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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Johnny Was & Other Tall Tales by Greg Wharton 
15th-Feb-2006 05:05 pm
Apologies in advance to all writers I review in the next couple of weeks: If I'm being unnecessarily critical or mean-spirited, it's all me, not you.

Wharton, Greg. Johnny Was & Other Tall Tales. San Francisco: Suspect Thoughts Press, 2003.
Summary: A collection of twenty-four erotic short stories and vignettes.
Comments: A mixed bag by a promising writer. At his best, Wharton is simultaneously sexy and heartbreaking, and stories such as "Riding with Walter" embody that aesthetic. Other than that one, my favorites would be, hands-down, "Swept away" and "Gravity," the first and final selections in the book respectively, which are both about unrequited love and tornadoes. These are the sorts of stories that stay with you forever--archetypical stories of love and loss told in a unique way. "Blood Oranges and Cotton Candy," the best of the longer stories, is delightfully atmospheric with a touch of the supernatural--the ghost of a man's dead sister foretells the deaths of others in his life and his eventual breakup with his lover. The other long story, "Coyotes," had some interesting ideas and imagery (such as a lesbian having visions), but the main plotline, love between a man and an underaged boy who get caught, was to cliched and pat at the end. Some of the stories had an S/M flavor but nothing particularly hardcore, most of it between long-term lovers. I was surprised and delighted to see a bit of gender-bending as well, especially in "Butterflies and Myths," which draws an extended metaphor between a female-to-male lover and the metamorphosis of the butterfly. A few of the stories, unfortunately, most notably "Camping," failed to achieve the level even of good porn let alone decent literature. Those should not have seen print period, and if Wharton weren't the boss of the press that is publishing him, I doubt they would have in the first place. Others, such as "Lola" and "Walking Olive," felt shallow and mean-spirited, and I had trouble believing that Wharton's heart is really into the writing of these sorts of stories. It's the romantic ones that really come alive and suck you in. All in all, I'd say that most of the stories are decent, while a few are truly awful, and a few more really, REALLY good.
Notes: trade paperback, 1st edition
Rating: 6.5/10 - Worth it for the best that Wharton has to offer. Just try to...err...ignore the not-so-good.
28th-Feb-2006 02:11 pm (UTC)
Review archived.
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