Briefly Told Lives

C. Bard Cole, Author
C. Bard Cole, Author St. Martin's Press $22.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-312-25351-6
Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-312-27425-2
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-312-27690-4
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With obvious nods to gay literary icons Dennis Cooper and John Rechy, alternative zine author Cole's aggressive, uneven first collection--16 stories set mostly in and around New York City--introduces an assortment of hapless characters on the margins of the gay community. Gay, straight, but for the most part somewhere in between, Cole's protagonists live sexually charged, unstable lives. Many of the stories are named after their major characters. In ""George Gordon Plowhees,"" 19-year-old Geordie moonlights as an exotic dancer. He is ""more or less a gay boy but he doesn't like older men, he likes guys his own age and he likes them to be his friend and not so much boyfriends. Geordie loves his girlfriend too."" Drugs, sex and hustlers rule in many of these tales, and those looking for love often wind up taking a beating. A young porn star survives Hollywood, only to overdose in New York in ""Darin Brock Holloway."" In graphic, laconic ""Mitch Huber,"" the 18-year-old protagonist helps 16-year-old Ted dismember Ted's parents, in return for oral sex. An unexpected note of hope is sounded in ""James Loughlin Childes,"" in which a spirited paraplegic falls in love with a man with cerebral palsy. Cole is at his best when he writes about relatively ordinary men and boys. Three teenagers--two are gay and one is straight--discuss their sexuality in matter-of-fact terms in ""On a Railroad Bridge Throwing Stones."" In ""Young Hemingways,"" ostensibly straight Jon has a long-term crush on his literary college roommate, Dale. Cole's uninflected prose is sometimes artfully affectless, but his deliberate lack of stylistic flourishes eventually just sounds flat. The author's own computerized line drawings preface each tale, and are as intentionally crude and faux-na f as the stories themselves. (Aug.)
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