All eight of the short stories in this collection by New Zealand filmmaker Wells are terrific, but the best are those that reach into the past. ``One of THEM! '' recaptures a boyhood friendship: ``We walk home together, then when we get home we rush to the phone and talk to each other for hours : we talk about hairstyles, fashions, what's on TV, film stars. . . . '' No one has ever captured this type of giddy, sad, queer adolescent madness better than Wells. In ``Bum to You, Chum,'' really a novella, a man takes leave of his life and lover to search out the story of the recently deceased Aunt Tizzy, whom he has long suspected is his biological mother. The movement between his life and Aunt Tizzy's past provides more pleasure than can be found in many novels. Winner of several prizes in New Zealand, these passionate and intelligent stories are strongly recommended.-- Brian Kenney, Brooklyn P.L.
This first collection of stories by a young New Zealand filmmaker comes garlanded with awards from his native land, but at this stage it seems like too much praise. There is much to admire in the tales: a keen sense of urgency in gay erotic encounters (most of the stories have gay protagonists), an almost tangible sense of the stifling quality of New Zealand life for young would-be sophisticates, a wide range of human sympathies. But there is also a coltish awkwardness about some of the writing (for instance, the book's title), in which banalities clash uncomfortably with attempts at profundity. The results are sometimes vivid, just as often strained. The best of the stories is the longest, ``Of Memory and Desire,'' in which a young Japanese couple explore each other's sexuality in a New Zealand honeymoon interrupted by tragedy; there is a restraint here that eludes Wells elsewhere--though his portrait of a lost mother is poignant indeed. Three stories about a young contemporary gay man slowly losing an older friend to AIDS have touching moments but are a little inflated, and two slight tales of gay relationships, ``Sweet Nothing'' and ``Encounter,'' are ephemeral. There is considerable talent on view here, but it is not yet as developed or polished as the book's prizes suggest. (Apr.)