A smart, heartfelt set of tales of gay men’s lives.

WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE WARN YOU ABOUT PRINCE CHARMING?

Currier (Until My Heart Stops, 2015, etc.) offers a collection of short stories about heartbreaks and humorous mistakes.

In “Lancelot’s Secret,” a college student takes an internship with a traveling production of Camelot, forcing him to contend with secret feelings of same-sex attraction. A man accompanies a friend who’s husband-hunting in the Hamptons and ends up meeting some men himself in “Sometimes You Have to Settle for Popeye (Even Though You’d Rather Play with Bluto).” “Elvis at Three is an Angel to Me” tells the tale of a man who suffers a complicated, unrequited crush on his roommate, who may be HIV-positive. In these 12 stories, Currier probes the possibilities and pitfalls of gay relationships, from adolescent first loves to middle-age what-might-have-beens. In the title story, a 63-year-old man, clicking through old boyfriends’ social media profiles, receives a shocking revelation about a fling he had 35 years ago: “You were never supposed to reach sixty,” the story begins, referring to the protagonist. “You survived a premature birth, the AIDS decades, the Y2K bug, 9/11, four hurricanes, three broken ribs, and two heart attacks. You don’t know whether to feel grateful or cursed.” The stories tend to focus on similar characters—often, expatriate Southerners looking for love in New York City and its environs. Currier varies the points of view, however, and even experiments with structure, as in “How to Obtain an Alfred Hitchcock Physique (and Bonus Dark Psyche),” which he formats as a numbered how-to list. His prose is plainspoken and often funny, although it also contains moments of understated emotion, as when a man describes his work with AIDS patients: “I used to be a ‘buddy’ to a guy who lived on the Upper East Side, which meant riding the subway for hours to take him to doctor appointments and buy his groceries. He was the third buddy in a row that I lost so I am taking a break until I am ready to have another buddy.” Cumulatively, the stories offer a warm, slightly melancholic view of people in and out of love.

A smart, heartfelt set of tales of gay men’s lives.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-937627-36-2

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2019

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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