Hockney’s Alphabet

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A book with a conscience, HOCKNEY’S ALPHABET was conceived as an effort to raise money for the American Friends of AIDS Crisis Trust. All proceeds from sales will be given to this organization for AIDS research and services to people with the disease.

Twenty-eight writers were given a Hockney drawing of one letter of the alphabet and invited to reflect upon that letter and write about what it suggested to him or her. The resulting poems, essays, and stories form a thought-provoking and involving set of original material. One contribution not inspired by Hockney’s art, but inserted as one of two comments on the letter “Q,” is a personal letter written in 1952 by T.S. Eliot, advising a young girl (whose last name begins with “Q") on how to get the literary juices flowing and the reasons why one might want to.

This alphabet, perhaps outwardly attractive to children because of its striking and colorful art work, deals primarily with adult issues and speaks an adult vocabulary. Arthur Miller, who writes on “R,” compares the stigma associated with AIDS to that of tuberculosis in earlier decades. It was commonly thought that poverty bred tuberculosis, and “decent people” were in no hurry to be associated with it. Human denial, according to Miller, remains our toughest barrier to fighting AIDS. John Updike, writing on “V,” vilifies AIDS as “Nature’s curse” from which we must now flinch after having so recently been awarded...

(The entire section is 401 words.)