Short-stories collection offers a tasty literary snack when a full novel is just too much
by Kit van Cleave
Following a similarly named volume from 2011 comes Best Gay Stories 2012 with some fine writing and a few real surprises.
Edited by Canadian Peter Dubé, who also edited Best Gay Stories 2011, this anthology of 15 stories also offers some works of writers from diverse cultures. Five have Hispanic surnames, and one is Asian. Dubé has arranged them around shared experiences of desire, longing,
Even when the stories include erotic themes, all but one have high literary standards. Here are those I think
The first one, Canadian Matthew Trafford’s “The Renegade Angels of Parkdale,” describes a gay bar staffed by angels who are aggressive with the patrons. To gain entrance, one must choose either E.E.L.S. or Squeals. Those who choose E.E.L.S. must loudly shout “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” (“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”). If the patron chooses Squeals, he must tell “the one moment in his life in which he experienced the most profound despair.” Those who follow instructions are obviously bonded in humiliation when they enter the bar. One of them, Zach, has recently lost his lover to suicide, and doesn’t want to be out for the evening at all. Friends have dragged him to the bar, and he ends the night by helping a drunk stranger home.
Also moving was Felice Picano’s “My Childhood Friend,” in which the author recounts how he met James, a stranger, who is HIV-positive. James doesn’t want to date; he wants someone to bicycle to New York City with him—at all hours of the day and night. So Picano describes him as a childhood friend, someone who does as an adult what most boys do as kids.
Noel Alumit’s “Laconic Messages of Love” tells of a choir member singing the Kyrie at Mass, recalling his many years as a devout Catholic. He remembers how he felt about the rosary, his liturgical studies, his attempt to master the church’s hagiography. But then he realizes this is the last Kyrie he will ever sing. One night in a gay bar, a man mistook him for someone else. He had carefully restrained himself in the bars, as he believed Catholic theology that it was okay to be gay but not to have gay sex. But in a chance encounter, when the stranger kissed his hand, he realized the Kyrie prayer (“Lord, have mercy”) had been answered. The stranger’s act evoked an epiphany, and mercy had already been granted.
In Elias Miguel Munoz’s “The Unequivocal Moon,” the narrator’s friend Ray comes over to drink margaritas and eat quesadillas as a full moon is coming up. Ray is very flirtatious with him. They have a discussion about how they are different from other men, who have trouble with intimacy. The narrator considers taking this all a bit further, but then he realizes that Ray would be devastated without his wife and family, and sends him home.
“At This Late Hour,” by Loren Arthur Moreno Jr., evokes the loneliness of closeted men who have difficulty making social connections. In this brief story, a young man regularly drives twenty minutes to Hawaii Kai to service a married man, who takes his offering, and vulnerability, then turns away without remorse.
As for two of the erotic stories, one is about a guy who decides to make love in a wedding cake, only to find out his partner is lactose intolerant. Another is about a top bear who makes a connection with a man online who wants to experience bondage. Regardless of the content, these stories are well told and generally interesting. Only a few are miscues.
Dubé provides his e-mail address but obviously prefers to read materials by published writers. For those in or around Texas who would like to submit material for a future edition, contact him at peterdube.com.
Kit van Cleave is a freelance writer living in Montrose. She has published in local, national, and international media.