by Mark Brown
easy to admire what Jay Mandal is trying to achieve in his collection
of short stories A
Different Kind of Love. Rather than a salacious or tragic
representation of love between gay men, the world Mandal creates is one
of romance. Here, hunky men ask you for coffee then take you on
holiday, people who meet as friends gradually find that they have
deeper feelings and two people can share one lover and remain happy.
His characters, whether in the first flush of youth or entering middle
age, always find love where they least expect. There are struggles and
misunderstandings, but love wins out and boy always gets boy in the
end. If finally there is equality of gender and sexuality, then teenage
magazines for queer boys will be filled with stories like these, sweet
and innocent yarns that demurely fade to black as the bedroom door
intentions are not literary. Many of the stories in the collection read
like scripts for radio, with small nods toward description and setting.
Mandal has a good ear for the cadence of conversation, and captures
well the subtle balance between revealing and probing involved in
establishing where a chance meeting might lead.
stories in A Different
Kind of Love are full of the pleasures, and limitations
of genre. They are driven by plot almost to the exclusion of all else.
Where a literary treatment of love might take the reader down many
interesting or lateral diversions, Mandal's adherence to genre
conventions allows the stories to glide on rails toward their endings
like children's fairground rides, often climaxing with a twist
when Mandal deviates from such formula he is far less certain, barely
maintaining control of his plots and in the case of The Last Laugh,
lapsing into complete confusion. A tendency to have all of his
characters speak in similar ways, with minimal description does not
help. Despite this, he is strongest is capturing the sheer open-hearted
vulnerability of someone throwing themselves into the uncertainty of
this collection stands, it is difficult to criticise it for failing to
be something that it does not intend to be, but even then it contains
some significant errors of judgement that should not go without note.
The collection is prefaced by a series of quotes from famous people,
obviously chopped very finely from correspondence intended to convey
praise. The worst and most painful is a quote from radio broadcaster
Ned Sherrin that simply reads: "Thanks, I enjoyed...".
some ways this is a summary of the failing of the book as a whole. It
does not aspire to literary pretensions, representing a kind of folksy
cottage industry, with the author spinning his yarns for a small and
loyal group of readers, happy merely to be acknowledged. It is this
evident satisfaction and comfortableness that makes Mandal's stories
innocent and sweet but also limited. Drama is punctured by
predictability and a lack of style that suggests that Mandal is happy
to merely get these romantic stories out there as a kind of corrective
to the mainstream world of gay men's fiction, happy simply to challenge
the idea that all stories about gay men should either end in sadness or
Read an excerpt from one
of the stories
from this collection on BeWrite.
lives in south-east London. His work has appeared
in Punk Planet, Aesthetica, Brittle Star, Transmission, Pen Pusher,
Skive and Irk amongst others. He is editor of One in Four magazine. He can be
Mandal is a busy writer from Southern England. He has written
three novels and numerous short stories, which have featured in popular
gay publications, in his collections Slubberdegullion, The Loss of
Innocence, Precipice and in the forthcoming Best Gay Romance 2009 anthology.
with Jay Mandal
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Publisher's Website: BeWrite
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