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FIDELITIES by Richard Hall


A Book of Stories

by Richard Hall

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-670-83785-7
Publisher: Viking

Fourteen stories from Hall (Family Fictions, 1991, etc.)—a literate, and literary, grab-bag, mostly gay explorations of post- AIDS grief, social conundrums, and loyalty, though there are a couple of odd, antic pieces as well. The best include ``Avery Milbanke Day,'' in which a 70-year- old writer, his seven novels about ``the literature of hesitation'' long neglected, decides to stay with his old dying lover and nurse him through a final crisis instead of attending a public celebration of the novels and the writer. Likewise, ``The Jilting of Tim Weatherall'' manages to have it both ways: it cops a thing or two from the Katherine Anne Porter story ``The Jilting of Granny Weatherall'' but still movingly dramatizes the death of a young man with AIDS who has been abandoned by his natural family. ``The Cannibals,'' a haunting story, allows a Puerto Rican sick with AIDS to have a final vision of himself leaving New York (``...a trick, a deception, a story mirage''), then returning home to find mystical communion with the Carib Indians. The rest are all competently conceived and executed, but they lack the power of those three, tending toward either slice-of-life (``A Faustian Bargain,'' about the travails of a pianist with gay inclinations who married as a result of a clause in a will; ``A Simple Relationship,'' about a once-married man who cannot reach orgasm with his new male lover until that lover tenderly perseveres over a period of months; and ``Manhattan Transfer,'' about the grieving process of a 50-year-old AIDS widower) or odd, jaunty comedy (``Diamonds Are Forever,'' wherein a brother and sister fight over the family jewels; and ``Death Writes a Story,'' an exuberant takeoff on hard-boiled prose). A mixed collection, but Hall—when he's in top form—writes about gay men over 40 in a measured, often moving voice that explores the difficulties of grief and commitment.