cover image The Body and Its Dangers and Other Stories

The Body and Its Dangers and Other Stories

Allen Barnett, Alan Barnett. St. Martin's Press, $15.95 (181pp) ISBN 978-0-312-04272-1

Barnett's first book is a skillful, sad and sometimes stoic look at gay and lesbian love in six short stories. Haunted by AIDS and by the difficulty of connecting romantically even under the best of circumstances, his characters are perplexed realists doing battle with unreasonable fears and towering problems. Often isolated or adrift, they seek to understand the incomprehensible. A young man's fractured family and dim past in ``Snapshot'' lead him to yearn for love without fully grasping the extent of his need, so that ``to want and want and want, and not to know that you are wanting, means that you are never sure of anything.'' In ``The Body and Its Seasons,'' a disillusioned student searches for solace in sex, concluding, `` `This intimacy thing is highly overrated.' '' Barnett's willingness to venture into explosively emotional terrain with empathy, candor and balance is perhaps best revealed in his stunning ``The Times As It Knows Us,'' where men sharing a summerhouse appear to have created family within the gay community--yet even this proves illusory. Though occasionally overcrowded with allusions to art, architecture and culture, the book incisively reveals that in our hearts and souls, as well as our bodies, lie the real dangers. (Aug.)