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Now, more than ever, the LGBT literary community requires salutation. We must salute those who have provided a voice for us. Countless pages of gay literature have documented the AIDS crisis, coming out sagas and the struggles of social and political equality. Authors have been genius. Authors have been diligent. Authors have been nothing, but fearless. The stories of our past ensure that we are able to tell the stories of our present.
The selections in Best Gay Stories 2016 illustrate that, in times of strife, our culture continues to further define itself. New characters, new conflicts, and new perspectives bring fresh distinction and color to the gay ethos.
Best Gay Stories 2016 is the eighth installment in a well-curated series, founded by editor Steve Berman. Showcasing iconic writers and new voices alike, BGS16 boldly proclaims that fiction landscapes are in the midst of transformation.
“Repossession” by Jonathan Harper delves into the business of tow trucking. There are roughneck crews, boozy backyard barbeques and greasy spoon pit stops. Harper pens an expertly woven tale about Randal, a young man, careening through neighborhoods, dreaming his patch-worked dreams. But are they unattainable? And are they even worth the effort? If you’ve ever crushed on a bumbling, confused boy, Harper’s perfect ending will cause paralysis.
“Marginalia” by Daniel Scott explores small town library drama in Watkins, Kansas. Warren Willard fumbles with Dewey Decimal relics while fingering the books that “no one reads.” This deserted setting doubles as a fallout shelter. Warning sirens wail and the staff rolls their eyes, waiting for the tornado that has not once appeared. While pretending to appear busy, Warren selects books for a reclusive man, Emil. Poetry volumes and how-to manuals are delivered weekly. When trust implodes, Warren wonders if he can find shelter from his own personal storm.
These two standout pieces remain to be incredibly different. What they share are contemporary, unique characters drawn in full-bodied manners.
“Fordham Court” by Richard Bowes is stellar. With lush, glossy descriptions, the author bares a young boy’s childhood, growing up in a “horseshoe-shaped apartment house” in Jamaica Plain, Boston. Surrounded by train tracks and freight yards, our protagonist recalls moments with his parents. He loses Larry, his infant brother, and endures traumatic crew cuts from the corner barbershop. Years later, our hero returns to “Fordham Court.” This journey of tarnished, confused innocence shines under the hand of Mr. Bowes.
Comparably, “Acres of Perhaps” by Will Ludwigsen also glances to the past. This piece centers on a group of Hollywood writers who craft a late night science fiction program in the early 1960s. With episodes like “the one where the camera stays fixed on a dark patch of woods at night for a whole half hour” or “the one with two Jewish teenagers learning to fly as they plunged from the Stairs of Death holding hands at Mauthausen,” their show is certainly no critic’s darling. Barry scrapes by, as does his wonder boy, faux friend David. In a mix of cocktails, rickety sets and one scorned ex-wife, the young men barrel through life. Ludwigsen composes a beautiful story about show business, personal worth and the plight of manhood.
Both these selections look to the past, honoring the history that compels us. However, both stories utilize modern, unique approaches to fiction writing that certainly succeed.
Best Gay Stories 2016 is populated with many notable works. This includes fiction by Carter Sickels, Sandpip Roy and Kelly Link, among others.
Steve Berman’s best isn’t merely his best. This anthology is inventive, textured and diverse: An indication of what’s to come in contemporary gay literature. Best Gay Stories 2016 is a cause for celebration in a time when we all need to celebrate.
Best Gay Stories 2016
Edited by Steve Berman
Paperback, 9781590215883, 220 pp.