A lugubrious first collection by the gay author (Ground Zero, 1988, etc.), whose nostalgie de la boue will win him few champions outside Christopher Street. Most of Holleran's protagonists are veterans of the long struggle—first for tolerance, then for acceptance, and finally for simple survival—that defined gay history in America from the 1970s through '90s, and most are understandably sad over the changes brought on by the AIDS epidemic. In "The Ossuary," a small group of gay American tourists in Mexico meets another gay American who has just scattered the ashes of his dead lover in Oaxaca—only to have one of his bones stolen (for unknown reasons) by a Jesuit priest. "The Boxer" portrays the unhappy interaction of several graduate students sharing an old house in Iowa City, whereas "The Penthouse" centers on the more elaborate Manhattan apartment that is the center of a bitchy circle of art and fashion queens over some 20 years (during which many of them come to extremely sorrowful ends). "Petunias" and "The House Sitter" describe the drawn-out daily routines of Morgan, a middle-aged restaurant manager recently returned to New York after a long absence, and his constant, melancholy awareness that the gay world he knew in the '70s is gone forever. "Amsterdam" is one man's account of how his lover moves to that city in an attempt to find relief—through treatment or euthanasia—from the HIV virus he carries, and how he adjusts to life abroad. The title story is an elegy to the gay demimonde, set in a deserted Fire Island community in the quiet season after Labor Day. Too many variations on a single theme, without enough to distinguish one from the other. Holleran's talent is very real, but his focus becomes constraining in short order.
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