Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

Queer View Mirror 2: Lesbian and Gay Short Short Fiction

by James C. Johnstone,Karen X. Tulchinsky, eds.

It is unlikely 100 fine short stories are written per year. The form requires distillation and hard work, the exclusion of the irrelevant and microscopic enhancements of what’s crucial. Queer View Mirror 2 is a second volume of 101 “short short” stories written by international lesbian and gay writers; the first volume appeared last year. The numbers, then, suggest literary excellence is not the point here. Still, with a few good stories, and by including so many voices and brief forays into queer experience, the editors have compiled plenty of evidence that hetero- is not the only sex being had.

As a compendium of short takes on desire and regret, romance and violence, insertions and ejaculations, the anthology offers company for those endeavouring to satisfy libido in a world down on difference. As well, sex happens everywhere: in convents, parking lots and bars, on navy ships, and dangling from high-rise girders. In these ways, it is a wise book.

In other ways, though, the stories are naive. Most of the writers do not understand the requirements of the form, choosing the short story because they lack skills to maintain exposition and description, or to satisfactorily explore conflict. Too many – most – use a first person, confessional narrator and these are monotonous. Only one or two authors honour the potential – and more difficult form – of the short short story.

Some, though, contact the clarity of art: Gary Dunne writes of Christmas for a gay 15-year-old in rural Australia; Mikaya Heart performs an immaculate Scottish brogue to describe a woman’s love for cars; Canada’s nomadic Patrick Roscoe writes the ache of a speechless Catholic orphan: “At night the other children cried in rows of beds beneath the crosses and the smell of onions in the dark …. Veils fluttered inside my skin, something shook me, Sister Mary placed the stick upon my tongue.”

While there is insight to be gained from each writer, the book does not set out to convince the straight world of anything. Instead, the stories, as the editors say, “provide a multiplicity of mirrors” in which lesbians and gay men can watch themselves and each other perform. Better writing would improve the view.