“Some women can't say the word lesbian... even when their mouth is full of one.”
One of the reasons I picked up a copy of Best Lesbian Fiction 2010, is that, save for a few other excursions into the realm of lesbian themed fiction, I have had little experience with it. While searching for a good place to start, certain key names stood out about the rest, like Radclyffe's.
Who to choose from? Where to begin?
Starting in 2009, best selling lesbian author Radclyffe has been editing this anthology of lesbian romance fiction published by Cleis Press. Each volume is published with the purpose of representing the best short lesbian fiction to be found in that particular year. Let's say this, you won’t find tales like these in Family Circle! (although the thought is tantalizing.) Au contraire.
The first volume was extremely popular, and subsequent ones are eagerly anticipated. Now I know why. Quite simply, the writing is uniformly excellent, and the stories are quite wonderful and, ok, they're HOT! They are guaranteed to quicken the heart and start all sorts of visceral reactions. Who knew? You may have, but this guy felt more steam coming out of my psyche than comes from a radiator.
Reading the preface to this volume, I was immediately drawn by the description of love as "one of those rare experiences that engage us on every plane-the mind, the heart, the spirit, and the body." As the editor goes on, she states that "Love has been likened to psychosis; albeit mostly a pleasant one-making us forgo our ordinary caution and rationality, sometimes risking heartbreak and disappointment, in order to share our deepest selves." Ok, I was hooked-what romantic soul wouldn't be?
As the stories unfold, the many different aspects of love are portrayed within finely crafted tales. These stories are about "falling in love, being in love and of remaining in love-for a moment or a lifetime". They explore the nuances of women-women love in such a way as to truly represent all types of women; young, older and more seasoned, lonely, butch, femme, in effect, everyone.
The collection begins with a story by Evan Mors called When We Almost Met. Such an interesting premise here: the character speculates on the “what if” scenario of connecting with the woman she loves long before she actually does. There are chance meetings galore and perhaps missed opportunities, yet in hindsight, they all lead to that one special moment which is now.
Another story, Hard to Hate Her, lets us in on the “secret” a newly divorced woman discovers about herself as she just so happens to encounter her former husband’s new wife. Talk about turning the tables!
As a lover of opera, I was particularly taken by Queens Up by Andrea Dale. Not since the exciting poker game in Puccini's “Girl of the Golden West”, has a card game carried such high stakes. There’s a bit of gender bending here as well, which makes the story all the more fun.
Sweetness abounds in a story set in the foothills of the Himalayas. It is called You Are A Full Moon Without Clouds, and is written by Pamela Smiley. This is a gentle story of the challenges set forth by an Asian culture's perception of the love between two women. But, as we all know, love always seems to find its way.
The volume ends with a story by Radclyffe, All In. Here we find someone alone at 3 a.m., in a hotel bar, and feeling “a kind of loneliness that went deeper than any physical diversion could assuage.” Oh my! The lesson here is one of wanting and waiting for the “one” who truly stirs your heart.
So, have I enticed you? I could go on, but that would take away from your reading pleasure. There are sixteen stories here. Each one with a different flavor, something for every taste. There is a story about vampires, teens in love, butch love, and everything in between. I don't think there's one bad one in the bunch.
The aspects of love are as varied as we are. I encourage you to find this book, and delve into it like I did.
So, cher reader, until next time-I remain, as always, just another gay guy with a book in hand. Happy reading.