WAVES

AN ANTHOLOGY OF NEW GAY FICTION

The author of several gay-themed stories and novels (Everybody Loves You, 1988, etc.), Mordden collects work by 14 writers, ranging from the highly acclaimed Michael Cunningham (``White Angel'') to the previously unpublished Richard Davis (``Marty''). The editor sets the stage with an excellent overview of gay fiction, from ``the first wave of Stonewall lit''—daring, albeit slightly precious—in the 1970s through the second wave that arrived in the mid-1980s and emphasized ``exploring the family- and-friends background.'' Most stories here are ``third wave'' in nature: ``political, archetypal, experimental.'' These writers, Mordden contends, are more activist and more stylistically inventive. This is certainly true of Jim Provenzano's ``Forty Wild Crushes,'' which takes the form of an elementary school memoir—with hilarious footnotes. But most of the other experiments fail. G. Winston James's ``John,'' a story about a black man in a 42nd Street sex shop, has potential, but it's impossible to follow the narrative as it intertwines past with present. Brad Gooch's ``Satan'' is a deplorably crafted mishmash of sexually explicit S&M imagery, exhibitionism at its worst. If these stories are any indication of where the third wave is headed, there are reasons to prefer its predecessors. The finest pieces here may not harp as insistently as second-wave fiction on the family/friends background, but neither do they present characters popping up out of nowhere. In ``Cruise Control,'' John Edgar Harris sensitively depicts changes in gay sex since the discovery of AIDS, presenting a conversation between the first- person narrator and a man 20 years his senior as they stroll through various Manhattan neighborhoods. Abraham Verghese's ``Lilacs'' tells of a man who's suffered from AIDS for nine years, longer than anyone expected; superbly crafted, this gentle tale suddenly turns into a nightmare. Some good moments, but many of these writers are so self- absorbed that they leave their audience little to relate to.

Pub Date: July 21, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-74477-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1994

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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