From Library Journal
Over the last decade production of gay fiction collections, both one-shots and annuals, has accelerated. This latest entry sets itself apart through a titular claim to contain only the highest-quality short stories and novel excerpts from the previous year. More specifically, of the 21 pieces just under half are drawn from periodicals and just over half are excised from books, either novels or other anthologies. Several credible choices stand out, including Adam Klein's "The Medicine Burns" and Bernard Cooper's "Arson." Though others are less to this reviewer's liking, most anthology readers expect variation, and because editor Bouldrey has based his selections purely on his personal taste such criticism seems pointless. Bouldrey (Genius of Desire, Ballantine, 1993) begins his introduction with a conversational riff on the pleasures of reading and putting together an anthology. But his later attempts to analyze individual stories and gay writing generally are superficial and strained. While there is nothing especially wrong with this book, neither is there anything especially right, and its claim to contain the "best" is not particularly credible. Libraries will be better served with the outstanding new His (LJ 9/1/95) and the venerable Men on Men 5 (LJ 8/94), both of which are parts of ongoing series.?Eric Bryant, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A snappy, of-the-moment collection of 21 stories or novel excerpts from the usual gay suspects--all men--edited by Bouldrey (Wrestling with the Angel: Faith and Religion in the Lives of Gay Men, 1995). Imagine an unrisky 1996 best-of-queer-fiction list, and this anthology, the first in an annual series, is probably what would emerge: Bouldrey has Edmund White celebrating Paris (``His Biographer''), Scott Heim writing about kids in Kansas (``Don't or Stop''), Michael Cunningham on pubescent whores and wise drag queens (``Cassandra''), and Christopher Bram summarizing the nature of sexual extortion (``Posterity''). The stories of R.S. Jones (``I Am Making a Mistake'') and Jason K. Friedman (``The Wedding Dress'') are luminous, the former dealing explicitly with AIDS, the latter with a surreal event that leads to an unplanned sexual awakening. Dick Scanlan weighs in with ``Banking Hours,'' about a young man who experiences his first betrayal and begins to contemplate the inevitable flight from his straight family. Robert Glck's ``The Early Worm'' adopts an iffy experimental stance that holds few surprises in its obscure transformations (``Individual voices take big chances,'' writes Bouldrey in his windy introduction, but that's not always demonstrated here), and Jim Provenzano's ``Split Lip'' confuses brevity with incision. Adam Klein's ``The Medicine Burns,'' however, represents the collection at its finest: A boy suffering from acne gets a multifaceted education from an aesthetically ``superior'' fellow student. The multicultural contribution is supplied by Ernesto Mestre, along with the purplest prose and breathiest title (``His eyes were...the color of boiling honey'' comes from ``Monologue of Triste the Contortionist''). Joe Westmoreland, in ``The Spanking,'' offers a standard coming-of-age tale, and Michael Lowenthal covers the serious postHIV positive, postAIDS boffing (``Going Away''). A thoroughly middle-of-the-road gathering that doesn't utter the last word but still manages to canvass the year in gay scribbling. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.