


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“Neal Kane and David Feinberg, 1991,” Documented | Digital Collections of The History Project, accessed April 21, 2024,