In "What I Did Wrong," a fictionalized [David Feinberg] appears as Zack, already dead but still very much alive in the interior monologue of Tom, who, like [John Weir], is a 40-ish Queens College writing instructor. But Zack is only one strand in a braided necklace of characters whose lives intersect on a single weekend in 2000: among them Tom's hunky Irish-Italian buddy Richie, his protector from high school; half-Jewish, half-Japanese Ava, a bisexual beauty Tom met in college; and Justin, a talented young writing student whom Tom improbably falls for. The action ranges over all five boroughs and moves constantly between past and present, but never really leaves Tom's consciousness. "I wanted it to feel chaotic, the way you feel when you're walking down the street and you have your whole life in your head in one instant," Weir says. "I wanted it to seem like one spontaneous yawp, which was hard to do."
The novel draws as heavily on Weir's life as on Feinberg's death. Weir had been teaching at Queens for a year when Feinberg died, and his life was already undergoing a fundamental shift. "I made this transition from hanging out with a bunch of downtown, black-clad gay activists to teaching classes full of working-class students." Weir says. "The guys looked like the guys who had beaten me up in high school, and that was kind of scary. But I realized in the process of teaching them that they had just as vexed a relationship to their guyness as I had. The gay thing and the straight thing didn't really make a difference. I wanted to write a book that maybe spoke a little bit to their experience. My experience of desire is that it's not fixed. You fall in love with people you wouldn't expect to."