Here he is in all his glory. The supposedly perfect gay archetype. Handsome, virile, muscled, and perhaps with his most glaring attribute, his unavailability. Jameson Currier explores many themes in his latest collection of short stories, but the elusive “one that got away” is central to most of them. The results are a wry, witty, often self-deprecating take on desire from the more mature gay man’s point of view. The protagonists of many of these stories are settled, nuanced, experienced, and yet still filled with longing. Their days as a beauty, if they were ever perceived as that, are behind them—and while they may initially come off as insecure, they shine in defeat, the years have served them well emotionally. They have seen some things.
Often the protagonists lust after men they can’t have. There’s the swarthy office handyman who speaks in a working class patois who serves as a hilarious foil to an office drone’s desire in one of the funniest stories in the collection. The drone does locks lips with the man briefly, but ends up leaving a work event enraptured by the man he had always failed to truly see. In another story, an office regular is snowbound with an international client who inspires a lot of lust, but proves to be a chaste, if enjoyable, companion. Currier thrives on setting up his characters in impossible situations and delivering results for his main character, that while not fantastical, deliver an opportunity to see them grow. This collection, while entertaining to any reader, is particularly satisfying for the gay man “of a certain age.” One can see oneself in its protagonists, I know I did. Anyone who’s ever felt awkward or overlooked could.
Another world that Currier gives us an intimate look at, because of his own background in it, is the theater. Not necessarily the Broadway hit, more the second tier, or the flop. This device serves him well and provides much comic relief. There’s a hilarious look at a frustrated publicist’s work on a laborious musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, where the misadventures of the many characters recall Austen’s novel, although in a much more modern context. The show itself is a flop, but it’s what is going on behind the scenes that keeps both its characters and the reader engaged and laughing. In another tale, there’s a singing and dancing version of Hamlet performed with puppets in which a middle-aged office worker gets caught up in the drama, as well as the beautiful man playing the lead. Currier sees the theater world as a perfect microcosm for life in general and revels in it as a haven for the gay male, both in the closet and out of it. He does this with wry and self-deprecating humor to great result.
A major theme in much of Currier’s past work, and one which he is renowned for, is the early AIDS crisis. It’s not the main theme of this collection, but he manages to skillfully pay tribute to both those we have lost and those now living successfully with the virus. Several of his deftly-drawn protagonists have lost close lovers and friends and and those echoes are heard in their present lives and relationships. They were lovers of men now gone, as well as caretakers, often of others for whom their love may have been unrequited, but was still fully given.
This collection is very much a tribute piece to the older gay man, the guy who has not achieved all of his dreams, but his power is in the fact that he hasn’t given up—he’s not down for the count, not yet. Where there’s life, where there’s love—there’s still hope. There’s still a life affirming story to tell.
Why Didn’t Someone Warn You About Prince Charming?
by Jameson Currier
Chelsea Station Editions
Paperback, 9781937627362, 188 pp.