Best Gay Stories 2011 – Peter Dube, ed. (Lethe Press)

Buy it direct from Lethe Press.

As edited by founder Steve Berman, Lethe Press’ Best Gay
Stories
collections are truly as advertised, almost all uniformly strong
and solid. He has a knack for finding the right notes to strike, resulting in
chords that reverberate. Now, his stewardship has passed to the gigantically
talented Peter Dube, who shows himself to be just as keen and canny when it
comes to selecting the finest gay fiction.

I didn’t get a chance to review Lammy award winner Sandra
McDonald’s Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories, so I came to “Diana
Comet and the Lovesick Cowboy” fresh. I was absolutely captivated by the sense
of whimsy and charm McDonald creates as Comet and Captain Landan journey to the
Circle W Ranch and, ultimately, to hear famed author Whitney Waltman. Even
though I rarely get time to read anything not for Out in Print, this is
worth searching out.

From Sandra McDonald’s whimsy to the outright weirdness of
Daniel Allen Cox’s “A Nose Commits Suicide” to the beautifully metaphoric “The
Crow,” by Judas Garbah (Tanith Lee) to the breathless, restless journey of
David Gerrold’s “Thirteen O’Clock,” Dube seeks to widen the scope of the
possible narratives that shape and underlie our own individual queer philosophies,
and in that, he succeeds without question.

Take, for example, Steve Berman’s “Tell Me What You Love,
and I’ll Tell You What You Are,” a parallel story of Steve’s nephew at the
circus as well as Berman’s own musings on queer life. Though the stories may be
different, the ache and longing in both are evident. And I have some experience
with this story since it came from my own Lammy-finalist effort “Tented: Gay
Erotic Stories from Under the Big Top” (plug, plug…).

But Berman’s alternative narrative structure is not the only
one here—Paul Lisicky pulls one off brilliantly in “The Pillory,” as does
Ernest Hardy in “Cold and Wet, Tired You Bet…,” whose title is taken from the
jazz standard “My Man.” Dube has even given us two novel excerpts: Jameson
Currier’s “July 2002” from his recent The Third Buddha and Michael
Alenyikov’s “It Takes All Kinds” from his Ivan and Misha. Also among my
favorites are Aaron Hamburger’s wonderful “Finders Keepers,” which tracks the
backstage life of a dancer at a New Orleans strip club called the Corner Pocket
(a very real establishment author Trebor Healey took me to for the first time
about six years ago, enticing me by saying it was full of “Louisiana trailer
trash boys stripping down to badly laundered underwear.” How could I have
refused?) and Wayne Lee Gay’s “Ondine,” a beautifully done coming-of-age story
about a girl, her piano and her awakening.

So, rest assured that even though Steve Berman may have
passed the Best Gay Stories torch, Peter Dube is keeping the flame
blazing. Carry on, boys.

Review by Jerry Wheeler 

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