Books by Patrick Merla

Released: Oct. 1, 1996

A collection that transforms the ``coming out'' story, examining its meanings and challenging its conventions. Too often, ``coming out'' is a narrative formula rife with clichÇs and shortcuts that tend to underemphasize individual experience. This collection regrettably, does have its share of boys who ``always felt different.'' But most of these essays go far beyond such stock condensations. Allan Gurganus describes his erotic fascination with and love for Dan, a golf buddy of his father's, who ended up being arrested for fondling a young boy in a shopping mall restroom. Edmund White describes a trip to Acapulco with his stepmother and racist father, in which he loses his virginity to the hotel bar's Indian pianist. Some stories involve coming out to oneself: the specific crush or sexual experience that lets the narrator know he was homosexual. Others focus on the disclosure to others, usually parents, friends, or girlfriends, but David Drake amusingly relates coming out to his broker. The essays are arranged chronologically, a sound editorial choice, given that the dramatic changes—and equally startling continuities—in gay experience over the past 40 years make compelling stories in themselves. Samuel Delany provides a thoughtful analysis of the changing meanings of ``coming out''—at first, taken from the parlance of debutante balls, it referred to an entrance into gay society and gay life. Post-Stonewall, it meant ``coming out of the closet.'' The contributors to Boys Like Us intend both meanings and many more; this diversity of interpretation, as well as of prose styles and experience, is an important part of the anthology's richness. Not all of these essays are stellar, but there is enough truly artful material here to elevate the ``coming out'' story into a literary genre. Read full book review >