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"
This intelligently assembled collection closes with one of the strongest stories (gay or otherwise) of the past few years. "Preservation News," by Allan Gurganus, is putatively a Southern widow's memoir of her friend Tad, a charismatic restorer and architect, who has died of AIDS. Gurganus's brilliantly impersonated narrator lets him combine technical cleverness with depth and pathos; readers may not know whether to grin or weep. It would be a Herculean labor to find 15 other new stories that good, and the editor hasn't. Still, there is more than enough here to interest and absorb readers. Cult favorite and sex-and-violence expert Dennis Cooper contributes the bristly, erotic "snuff fairy tale" "The Freed Weed"; Peter Weltner's "Buddy Loves Jo-Ann" is understated to the point of sneakiness; Andrew Sean Greer's elegantly constructed "The Future of the Flynns" brings an affable eeriness to its flashbacks and flash-forwards; and Scott Heim's moving "Deep Green, Pale Purple" expertly dodges the border of clich‚. Bouldrey (Genius of Desire), who also edited the first two books in this annual series, has been careful to seek out work in both mainstream venues (like Esquire) and more marginal journals. He appends a "recommended" list of stories he couldn't fit in here. (Oct.)