John Marr is surprised he doesn’t have AIDS. He has been having near-daily sexual encounters with strange men since before the dawn of HIV, but he remains healthy. His initiation began in the bathroom of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, and since then he has found himself at home in the darkest corners of Manhattan’s culture of anonymous gay sex. During the day, it is a different story, as Marr works on his graduate thesis—an analysis of the work of a brilliant 1970s philosopher who died mysteriously in one of the gay bars of Hell’s Kitchen. As his research and his sex life begin to converge, Marr senses that if AIDS doesn’t get him, something darker will.
The Mad Man, which the author dubbed a “pornotopic fantasy,” is more than a powerful work of philosophical erotica; it is a snapshot of a vanished moment in New York City’s gay history, when fear and lust commingled in a single powerful force.