It has been quite a while since I read a collection of gay stories (not all of these are very short and they are men only). I was hoping to be able to use the wonderful acronym QUILTBAG (queer and questioning, intersex, lesbian, transgender and two-spirit, bisexual, asexual and ally, and gay and genderqueer) but no such luck. I have been an avid reader of such story collections (erotic and non-erotic) and particularly enjoy the form, having sharpened my youthful teeth on our Henry Lawson. I always enjoy elegance, compactness (usually) and the capacity for the surprise ending one didn’t see coming. It has to be said that this is a collection of stories not just ‘short’ ones.
This collection edited by Torsten Højer (previously unknown to me) has a foreword by Stephen Fry (just when you thought you had escaped him). It is a reprise from his autobiography which describes his luck as an avid young reader to be able to ransack his local mobile library and later council library, providing the foundations of his thirst for literature and especially any giving insight into homosexuality. My own experience was delayed much later with occasional hints of suicidal homosexual men in movies until the gradual inflow of American publications and the eventual growth of our local gay press. So, one must be grateful that these stories are still being written and are more readily available for younger readers especially.
I would recommend it for any readers young and old as having a hefty percentage of good writing with some very well known contributors (it is dedicated to the late Peter Burton) – Sebastian Beaumont, Paul Magrs, Colin Spencer, Felice Picano, Francis King, Neil Bartlett, Patrick Gale, Ian Young and Neal Drinnan.
I particularly enjoyed “W.G.” by Tim Ashley featuring a total sociopath art collector whose mania comes to an interesting conclusion.
The stories are not all mainstream white bread either with a wide variety of ages and contexts and formats included. For me, two stand out here – Diriye Osman’s “Shoga” and John R Gordon’s “The Parasite that Grew Bigger than the Animal”.
Others of note were Damon Galgut’s “Shadows”, a poem “Eric In Retirement” by Robert Cochrane, Neil Bartlett’s “Caesar’s Gallic Wars” and the lengthy “The Good Butler”. This is a lengthy collection made economical in paperback format by using a rather small font – in my case, almost painfully small.