The Man with Night Sweats is a haunting depiction of a world ravaged by illness that is part elegy for those who have been lost and part evocation of the changes that await those who survive. It is also one of the few works of literature that have fully met both the aesthetic and the moral challenges that the AIDS epidemic poses. The nobility and sobriety of Thom Gunn's forms enhance and underscore the gravity and pathos of his subjects. The results have the cathartic and healing power of great art.
"The tension of Gunn's famous earlier poems, which adventurously drew on classical themes (Achilles and Patroclus), pop icons (Presley and Brando), and existential extremes, has, in his first new collection in ten years, become muted and commemorative . . . Gunn moves with a colloquial ease and a kind of epigrammatic grace through a variety of quatrains, coupleted monologues, Skeltonic variations, and occasional free verse."—John Updike, The New Yorker
"The great and undeniable potency of The Man with Night Sweats comes from the poet's huge restraint, as much as from his tragic subject matter . . . The Man with Night Sweats shows a poet at the top of his form, gathering his world into art without ever choking off passion. The formidable craft behind these poems—the metrical, syllabic, and rhyming intricacy—is translucent, but there to buoy the emotion like an invisible net."—Matthew Gilbert, The Boston Globe
"What Gunn is continually attempting to grasp or understand in this book is the condition of those around him, strangers and lovers alike, and we treasure his tone of brotherly forbearance as he makes his way . . . Gunn is a defiantly unsuitable poet—a formalist who often writes in free verse, an Englishman living in America, an autobiographical poet whose subjects elude the self . . . The book, divided into four sections, begins with poems boldly erotic and ends at 'death's door' . . . Yet amid all this astringent life experience, astonishingly, a profound hope emerges."—Henri Cole, The Nation