Book review: Foolish hearts: new gay fiction

Foolish HeartsFoolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction. Ed. by Timothy J. Lambert and R. D. Cochrane. Cleis Press. 2013. $15.95. 222p. PB. 978-1-62778-005-6 $15.95.

In this celebration of foolish stories, some narratives, for example the opening “Hello Aloha” by Tony Calvert, are too foolish for my taste. Despite the Hawaiian greeting in the title, the setting is the Magic Kingdom in one of the Disney parks. Two gay men get married in an elaborate ceremony, and everyone in the entourage is coupled, except for the best man and a woman. The couple hires a bunch of humpy eligible bachelors for the best man’s entertainment who instead falls for the Disney dog Goofie and leaves with the guy who plays him, who turns out to be gay.

The title and the lack of copyright dates for the stories indicate that these are new stories, most from previously-published authors. For example, Felice Picano’s “New Kid in Town: 1977” is a “foolish” story about a wild party in Hollywood in honor of some famous star.

I liked some of the stories, among them “Struck” by ‘Nathan Burgoine (yes, his first name begins with an apostrophe). Our hero is stuck in a mall bookstore suffering harassment from his substitute boss and enjoying breaks with a handsome security guard. He quits in disgust and goes off with the security guard. In Greg Herren’s “Touch Me in the Morning” the protagonist experiences depression and a crush on his physical trainer, who is trying to get him into shape.

One of the least foolish stories is Timothy Forry’s “Foundations.” Long-time partners are separated by work when a rare hurricane strikes New England. Both of them have strayed, causing difficulties in their relationships. One man struggles to find his partner in the storm and finds their home destroyed before the other comes out of the woods carrying their wounded dog. They vow to rebuild on their foundations.

Other less foolish stories include Craig Cotter’s “Rochester Summers” about teenage angst and groping toward a relationship between two co-workers in a pool supply store. They never get very far, but it’s a realistic story. Editor Timothy J. Lambert’s “Meditation” tells the frustration of a guy who is not really into the discipline of meditation and the strict rule of silence. Instead he fantasizes about a “corn-fed” hunk of a farm boy nearby in the room. Finally at the very end they greet each other and go out for coffee. Andrew Holleran’s story “Symposium” is a sad story of elderly gay men who gather in Ft. Lauderdale at a gay archives and library for a symposium. Meeting in the evening, they moan over lost opportunities, quoting Proust “love was an illness caused by jealousy” and Dostoyevsky “Hell is the inability to love” before they relax and look at the stars.

I recommend this anthology for libraries that routinely buy gay fiction widely. More selective libraries may want to skip this “foolish” anthology.

 

James Doig Anderson

Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science, Rutgers University

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