A snappy, of-the-moment collection of 21 stories or novel excerpts from the usual gay suspects--all men--edited by Bouldrey...

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BEST AMERICAN GAY FICTION 1996

A snappy, of-the-moment collection of 21 stories or novel excerpts from the usual gay suspects--all men--edited by Bouldrey (Wrestling with the Angel: Faith and Religion in the Lives of Gay Men, 1995). Imagine an unrisky 1996 best-of-queer-fiction list, and this anthology, the first in an annual series, is probably what would emerge: Bouldrey has Edmund White celebrating Paris (""His Biographer""), Scott Helm writing about kids in Kansas (""Don't or Stop""), Michael Cunningham on pubescent whores and wise drag queens (""Cassandra""), and Christopher Bram summarizing the nature of sexual extortion (""Posterity""). The stories of R.S. Jones (""I Am Making a Mistake"") and Jason K. Friedman (""The Wedding Dress"") are luminous, the former dealing explicitly with AIDS, the latter with a surreal event that leads to an unplanned sexual awakening. Dick Scanlan weighs in with ""Banking Hours,"" about a young man who experiences his first betrayal and begins to contemplate the inevitable flight from his straight family. Robert Gl(infinity)ck's ""The Early Worm"" adopts an iffy experimental stance that holds few surprises in its obscure transformations (""Individual voices take big chances,"" writes Bouldrey in his windy introduction, but that's not always demonstrated here), and Jim Provenzano's ""Split Lip"" confuses brevity with incision. Adam Klein's ""The Medicine Burns,"" however, represents the collection at its finest: A boy suffering from acne gets a multifaceted education from an aesthetically ""superior"" fellow student. The multicultural contribution is supplied by Ernesto Mestre, along with the purplest prose and breathiest title (""His eyes were...the color of boiling honey"" comes from ""Monologue of Triste the Contortionist""). Joe Westmoreland, in ""The Spanking,"" offers a standard coming-of-age tale, and Michael Lowenthal covers the serious post--HIV positive, post--AIDS boffing (""Going Away""). A thoroughly middle-of-the-road gathering that doesn't utter the last word but still manages to canvass the year in gay scribbling.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 1996

ISBN: 0316103179

Page Count: 336

Publisher: "Little, Brown"

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996