Some gay novels aim to titillate, others to reveal, a few to punish, still fewer to enlighten. Unfortunately, this rookie novel from Rettenmund (Encyclopedia Madonnica, 1995, not reviewed) wants to wallow. If the author weren't so facile with words--and if his hedonistic protagonist didn't actually harbor the lurking urge to settle down with somebody for keeps--the book's meringue of jaded poses would swiftly weary. Style Lite, though, at least helps save the day. As for ""X,"" he's a 25-year-old Chicago hustler padding out his savings account by servicing middle-aged johns (""I made money the old-fashioned way--I fucked for it""). Still, X has principles, or at least One Big Rule: His rectum is hallowed ground, not to be speared except in love. He's also got boy trouble with his roommates. Joe, a strapping teenage partyboy, has a thing for X, while X has a thing for Andrew, an elusive bisexual Adonis whose showers provoke X to fits of secretive masturbation. There's a love triangle in the Windy City, in other words, and Rettenmund sets out in jittery fashion to resolve it, peppering X's flustered observations on his profession, tricks, and loves with lots of neurotic cultural references and good measures of sometimes effortful wit (""Looking unaffected is about as common among gay guys as looking sultry is among nuns"") running the full register of '80s pop jargoneering and slangmanship. The fact is that nothing much happens, but this doesn't greatly matter. X remains appealingly vulnerable, especially when it comes to a special client who concocts a steamily monogamous queer past that catches X's heart. The final dilemma is whether X will abandon prostitution for a steady homelife, a choice possibly akin to a writer's retiring his keyboard. A piece of fiction that parades seductiveness and pose on the one hand, and claims the interventions of responsibility on the other.