Eleven stories twisted into a semi-novel--a fairly upbeat, wistful picture of gay life in Greenwich Village, mid-Manhattan and at the Pines on Fire Island, more modest than but immensely superior to Edmund White's new gay novel, the stupefying sticky and clotted Caracole (p. 674). Mordden's often beguiling characters are also miles distant from the viciously self-lacerating gays of Mart Crowley's classic The Boys in the Band and the infamous meat-rack atrocities of John Rechy (City of Night, Numbers, etc.). In fact, though lust and sex marble every page, there isn't a single sexual description in the book. These stories, Mordden says, ""are meant as mine in particular, not as gay stories in general--not depictions per se. Each life bears its own tales."" They're about love and ""dangerous thighs"" and being gymmed down to hot angles. Says one drag queen: ""I don't think there's a man in New York who isn't available. Once even the gays were straight; now all the straights are gay."" Says a loveless gym queen in a slashing mood: ""You want hot truth? Love is so stupid they should give it to straights."" The stories are told by the author, Bud Mordden, and feature his friends, ""the archon of the Circuit, the notable (if fiercely flawed) Dennis Savage,"" and Dennis' itsy-bitsy boy lover, the ""very young, very silly, and very uneducated"" Little Kiwi ""'How old is that kid, anyway,' I once asked Dennis./'Old enough to love.'""/'He has the interests of a child of eight.'/'He voted in the last election.'/'For whom? The Velveteen Rabbit?'""). Flowing into one other, each neither better nor worse than its neighbors, they are stories about ""a culture run by the fascism of looks,"" and inhumanly charming Imaginary Lovers and ""sweet gypsy butts,"" the magic of the Pines, and about men who say of ""something elegant"" striding by, ""I want to bear his child."" They are about Carlo who gets hopeless crashes on ""teddy bears,"" men who ""had not defined themselves in any certain way. . .they had jobs but no career. They were gym trainers, or hotel orderlies, or movers. Now and again they hustled. They were the kind of people who never receive junk mail or utter beliefs or yearn for something that happens later than next week. They could be amazingly loyal, even valiant. They just didn't subscribe to anything.""That about says it for Gay Oz.