The term self-published is sure to evoke visions of would-be Edna St. Vincent Millays and fringe messiahs. But this month, through the online self-publishing house, Xlibris (www.Xlibris.com), there’s a prize in the popcorn: Paul Reed’s The Redwood Diary. From the pine-scented seclusion of a cabin outside San Francisco, Reed -- a longtime AIDS survivor -- records the minute changes in the weather, the Russian River and the wildflowers around him. The influence of Thoreau’s classic Walden is clear, but here the woods are also a backdrop for battle -- it’s 1995, friends are dying, and Reed himself, beset with nightsweats and fevers, depression and anxiety, is waging a daily war with AIDS. Quiet and confessional, Diary reads more like an epic pen-pal letter or a care package for posterity than your run-of-the-mill literary journal.
October 1, 2001 • By Angelo Ragaza