Brane Mozetič
Translated by Tamara Soban
Talisman House ($14.95)

by Robert Murray Davis

The cover photo of Passion, featuring boots, chains, and belt buckles, indicates clearly that Brane Mozetic is not writing about the kind of sanitized homosexuals like those on TV's "Will and Grace," virginal as housewives in a 1950s sitcom. Perhaps that is why an anonymous caller to one of Mozetic's characters says "We hate it how you keep writing and shooting your mouth off about gays. . . . We just want to be left alone."

In fact, the traditional sense of "gay" hardly applies to any of the characters in the collection's 35 short pieces. The title is more accurate, although the recurring narrator's major passions are rage at his lack of options; fear of and desire for death (AIDS, violence), often simultaneously; savage indignation at the pretense or whining of those he encounters; and sadistic or masochistic glee at pain inflicted or endured.

The longest of the sketches covers only six pages, most only four. The narrator begins with a sense of his own desiccation, unable to feel or remember or to join in a parody of Communion since it's "as if I did not belong there." He rages at straights who "don't have to mind the looks, they don't live in constant terror of where the sperm will squirt, the drop of blood fall, or how deep they can sink their teeth into skin."

He is no kinder to the "flashy nonentity" in "Disco" who seems "the right victim" in whom he can find "a showdown" in order "to cleanse myself, to gather new strength." As his victim climaxes, he wonders "Is that what death is like? When you hurt bad enough to go crazy. . . . Was I giving him this kind of death, was it already inside him?" And in "The Reader" he meets a young man excited by his sadistic story who wants to be in a book; he has sex with him, strangles him, and returns home "to write, in order to fulfill the boy's expectations completely." But most encounters infuriate him because of "this absolute impossibility of finding in a guy a person capable of feeling for another."

As the collection progresses, however, the narrator's obsession with the "you" to whom most of the stories are addressed becomes more central to the stories and to his consciousness. After another violent encounter, he realizes of his lovers "that the sum total amounted to zero, to some sort of void, a state of no value at all." Here the narrator begins to reveal his longing, even tenderness, and in the lower depths of an orgiastic disco scene, says "I wished I could be with you, and that they would leave me alone. That you'd be with me, forever." In "You," the final story, blood and sperm mingle as the narrator imagines pulling the lover's knife to his own throat.

Mozetic's fictional world is harsh and disquieting, but his simultaneous refusal to sentimentalize and his willingness to reveal genuine, if seemingly unattainable, desire are more valuable than sunnier depictions of gay life.

Rain Taxi Online Edition, Fall 2006 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2006