The Faber Book of Gay Short Fiction

Edmund White, Editor Faber & Faber $24.95 (586p) ISBN 978-0-571-14472-3
A distinguished anthology by 32 American and British male authors, these stories and sketches fulfill what White ( A Boy's Own Story ) calls the ``twin urges'' of gay fiction--``the obligation to explain and the ambition to excite.'' Stunningly written is Allan Gurganus's explicit ``Forced Use,'' in which a married man who has denied his sexual orientation is ravished by a raw youth at a highway rest stop. Modern gay literature goes back to the cautious involutions of Henry James in ``The Pupil,'' in which death resolves the bond between boy and tutor; entries by E. M. Forster, Ronald Firbank and Christopher Isherwood also tend to obliqueness. Denton Welch's ``When I Was Thirteen'' sensitivity depicts a bracing but innocent encounter at a Swiss ski resort. Alfred Chester pens an ode to the degraded glories of the Paris urinal in his excellent ``In Praise of Vespasian.'' Tennessee Williams (``Two on a Party'') describes an affectionate odyssey between ``a female lush and a fairy.'' James Baldwin grows frank and reverent in ``Just Above My Head.'' Portraits of the beloved feature in White's poignant ``Skinned Alive'' and Dennis Cooper's ``My Mark.'' Motifs recur: parental showdowns, avoidance of women, haunting boyhood affairs, styles of male beauty, dress and courtship, and, more recently, AIDS. The collection offers a revealing and rewarding excursion into a subculture's language and mores. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
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