cover image The Darker Proof

The Darker Proof

Edmund White, Jerry White, Adam Mars-Jones. Plume Books, $8.95 (233pp) ISBN 978-0-452-26070-2

This is a timely collection: seven stories (four by Mars-Jones, a British writer, and three by White, the noted author of A Boy's Own Story and The Beautiful Room Is Empty) that examine the various effects of AIDS on gay men, their families and their way of life; it is fiction ripped, as it were, out of the headlines, though the stories here are by no means the first to tackle the theme. Unfortunately, though all of the tales pack an emotional wallopthey are, after all, about young people who are dying or living with the deaths of their friends and loversthe writers have merely presented us with situations that provoke grief and indignation, and done little, it seems, to shape them into involving fiction. Mars-Jones's stories appear first here, and the emotional truth they lack whets the appetite for White's pieces, which will disappoint those familiar with his earlier work. Four stories are longer than 40 pages; the writing is journalistic rather than imaginative (""Whereas the French were calm and rational in their responses to the epidemic, the Germans, like the English, were being driven to hysteria by their press,'' White writes). Unfortunately, even as readers will be enervated by the sadness and anger inherent in fiction about AIDS, the stories are more notable for their subject matter than their execution. (April)