“Symposium” by Andrew Holleran from Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction (Cleis Press, 2014).

It’s Sunday night and the symposium on the past, present and future of gay fiction which drew the main character to Fort Lauderdale is in the process of winding down. Thirty minutes after the cake is served he’s back in his room and feeling restless, a little lonely, and inclined to contemplate What It All Means.

As are we all, who are nearing this volume’s close.

He answers a distress call from another of the panelists, a man who has been his friend and colleague for decades and who cannot get the DVD player in his room to operate. It introduces a little levity to the story while still allowing for the discussion about the state of gay literature to continue. The same thing happens when they wander down to the hot tub and meet up with several other characters, who are, obviously, representative of the various players in this field.

No redacted bits in this selection. Still, what I wouldn’t give for a Rosetta Stone right about now…

Several concepts are introduced by this story. The first is a lamentation that television and movies have killed gay literature. I can’t imagine why that would be any truer for gay literature than for the hetero variety. Yes, not enough people read.

The second is that it’s specifically the young who are not reading, and that is what’s killing gay literature. How then to account for many of the other writers in this volume, and in Best Gay Romance 2014, also published by Cleis Press this month, and many other anthologies and stand alone books?

A third is that digital books are killing gay literature. I happen to have read this volume via the Kobo app on my phone, but almost everything else I’ve read for the past year and a half has been downloaded to my Kindle. As much as I love physical books, I embrace any medium that gets ideas out of a writer’s head and into mine, be it cuneiform or papyrus, paper or pixels.

Finally, the sentiment is held by the characters in this story that nobody cares whether or not there’s such a thing as a “gay sensibility”.  Oh, really? During Lewis DeSimone’s story “Quality Time” in Best Gay Romance 2014 (Short Stories 365/47), there’s this exchange between the main character and his partner over whether or not the partner’s six year old daughter should be told the true nature of their relationship:

“I’m not ashamed. I just don’t define myself by who I sleep with.”

“Who you sleep with? That’s what it’s all about—who you fuck?”

“Greg.” He’s gritting his teeth.

“No, Victor. Don’t bother. If sex is the only thing that makes you gay, then you have nothing to worry about. You’re welcome to be as hetero as you want.”

Symposium, anyone?