From Publishers Weekly
Though it is a work of fiction, this slim volume of interconnected stories—a collection 18 years in the making by the codirector of the graduate program in creative writing at American University—reads like a memoir; an unnamed first-person narrator leads the reader through meticulously constructed scenes from his past, musing on self, sexual identity and family dynamics. The earliest chapters are set in a suburb of Washington, D.C., in the 1950s. The narrator is a child, growing up gay in classic fashion, obsessed with his glamorous mother and chastised by his father for things like “cutting out Winnie Winkle fashion dolls from the Sunday funnies or designing elaborate ball gowns for my favorite movie stars.” When he dresses in his mother’s clothes with another boy, he is caught; a fishing expedition with his father is a failure. The narrator’s transition into adulthood is hardly any easier: his father dies young; his brother, Davis, also gay, is arrested several times and eventually dies of a drug overdose. And in the final section, the narrator is revealed to have AIDS, a disease that has claimed the lives of many friends. McCann’s calm, elegiac prose is lovely in descriptive passages, but turns stiff and self-conscious in the frequent explanations the narrator offers for his behavior and that of others. Still, McCann’s graceful writing carries these bittersweet snapshots of a life plagued by self-doubt and yearning. Agent, Gail Hochman. (Apr. 26)
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In prose as silky smooth as the clothes from his mother’s closetthat the protagonist covertly dons, McCann relates an Eisenhower-era coming-of-agein a D.C. suburb of trimmed lawns and station wagons. Civil defense leaflets picture moms in backyard bomb shelters, leafing through magazines stacked on Danish modern coffee tables. In the midst of the cold war, shootouts on Gunsmoke provide drama in the living room. Already more than a little fixated on Our Mother of the Late Movies and Cigarettes, McCann’s narrator, when 11, becomes yet more so when his father, an officer assigned to the Pentagon, suddenly falls ill and dies. Overlapping flash-forwards and –backs show older brother Davis OD’ing at 35 and then as a laughing 6-year-old; the glamorous mother dressing for an evening out, then an old woman needing to check her blood sugar. Throughout, McCann captures the nuances of bonding, down to the elaborate “twin speak” the brothers, differing only 15 months in age, devise and ultimately provides insight into a gay man’s development at a bygone midcentury. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.