Jonathan: Gay Men’s Fiction – Raymond Luczak, ed. (Sibling Rivalry Press)

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Buy it direct from Sibling Rivalry Press

In the 1911 edition of The Devil’s Dictionary,
Ambrose Bierce defined the novel as “a short story padded.” This economy of
language, though, is different than the economy of poetry. The esteemed Raymond
Luczak shows his editorial skills in selecting ten terrific prose pieces for
the first edition of a new short fiction magazine, Jonathan.

This excellent collection has a strong start with Daniel
Nathan Terry’s “The Devil’s Birds,” a cautionary backwoods tale of boyhood
homophobia and unexpected alliances strong on atmosphere and potent images,
such as a barbed wire fence strung with dead bluejays in various stages of
decomposition.

Paul Lisicky’s “Animal Care and Control” is more adventurous
in structure, comprised of four short, seemingly unrelated anecdotes. Bears,
snakes, pitbulls and a cartoon octopus become metaphors for longing, anger,
tenacity and satisfaction in the face of danger. More conventional yet still
metaphoric, Eric Norris’ “Me and My Shadow” mixes crayons, dead brothers and
anthropomorphic houses into a very satisfying tale illustrating one man’s
inability to form relationships.

Many of the stories here do not deal with being gay in and
of itself, but rather concentrate on their characters’ relationships with each
other—gay issues being secondary. One of my favorites in this vein is James
Powers-Black’s “Pompeii,” a quiet story of a mother, her faith in a television
weatherman, and the snowstorm he predicts. Similarly, Reginald T. Jackson’s
“Butch Jeans” in which a lunch counter conversation between a man and his
mother proves bothersome until an incident in the dressing room buying those
butch jeans prompts the man to reevaluate their relationship.

That doesn’t mean queerness is unimportant. In Chip
Livingston’s “Don’t Tell Me,” a chance encounter with a friend who has a video
of a man and his ex in a sex club leads to a not-so-chance encounter between
the former lovers, and in the well-executed surprise of “At Danceteria,” Philip
Dean Walker takes us inside the infamous club. You don’t get much gayer than
that.

Jonathan is slim—the above seven stories plus Ian
Young’s “The Boy in the Blue Boxing Gloves,” Wendell Rickett’s oddly exotic
“Bayonet” and Matthew R. Loney’s sharp and affecting “A Feast of Bear”—but the
material here is sure to give you a good bang for your buck. 

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©, 2012, Jerry Wheeler

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