Historical Palimpsest in James Robert Baker's Tim and Pete
Set in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Tim and Pete (1993) represents the city's atomised urban spaces not only as exemplars of a crisis in American pluralism, but as palimpsests which articulate profound historical change. The novel's interrogation of post-war developments in queer and gay identities is figured by a geographical journey through L.A., moving from derelict 1970s bath houses in West Hollywood to the faded queer carnivalesque of Long Beach and the crumbling Ambassador Hotel, haunted by the deaths of Robert Kennedy and the popular radicalism of the 1960s. Focalised through the twin prisms of the AIDS crisis and a disunited nation during the Reagan-Bush years, Baker's vision of American geographies is bleak but suggestive: urban spaces do not simply reflect social and historical change but are constitutive of them. In Tim and Pete, this paper argues, places are contestable signifiers through which a relationship with cultural or subcultural pasts can be explored and resignified.
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