BUDDIES by Ethan Mordden


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There is something very engaging about Mordden's gay fiction when he's dramatizing incidents in gay life--he's especially apt with voices and gestures, the pastel innuendo that means, Hey, guy, we're all in the same jockstrap--an aptness that avoids mere schtick and carries considerable feeling. But when he falls back on his Lord Chesterfield voice of advice to gays, he strives for a knowingness--a tone of high chat that makes very much out of very little--that is less convincing. Herein, a mixed bag of minidramas and lectures in passing that waver between fiction and autobiography, on the theme of gays as subcultural buddies--not just lovers but pals in gay wisdom. The same piece, as in his leadoff ""On the Care and Training of Parents and Siblings'--about taking on power in his family, among Mother, Dad, and his two younger brothers (the moon mice)--can show him at his best and worst. Mixed in with the action we get passages of padding and blather: ""My classic seizure of power in the house was The War of the Antiques; but I hesitate to set it before my readers, for fear they might turn from me in disdain and contempt--as, indeed, many have done at our celebrated metropolitan brunches, or at predisco cocktail stations, even at one Thanksgiving I spend with my Pooh editor Jerett and her friends, grown-up children of the sixties, of the Great American Generational Rebellion, and surely thus receptive to a saga of youthful innocence."" Which shows a crush on macaronic clauses but is zip for feeling. In ""Uptown, Downtown"" Mordden takes a visiting Angeleno buddy (a shirtless but innocent hustler) on his first tour through gay Manhattan. Aside from a brotherly hug from the visitor, this is mainly an exercise in gaytalk: the West Village is Gayland, 14th Street Scuzz Avenue, the Lexington IRT Terror Train, Midtown is Businessville, male nipples are quibbles, trolls will do anything to be liked, and so on. Some admirable fictional characters who showed up in Mordden's I've a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore have welcome return engagements. Mordden's rights as an outstanding gay writer, with Manhattan to the Pines as his turf, are undeniable. Here, all in all, a rather endearing look at the guys who play Strip Candyland and collect Alice Faye lobby cards.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1986
ISBN: 0312010052
Publisher: St. Martin's