The Guys Who Came in from the Cold
Ethan Mordden’s stories about coming out—and coming-of-age
Ethan Mordden’s Buddies, published in 1986 by Stonewall Inn Editions, a historic gay-fiction imprint of St. Martin’s Press, is the second collection of interconnected short stories in Mordden’s five-volume series on gay life in Gotham (later titles include Some Men Are Lookers and How’s Your Romance?). They describe a group of gay-male friends and lovers living in New York City in the ’80s and ’90s, and together capture some of the emotional canyons of that era’s iconic, revolutionary American-gay-male sexual culture, and its eventual devastation by the aids epidemic. The first book, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore (1985), introduced the central characters—Dennis Savage, Little Kiwi, Carlo, and the narrator, Bud, who addresses you, the reader, as if you were the latest trick to wake up in what turns out to be a full Fire Island house. Buddies is something of an intermezzo for this series, and could as easily have been called Brothers for the way it examines various kinds of fraternal relationships, from the biological brother, to the fraternity brother, to the best friend, to even the brother that becomes a lover.
Mordden begins with a prologue that is also something of a manifesto:
The gay writer’s unique contribution to literature, the Bildungsroman of gathering self-awareness and coming out, is essentially a family novel; and our secondary invention, the New York camp-surreal romance, is notable for its desperate flight from the family, its attempt to reconstruct an existence without any relations but those we choose ourselves.