Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Chelsea Station Editions
Writing short stories is difficult. It takes a gifted writer to condense a story down to its essence, and then tell it with only a few pages of prose. A short story well told is a joy, and the product of a true artist.
In With, several such artists have come together to display their skill. These wonderful stories are not gay erotica, dripping with sex every few pages. These are sixteen artists writing reflective stories that showcase relationships with men: gay men with their friends, lovers, partners, husbands, dates, tricks, BFs, hustlers, teachers, co-workers, family members, and strangers. For many, the plots are as complex as the characters.
There are several stories in this collection that are gems, some of the best fiction I’ve read in a while. Even the tales I didn’t completely connect with were skillfully written and engaging. A few of my favorites were: Andrew Barbee by Dan Lopez. Also, The Beautiful Boy by Shaun Levin, We Are The Revolution by Vincent Meis, and Follow Me Through by Tom Schabarum.
I loved the way William Sterling Walker pulled me right into the streets of New Orleans, something he does better than any writer I know.
Jeff Mann’s story, Eagle Rock is a thirty-page excerpt from his novel Purgatory. It seemed out of place only because I think one needs to read the backstory (I have read the novel) to completely comprehend the depth of feelings in this excerpt.
These are stories that deliver genuine human emotions and attitudes that reflect the many variations of male/male love, romance, and friendship. The list of contributors is a who’s who in gay fiction: David Bergman, Michael Carroll, Lewis DeSimone, Jack Fritscher, Ronald M. Gauthier, Michael Graves, Shaun Levin, Dan Lopez, Jeff Mann, Vince Meis, Matthew A. Merendo, Joel A. Nichols, David Pratt, Tom Schabarum, Stefen Styrsky, and William Sterling Walker.
I can highly recommend this anthology to anyone who enjoys finely crafted fiction.