cover image Men on Men 7

Men on Men 7

Various. Plume Books, $21 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-452-27734-2

Rarely has a subtitle been so apt, or a series so consistently strong. Against the recent deluge of sloppy, would-be postmodern subcultural stories, Men on Men has regularly yielded a trove of well-wrought gay-themed short fiction. Gay critic, poet and anthologist Bergman includes among these 20 stories several by well-known authors. There's an engagingly sad piece by Andrew Holleran called ""The Married Man,"" which traces an aging janitor's ""years of celibacy"" ; Felice Picano's ""The Geology of Southern California at Black's Beach"" is also notable. The collection's real rewards, however, are excellent stories by such new writers as Keith Banner, Shawn Behlen, C. Bard Cole, Alex Jeffers, Brian Sloan and Emanuel Xavier in which stereotypes familiar from older gay-themed fiction are overturned. There are gay men who love women, gay men who are poor and rough around the edges, even gay men who kill without being Cruising-style psychos. Some stories succeed on their own terms but gain little from a gay context. But for the most part this volume boasts maturely conceived and executed images and ideas. David Newman's ""Calendar Boy"" is a funny, compact take on the collegiate closet, and Greg Johnson's ""The Death of Jackie Kennedy"" crosscuts sensitively among the narrator's father, who's dying of cancer, the narrator's lover, who's fighting a ""final bout with AIDS,"" and its eponymous celebrity demise. Agent, Irene Skolnick. (Nov.)