|(Image by Capital Xtra files)||
story by James Moran /
Jan 15 2004
Quickies 3 is the newest of the series on gay male desire, an anthology that demonstrates that not all authors can craft good stories in 1,000 words, the parameter for short-short fiction.
The stories that work are sexy, moving and sometimes heartbreaking. The rest are alternately bad, ugly and neutral. The reader may find it difficult to switch from success to failure, but the rewards are breathtaking.
Superb stories include Jimmy in the Bath by Trebor Healey and Sweater by Kyle Faas. They have longing in common. Healey’s story is about a kind stranger picking up travelling Jimmy on a subway platform in Oakland. The cadent language makes the story an imperfect rendering. One might forgive the flaws, along with Jimmy’s. The Sweater concerns a classic dilemma — making a little too much eye contact with your friend’s new boyfriend.
These examples contrast starkly with others. Tofu-Desire, by Jordan Mullens, is hilarious for all the wrong reasons. One of the predilections of Quickies is comparing men’s bodies to an astounding variety of meat products. Another is the overuse of terms such as “precum” and “piss hole.” Mullens goes too far. His descriptions of prime rib and hamburgers at a sex party are hard to take — most notably chicken bones sticking out of the most unlikely orifice. The Phenomenology of Cocksucking, Part 1, by Simon Sheppard may baffle the reader. The narrator has wanted to bed the other guy for years, yet he can’t stop harping about his conquest’s poor endowments.
There is one main difference between lesbian and gay male short-short fiction, besides the obvious – indoor or outdoor plumbing. Male protagonists seem generally more inclined to take revenge, risk dangerous sex and exact pain. The authors sometimes rely on descriptions of the body instead of delving deeper.
Bob Vickery is guilty of this excess in Bill’s Big Dick, a laughable sex romp that involves thrashing around in a never-ending orgasm. Antonio Ruffini goes for the gross ending in The Way of Empty Hands. The main character has a hard-on for a buddy in their karate class. Ruffini goes a few drops to the mat too far. Nonetheless, Quickies does heat up. Public sex abounds.
Over a half-dozen stories heat up in parked cars, public bathrooms and parks. These are quickies in the truest sense. An anonymous trucker has sex with the narrator behind the bush. A blundering middle-aged man cruises by late-night parks. Guys compete to see who can get the most conquests. A university student tries to find out how male students hook up at the campus library. The humour that runs through these stories also abounds in others such as Six-Shooter Sex by Mark Wildyr, where two cowboys compare more than just their height.
Ironically, the best story in Quickies is about desire but has no sex. Other writers could learn from author Stephen Lukas’ heartbreaking story, The Need for Touch. A volunteer named Kevin visits an elderly patient with advanced Alzheimer’s. Kevin brings his dog, Gracie, as part of the therapy. By visiting the old man, the protagonist is also trying to forget that his lover, a sailor, is overseas. In a few deft strokes, Lukas describes gay desire succinctly. Other stories near this mark, such as Cass Hutt by Linda Little, the sole contribution from a female author. Little is reminiscent of John Rechy in her treatment of a hustler who feels loved by his johns. Michael V Smith’s bittersweet Beaver Foxes is a story of two brothers growing apart.
The better stories in Quickies have an emotional impact on the character and the reader. They involve failed or changing relationships, losing friends and, quite often, denial.
Desire is not simply wanting a hot body, but longing for love, friendship or contact. In the hands of the less capable, the sex in Quickies is laughable, the writing style amateurish, the character development clumsy. But when connecting the character and their object and thus the story and the reader, Quickies resonates.
The anthology raises more than eyebrows. Quickies succeeds best when also rousing your mind, which it should do more often.
Short Short Fiction on Gay Male Desire.
Edited by James C Johnstone.
Arsenal Pulp Press. 2003.