Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hard Working Men by assorted authors

TITLE: Hard Working Men
AUTHOR: Victor J. Banis, J.P. Bowie, Jardonn Smith, & William Maltese
PUBLISHER: MLR Press
LENGTH: Anthology (roughly 61k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotica
COST: $5.99

An anthology of four gay erotic stories, each one centering on blue collar men in some fashion.

I’m at a loss. Truly. I debated over writing this review. I wish I could slap a DNF on this anthology, but it was like a ten-car pile-up. You just can’t look away. Because as it went on, it got worse and worse and worse until I just couldn’t believe that I was supposed to take any of it seriously.

The exception to everything negative I have to say about this anthology is the first entry. It’s a short story by Victor J. Banis called “If Love Were All.” The prose has texture, the characters felt human, and best of all, it actually had a meaning. Sadly, I can’t say the same about the other stories.

Bowie’s story, “One Brick at a Time,” isn’t awful. It’s just forgettable. With a silly revenge plot that was transparent almost from the first page. His voice doesn’t work for me, either, with stuff like yet Tony innately intuited that wasn't a part of Steve's character indicative of problems throughout the text. Because, hello, can we say redundant? I just have to conclude Bowie isn’t for me, since this is the second of his stories I’ve had problems with.

The third story in the anthology, “The Thomas Coleman Full Nelson” by Jardonn Smith, is schizophrenic at best. As long as it’s not a sex scene, I actually enjoyed finding out about his two window installers. They’re lifelong buddies, separated by a bad marriage, then brought back together again as they always should have been. The relationship built – outside of the sex – is plausible and more than a little sympathetic. But the problem here lies in the numerous sex scenes. This is some of the purplest prose I have read in a long time. Stuff like He knew I was going nowhere until I got my second injection of the morning, so he gave it to me with the violence of a dominating beast, twisting and turning and rapid-firing his impaler mad-doggiestyle. And, Overflow of his manly syrup sugar-coated his ready-to-explode mushroom, its bulging sheen inviting my mouth to taste. And since there’s so many sex scenes, you can just imagine how hard it was for me to read.

But then there’s the real puzzler. The last story in the anthology. Now, I’ve heard of William Maltese before, though I have never read him. The only thing I knew about him was that he’d written a lot. I wasn’t even sure what it all was, though for some reason I assumed it was all gay fiction. (It wasn’t apparently. I went and checked out his backlist. He’s been writing for decades and spent a lot of years writing het romance under a female pseudonym.) But I just do not know what to make of this story. It’s told in first person, and the narrator is a high-priced prostitute who usually masquerades in blue collar/white collar scenarios. It starts out with him and a trick. Okay, I’m still fine there. Then on the fourth page in the story, the narrator pulls his trick into an alley and starts talking dirty. Describing everything that’s going on. There is absolutely no action. All there is for 14 pages is dialogue. Not even dialogue. Monologue. And it’s all like this:

“See how I lick my fingertip just flavored by the seepage strained through your trousers like deliciously salty curd strained through cheesecloth? Sexy as hell that taste. Making my dick harder ... harder....

“Go ahead and touch my prick, where it is, buddy. Feel it straining to get free of my jeans, and underpants, wanting you, needing you, anxious to have at you, excited by the prospect it of being belly-to-belly with your phallic truncheon and, then, deep-dived up your funky tight rich-man's asshole…

There’s more. Lots more. I mentioned 14 pages of this, right? It happens again in a later chapter of the story, only it’s a tow truck driver the narrator has found who does the talking this time.

Oh, and the narrator has the same name as the author. William Maltese. If this is an affectation of the author’s, it’s creepy as hell. If it’s meant to be autobiographical, it’s still creepy. And if it’s meant to be something else, like satirical or punny or amusing in some way…it’s still definitely creepy. I have no idea if he does this in all his work. Unless someone tells me, I’m never going to know because I’m not sure I can sit through another of his stories.

So…for being at a loss, I guess I wrote a lot. Am I supposed to take this anthology seriously? I just don’t know.

Readability

4/10 – I don’t even know where to begin on three of the stories in this

Content

4/10 – Banis’ work is the only that felt complete

Characterization

4/10 – I’m a broken record; Banis is the best here.

Entertainment value

3/10 – I just…can’t.

World building

3/10 – Do I really need to repeat Banis is the only one who works for me in this

TOTAL:

18/50

5 comments:

Paul said...

Oh my dear God! You have my sympathies

Ann Somerville said...

I lick my fingertip just flavored by the seepage strained through your trousers like deliciously salty curd strained through cheesecloth?

I just threw up a little in my mouth.

But thank you for reading this so the rest of us don't have to.

clear skies said...

Ouch.

Anthologies are always a miss for me. I was going to buy a William Maltese book, but if this is a taste of his writing - I'll pass. Scary.

jessewave said...

I'm so glad I read this review because you saved me some money. I read the blurb and thought it would be something to pass the time with - whew, great escape.

Book Utopia Mom said...

Yeah, I thought it would be a nice escape, too. I'm glad I saved somebody else from being subjected to it.