If you pick up a copy of Lawrence Schimel’s Two Boys in Love, your first impression is that it’s a beach read. Two hunks are facing away from one another, the blond cruising the dark-haired man in the foreground. But what riches are hiding inside this delicious collection of short stories.
The first half features nine stories, all of them told in a second person narrative that creates both a comfortable mood and an erotic tone. In “The Book of Love,” one man cruises another at the bookstalls of Barcelona’s Ramblas, taking a chance on love, while “Marchen to a Different Beat” brings Hansel and Gretel into Cinderella territory with a high school dance, a gay fairy named, of all things, Mary, and a Prince Charming named Jack, complete with a comment about his “beanstalk.” In another gay fairy tale, a young man asks a witch for help by working to earn a love potion.
Two of Schimel’s erotic New York tales are rich in sexual images. In “Season’s Greetings,” two men pleasure themselves at the window across an air shaft, while “The Story of Eau” has never made bathing seem so exciting. By far, the most compelling story in the collection, however, is “The River of Time,” wherein the narrator disposes of his best friend’s ashes in the water near the Christopher Street docks, only to encounter strange happenings later on. This story is remnant of “The Brocaded Slipper,” the Vietnamese version of the Cinderella legend, which brings redemption and resurrection to the story.
The second half of Two Boys in Love is a series of five short pieces about Carles and his mysterious boyfriend, Javi. Throughout the tales, told from Carles’ point of view, he fends off the feeble advances of a Frenchman, fantasizes that the motorcycle man who delivers Javi for a date is David Beckham (who’s evidently had gay affairs if you read the tabloids, although no one’s ever come forth to confirm this), and learns about Javi’s relationship with a straight couple who wants to experiment. In the end, though, it’s clear that these two boys are really in love with one another.
Two Boys in Love may be a book for the beach or the bathtub, but it’s a pleasurable experience wherever you partake in Schimel’s exquisite writing.
Steven LaVigne lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is a contributing writer to White Crane.