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BEST AMERICAN GAY FICTION 1996 by Brian Bouldrey

BEST AMERICAN GAY FICTION 1996

By Brian Bouldrey

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1996
ISBN: 0-316-10320-9
Publisher: Little, Brown

 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 Heim 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 GlĂ…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 postHIV positive, postAIDS 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.