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Fiction

December 01, 1985|MALCOLM BOYD

I'VE A FEELING WE'RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE: TALES FROM GAY MANHATTAN by Ethan Mordden (St. Martin's: $12.95). This is a deliberately funny book, laced with laughs and irony, that sometimes makes one cry when it shifts to tenderness and mystery. The jacket copy calls it a novel, but it's simply a collection of stories. "Interview With a Drag Queen," the opening piece, is unique and has a classic quality. But the yarn's denouement, apparently sprung as a surprise, was apparent to this reader considerably earlier. "The Mute Boy," another story, is pensive and starts like this: "Everyone has a smartest friend, a handsomest friend, a most famous friend, and a best friend. . . . Some of us have a sweetest friend, too; mine was Mac McNally." The ending has a real twist. Mordden writes: "Gay life has not only its episodic naturalism--as true stories--but its mythology, too." Delving into this imaginatively, he refers to "the genetically rich, those born to a culture of largess," and explains how theirs is "a culture as textured and developed as the gay system is." This system provides the ground of his storytelling--ingenuous and sophisticated in turn, with the elusive search for love as its mother lode.

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