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The Rose City and Other Stories Hardcover – May 7, 2001
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The characters in David Ebershoff's spare, acid-etched stories are the loners holding down bar stools in the afternoon, the trolls that pretty gay boys learn how to avoid, men on whom fortune never smiled, or smiled only once, so briefly and dazzlingly, that they forever look backward. Often, though, their defining moment is not a happy memory. The protagonist of "The Dress" recounts being trapped in a woman's dress at the age of ten, having knotted the sash too tightly around his naked waist, an incident that cost him his father's love. Roland Dott, the mentally unstable main character of the title story, was rejected by his high school idol after delivering a bathroom blowjob, and consoles himself for forty years with an exaggerated sense of self worth. Much of the poignancy of Ebershoff's vision comes from his positioning of his characters in a hostile and uncomprehending world, rather than in a gay universe of cocktail parties, stylish hair, and flippant rejoinders. These are unconsoling stories, well crafted and hard to forget. --Regina Marler
From Publishers Weekly
Much less idyllic than their collective title suggests, most of these seven stories have at least a tenuous connection to Pasadena, Calif. In them, Ebershoff (The Danish Girl) sketches the lives of men and boys who are gay, longing to be gay or otherwise confused about their sexual identities although this is often the least of their worries. Most of the stories have a tragic edge, their protagonists mired in frustrations and obsessions, but Ebershoff capably draws readers into their lives. In "The Charm Bracelet," a young man on the verge of becoming a hustler is on his way home from a gay bar where he was the center of attention. He glimpses his future in an over-the-hill female prostitute on the run from an abusive relationship, but he treats her callously and is oblivious to the implications of the evening. "Regime" deals with Jon, an overweight, inexperienced gay teenager who believes he is taking control of his life by starving himself: "For the first time in my life, I have figured out how to draw a boy's interest." The insights into Jon's thought patterns are startling and disturbing, rendered with chilling precision. The title story is concerned with Roland Dott, a middle-aged, narcissistic, promiscuous snob (he was born in Pasadena and looks down on anyone who was not, referring to them as "trannies," or transplants). Far past his prime, he flirts outrageously and sadly, still dreaming of finding a happy ending with the perfect partner. Those craving inspirational or upbeat stories of queer empowerment should look elsewhere, but Ebershoff delivers a bouquet of vivid, hard-edged characters plagued by all-too-human frailties. Agent, Elaine Koster.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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I got goosebumps reading and rereading this small glimpse into what for me each story was crying out loud between the brilliant way words were placed beside each other and during one inside the body looking out at the world in a magnifying way of telling by the author of these seven gems of storytelling.
People who are different can be uncomfortable to read about but in these seven stories being different is celebrated because each story gives those who are different a voice.
Ebershoff's work enlightens, entertains, as it enables excellence!
but they can be interesting for those who want to learn about the coming out process. Bravo David Ebershoff!
Ebershoff's language is at once precise and lush. We are developing a very smart contemporary gay literature and we are lucky to have this author dedicated to illuminating our particular condition.
So these stories, while they may not get you up and dancing, ring completely true. Mr. Ebershoff is a very fine writer. He has a wonderful gift of setting a tone or describing a character or situation in few words. Here are only two examples: An AIDS victim is someone "who died in his sleep, boiled over with fever." We experience immediately the horror of this man's death. Another example: Jon in "Regime" describes his mother as "custardy in the upper arm." A wonderful image. There is nothing left to be said.
These are bleak but thoughtful stories. I recommend them highly.
Ebershoff also firmly understands Pasadena, California - a strange place watched by millions on January 1 each year as a haven for beautiful flowers, purple mountains, palm trees, and terribly affluent people. Without resorting to disdain Ebershoff lets us get to know these sequestered relics from another time who refuse to move out of their historic importance into reality. He takes on the guise of the very young, the aging closeted divas, the used up street walkers and wanabe sex toys, and with each narrator voice he seems to be intuitively right on target. This is a superb collection of stories from a writer who merits our close attention. His next novel will be eagerly awaited by a growing devoted readership.