Book Review: Fruit: A New Anthology of Contemporary Australian Gay Writing

Fruit: A New Anthology of Contemporary Australian Gay Writing

Gary Dunne, editor

The pick of the crop.

This unique collection of gay writing is by the best of Australia’s gay authors; accessible and entertaining stories that illustrate the expanding diversity of our community.

A failed intimacy with a touring porn stud. The plottings of a famous novelist. A TV chat show guest is exposed. Overnight lovers in a bush caravan park. A leathery buzzard nighclubs the Los Angeles curfew. A curious schoolboy grows up in Athens. And adventures from Stockholm, Tokyo, Wangaratta and the Gulf of Siam.

Exciting new writing that is both upfront and confronting; twenty potent examples of today’s Australian gay literature, each one a great read.

I see some great reviews for this book online — well, only a couple given that the book predates sites like Goodreads, but the two reviews I’ve found are both four stars — and I can’t help but wonder if I’m missing something.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way.  The blurb is quite misleading.  Yes, it does describe some of the stories in this collection, but given the cover, with it’s naked hunk, and the steamy nature of the blurb, I was expecting dirty stories.  Maybe some hot romance, maybe some erotica, or maybe even just some good stories with a naughty edge to them. Instead, the book is very literary in tone.  This is not the fault of either the writers or the editor.  This is the publisher/marketer choosing to package a book in a way that does not accurately reflect its contents.

That being said, I did have difficulty with the stories.  I quickly came to understand that these stories are more in the “literary” genre.  The language is carefully crafted, unusual imagery is pieced together to evoke certain emotions, and the world is explored through unique perspectives.  However, some of the stories suffered from rather clumsy writing and others from an apparent lack of plot.  “Literature” still needs to be about something.  Literature is not writing for the sake of writing. A literary plot is, of course, different than general fiction plots.  You usually won’t find stories of bank heists, murderers, or young men experiencing sexual highs in literature.  But literature still has a plot.  Many of these stories do not.

Some of the stories do capture times and places in gay collective history and experience, and for that, it is important.  It does capture moments in the lives of gay men, moments that are experienced by many, and thus should be recorded.  But the imposing style of many of the stories makes this book, and its important messages, largely inaccessible.  I skimmed a few stories and I’m pretty sure I didn’t miss much. I suspect, though, if a collection like this were to be attempted today, the quality would be through the roof.  This book was published (if I remember correctly) over 20 years ago.  Nowadays, there are a lot of LGBTTQ writers of very strong calibre who could put together a knockout collection of literature that is both accessible and meaningful.

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1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Reading

One response to “Book Review: Fruit: A New Anthology of Contemporary Australian Gay Writing

  1. Pingback: What I Read in June 2015 | Cameron D James

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