cover image We Had No Rules: Stories

We Had No Rules: Stories

Corinne Manning. Arsenal Pulp, $15.95 trade paper (192) ISBN 978-1-55152-799-4

Manning’s debut collection exquisitely examines queer relationships with equal parts humor, heartache, and titillation. Many of the stories hinge on age differences, occasionally with recurring characters who repeat the pattern of past sexual encounters. The title story follows a young unnamed lesbian runaway learning the ropes of 1980s New York City via a new haircut and wardrobe, and her sexual initiation with an older roommate. “The Boy on the Periphery of the World” follows two millennial men attending a lavish AIDS benefit, where they contend with the relative ease of their lifestyle compared to older gay men, whose perspectives cause them to question their identity (“Brian and I fuck, but we aren’t gay yet”). The runaway reappears decades later in the Pacific Northwest, where she runs a farm and talks about creating a community for queer and trans people. Her goals are complicated by a burgeoning attraction to a young farmhand (“All these systems are waiting right underneath you, and if you aren’t paying attention, you become complicit,” she reflects). Manning handles complicated subject matter with playful self-awareness (one story begins, “Oh, fuck it, I’m writing lesbian fiction”). This enriching view of queer worlds unpacks narratives that have always been there, even if they’re not often seen. (May)