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Barnett's first book is a skillful, sad and sometimes stoic look at gay and lesbian love in six short stories. Haunted by AIDS and by the difficulty of connecting romantically even under the best of circumstances, his characters are perplexed realists doing battle with unreasonable fears and towering problems. Often isolated or adrift, they seek to understand the incomprehensible. A young man's fractured family and dim past in ``Snapshot'' lead him to yearn for love without fully grasping the extent of his need, so that ``to want and want and want, and not to know that you are wanting, means that you are never sure of anything.'' In ``The Body and Its Seasons,'' a disillusioned student searches for solace in sex, concluding, `` `This intimacy thing is highly overrated.' '' Barnett's willingness to venture into explosively emotional terrain with empathy, candor and balance is perhaps best revealed in his stunning ``The Times As It Knows Us,'' where men sharing a summerhouse appear to have created family within the gay community--yet even this proves illusory. Though occasionally overcrowded with allusions to art, architecture and culture, the book incisively reveals that in our hearts and souls, as well as our bodies, lie the real dangers. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
All six stories in Barnett's debut collection are awash in memories. You can hardly read more than a page without being thrown into the past. Not the historic past, but the protagonists', recalled with a pensiveness too deep for nostalgia, too bemused for regret. Of the stories' six protagonists, three are gay men with AIDS or the AIDS virus; a fourth is a lesbian with cancer. The other two, also gay, are a young man who has never met his father and a college freshman sifting through his sexual experiences. Barnett deftly limns all six, as well as those closest to them, presenting them as essentially searchers for security who, with the partial exception of the woman, have found it thus far only in sex, which is the content of their most ardent recollections, although not of their remaining hopes. --Ray Olson