PRETENDING TO SAY NO by Bruce Benderson


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Eleven stories and one novella make up this raunchy first collection of in-your-face fiction mostly about homosexuality and crack addiction. Some of these repetitive tales of the demimonde have previously appeared in Between C&D, the putatively avant-garde small magazine from Manhattan's Lower East Side that's receptive to hard-core and kink. With a heavy hand, Benderson tells one tale again and again: a gay white boy with a respectable job and a taste for rough trade plunges into the multihued netherworld of crack-heads and hustlers. In ""A Visit from Mom,"" a nice Jewish boy from upstate worries about his aging mother's trip back home from visiting him in N.Y.C.; his thoughts turn to her during a scuzzy sexual encounter with a male prostitute. In ""Suicide Ecstasy,"" a former book editor, seeking sexual and pharmaceutical thrills, imagines the life story of the boy who's holding a gun to his head in a South Bronx bedroom. In ""A Happy Automaton,"" a self-described ""cocaine-using homosexual living on the fringes of crime with a nineteen-year-old ex-offender hustler"" describes his preferred ""automatic life"" of sex and drugs. Other narrative voices heard here include: an illiterate crack-head who believes he's being visited by Nancy Reagan (the title story); a suburban father of an illegally adopted boy who becomes addicted to crack after Finding it in his son's room; a status-seeking homophobic doctor who nurtures gay fantasies of his own; a priest who smokes crack with the young boys he beds; and a she-male who fancies herself a goddess, seducing the strongest inmates at Riker's Island. The very Burroughs-like novella, ""The Mass Production of Teenagers,"" borrows from sci-fi and hard-boiled detective fiction to tell its metafictional tale of a priest who turns boys into wolves as part of his effort to preserve youth. Stories that beat you over the head with their sleazy authenticity. No need to pretend--just say no.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1990
Publisher: New American Library