Volume Two of Clubbed, subtitled “Anxiety, Anger, Activism”, continues where Volume One left off, covering the AIDS era from 1982-1992. I would be inclined to read Volume One first, not just because it’s fantastic, but because this book really is a true continuation. However, the author does put in background details for previous characters and events as necessary. Whilst these may seem unnecessarily repetitive to some readers who have already devoured the first book, the author cleverly allows greater understanding for those not au fait with the story so far. The fact that he does this in so few words is really the author’s core talent. As with Volume One, characters abound who are given full life and meaning, even when their time in the spotlight is brief. Stories that last less than two pages have significant emotional impact.
Seemingly extraneous details and inconsequential sentences are scattered throughout, but these are adroitly inserted to maintain the informal, autobiographical style of writing. Robert Karl is not creating a major plot here; he is taking us on a journey through history and history does not have a formula.
The glittery fluff of the club and party scenes is great fun, but where the author really hits his stride is in the tackling of serious issues: the emergence of AIDS; gay street kids; safer sex and reckless behaviour; dealing with depression and suicide due to the overwhelming grief and loss of so many friends.
Be prepared for a lot more spicy bedtime fun in this volume, including many forays into the lighter side of BDSM. However, these are presented in such a way that they’re entertaining even to those of us who don’t have such proclivities (myself included!)