Drag performers, detectives, and community moguls meet in Burch’s (The Homeport Journals, 2015, etc.) collection, which features coming-out stories with a twist.
All the stories in this collection have the feel of cautionary tales. The first, “Private Quarters,” features a young college student named Matt Atwood, who lives in a thin-walled, three-ring circus of an apartment building. There, he befriends Sandy, a somewhat ghastly, sallow-cheeked, and overly friendly woman who’s always luring him into her apartment with gossip and cocktails. Matt expresses some disgust for the women in his life, à la Philip Roth, as he navigates the expectations of Sandy and his own buttoned-up girlfriend, Claire. This tale, with its unmistakable fascination for people’s secret lives, sets the tone for subsequent stories in the collection. In another, an elderly woman, who lives with her abusive brother, throws a seriously awkward dinner party featuring a ragtag cast of disgruntled characters; most of the stories feature somewhat-older, somewhat-closeted gay men and their faithful female friends, who vary in description from resplendent to monstrous. The most memorable and formidable story in this collection, “Last Chance,” tells of a budding affair between a closeted male detective and an elegant murder suspect in the Bahamas. Over the course of several interrogations (including some in the form of fancy dinners, served by attentive young men), these two find that they have more in common than just the case at hand. This collection tries to get at the core of what it feels like to be in the closet and addresses the doubts and reticence that come with taking the first steps out. Even stories that address other themes still include key divulgences; in “The Honoree,” for example, a corrupt school dean’s sins catch up with her after skirting the law for years, and in “Götterdämmerung,” a musician shares the performance of a lifetime with his grandfather-in-law, a renowned maestro. Overall, Burch weaves a collection of crackerjack plot twists in which unlikely heroes seize the day.
A colorful topography of mostly LGBT–related outings, forays, and adventures.