I met Michael Ausiello and Christopher “Kit” Cowan when they attended a party thrown in my building. I remembered them as the prototypical cute NYC couple — smart, good conversationalists, clearly well-matched.
Years later, I was shocked to hear that Kit had succumbed to cancer, but I am not surprised that Michael — the founder of TVLine.com — has turned his grief into a book. Writers write when life beats them up, and in this case, we're all the better for his urge to memorialize his relationship ...
Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies (Atria, $26) reads like a diary someone left open, with Ausiello documenting how he and his partner of 14 years met and fell in love. With endearingly clear eyes and an aversion to skipping the awkard parts, he describes how they fell for each other and goes into detail about the course of their long relationship, including the good and also the bad; when you've been together forever, it isn't always Hart to Hart.
Out of nowhere, Cowan developed neuroendocrine cancer, and it was quite advanced. This is a nightmare for anyone, and was extra-devastating for Ausiello, who had also lost his mother to cancer.
The moment when doctors discovered what could be wrong with Cowan, Ausiello was the first to know. He writes:
Dr Voight appeared in the doorway.
“Hi, Michael. Come on back. Let's have a talk,” he said, in an indeciperable, even tone.
I followed him down a corridor, through a room, and back to the same persurgical area from earlier. There was an empty bed and a chair. I went to sit down, but quickly changed my mind and remained standing and at eye level with the doctor.
“You should sit,” he urged me, his earlier expressionless face giving way to something far more grim.
I sat down. And I braced for impact.
“I'm concerned about Christopher,” he said.
It is Ausiello's ear for soundbites like this and his observational powers that make Spoiler Alert trenchant reporting of a situation many people have or will go through, told from a gay perspective.
Ausiello's account of how cancer strengthened, even revived, their romance — punctuated by a comic and quick wedding at City Hall for a couple who'd never been interested in legally tying the knot — is a joy, even though it communicates his great sorrow.
I hope no one will think twice about buying this book because it, like Old Yeller, promises death. It's about so much more. It's about the opposite — it's about a couple's life over one man's last 11 months, and about what the other learned from their time together living, and dying.