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Jameson Currier’s new novel What Comes Around (Chelsea Station Editions) is a collection of interconnected short stories thematically tied together with a threaded longing for love. Our unnamed male protagonist spends four decades searching for a soul mate, each time resulting in crushed hopes and internalized agony. From an adolescent crush on a swimming instructor to the imagined drowning of a high maintenance boyfriend, Currier explores every aspect of relationships – the good, the bad, and the very dysfunctional – each set in a literary landscape perfectly crafted for the lovelorn. Although categorized as fiction, the intimate tone of these stories reads more in the vein of a memoir, bringing to mind Jo Ann Beard’s career-making The Boys of My Youth. In many ways, Currier’s collection could be considered the male counterpart to Beard’s iconic book: both explore pain through poetic language, are structurally similar, and share the same somber and often melancholic tone, with men serving in each as the centrifugal force for plot and narrator.
What sets this particular collection aside from many of its contemporaries is the literary risk Currier takes with writing each story in second person narrative. The repetition of this might weigh heavy on some readers, as the pointed “you” gives the reader a constant sense of responsibility for what’s happening on the page. However, it’s a device that works for the most part, as it allows a voyeuristic view of one man’s nearly self-destructive search for love. The “you” brings us in closer to an effective face-to-face proximity with the narrator’s life, forcing us to search through his actions and choices for a possible reflection of our own.
Currier’s masterful command of language is demonstrated throughout the novel. His words are rich with the beauty of humanity, fully capturing the essence of the fragility of the hopeful heart. After sleeping with his best friend’s new boyfriend in a casino hotel room in Atlantic City, our narrator reminds us of consequences, echoing the karmic definition of the title of the novel:
You think about what would happen if you started dating Peter. What would Keith do if you told him you slept with his new boyfriend? How much would a confession like this cost you? You total up the price of a dinner, a movie, and an off-Broadway theater ticket and decide it’s not worth the effort. You have no interest in dating Peter. And you’d rather not lose Keith as a friend. But you are not home free. You are not exempt. You know you will pay a price for your indiscretion. You know the bill will arrive someday soon.
As a writer, Currier should be lauded for his creative decision to avoid the all-too-common formulaic trappings of most current novels written for and about gay men. Here, the focus is not on sex. Rather, the emphasis is the considerable lengths a man will go to in his lifelong search for true love.
What Comes Around
By Jameson Currier
Chelsea Station Editions
Paperback, 9781937627058, pp. 170