Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hipster gay fiction.....or is it?

Cool Thing is everything a gay boy could ask in a book - a bit too sex-crazed, a bit too whiny, and a bit too loud, yet always a treat. Without claiming to be YA, as if that's a bad name, the stories claim to be "defy the common stereotypes." But do they?

Cool Thing has a pretty long subtitle: "the best new gay fiction from young american writers." It's all in lower case letters, which I guess the designer believes indicates hipness. It's rather weird to categorize a book for gay teens as so regional ("American"); I guess British gay boys don't think like Americans (the Brit QAF wasn't that different, right?)

Open Cool Thing and you see the big and easy font of a middle-grade book. Another designer choice, I assume. We also have pictures of the editors, Blair Mastbaum and Will Fabro. Blair is hip because he wears a hat, I assume.

But what matters is on the inside.

Like all anthologies, the stories range from brilliant to so-so. The problem with the writing of many teenagers is that it's so full of angst and tries so hard to be stylish that the plot is lost and the characters so distant you might as well change the dial. Err, I mean, turn the page. This is what happens to tales like "Kyler and Wolf-Boy" or "Black N' Red: The Paper Doll and the Carpenter." The stories aren't bad, but they flee your memory by the time you're half-way into the next piece.

But there are some real gems in the book. Sam J. Miller's surreal "Haunting Your House" is amazing. L. A. Fields' is the new suffrage mouthpiece for gay boys suffering. "New Year's Eve 2000" by Maustbaum shows why the guy's first novel, Clay's Way, was great read.

As far as the marketing copy on the back - the one that claims these stories break "stereotypes" - well, I have to say, the storylines were pretty typical. Coming of age and coming out. First loves and first lays. Broken hearts and shared spit. Are the gay teens of the 21st century so different from their kin who listened to Bowie? Probably not. But the way they express themselves has changed, and the better stories in the book showcase this.

A solid B effort, if I bothered to grade. I expect to see novels from many of these "young" writers any day. I look forward to that future...

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