A carefully composed, tautly executed debut collection of 16 interlocking stories that poses a collective riddle: How does the '90s gay man who has fled his family recover a lost domestic ideal, even if he never had it? Scanlan's answer is deceptively simple: friends and lovers. Beginning with ""Family Album,"" the author signs up his protagonist, Freddy, for a lifelong sequence of dance lessons. The child of a classic traumatizing marriage (reticent alcoholic father, melodramatic alcoholic mother), Freddy, with his affection for musicals and dolls, fits into any of a number of gay clichâ€šs, none of which Scanlan is off-guard enough to let control the development of his main character. A trip with his mother to Nashville to visit her parents does nothing to soothe Freddy's preadolescent unease--intimations abound that his grandfather molested Mom while Grandma turned a blind eye. In ""Cigarettes,"" an older Freddy is relieved when his parents bawl him out for stealing his mother's cigarettes, not for kissing the rude boy whom he steals them for (they never catch him in the transgressive act). ""Gold"" and ""Banking Hours"" prepare Freddy to escape to New York, and ""Red Light"" and ""The Clutch"" chronicle what happens once he gets there: waiting tables, doing standup comedy, and taking a lover who works for Andy Warhol. The remaining pieces follow Freddy's adult life in the age of AIDS: His parents get old and become sadly benign, though no less affecting (""Fallingwater""); he travels to Paris with a dying lover (L'Attrape de Coeur""); he reunites with a friend, worse off than he, who finds in Freddy a reason for melancholy envy (""Tattoo""); and, in the title story, he contends with post-AIDS dating. The collection ends weakly, with Freddy trysting in Anne Frank's secret annex during a visit to Amsterdam (""In Anne Frank's House""). A lot like sabotaged Halloween fruit: austere, appealing surfaces conceal razor blades that, through Scanlan's graceful alchemy, defy rust. Stylish, relevant writing.