The Lives of Men
I became a fan of Charles Casillo when I read his amazing novel, “The Fame Game” several years back. I was unaware that he also had this collection of short stories until I saw something about it in “The Gay and Lesbian Review” and I immediately tried to find a copy of which I was lucky enough to do. This is a collection that looks at the inner lives of contemporary gay men and we read about men who feel the need and desire to connect. There are a variety of men here from hustlers to writers to models to despondent lovers and what they share is the feeling of being unable to find other men whose company they can enjoy. These men are smart and witty and lustful and romantic but above all else, they are vulnerable. Each story is a gem and each pulls the reader in. Casillo is an excellent writer and storyteller and his prose is entertaining and enlightening. With all of the protagonists being men and the antagonists being the older slice of the gay community, we get a look at life as it is; when we are not so young and desirable anymore but we still feel the need for the human touch. Casillo deals with a variety of themes—loneliness, sex, love, self-esteem and ego, aging, gay life, etc but all of the stories are essentially about longing—longing when the biological and physical clocks are moving forward but the personality does not catch up.
The book mixes fiction with nonfiction as the author relates something of himself in some of the stories and if you have ever read Casillo you will know which of them I am alluding to. I am sure that most of the stories are fiction, however, and we see here that desire and love go together and there is very little sex for sex’s sake.
The cover of the book is a bit misleading because it is dark giving the idea that the stories will be as well. These stories are actually (at least, many of them are) about found love and not lost love and remorse. The stories are realistic and I would bet that the reader will find something of himself in every one.
Casillo beautifully writes about the emotional side to love and the fears that go along with not having it as well as about surviving while maintaining an identity in a community where one can easily become little more than a number. I think the greatest thing we see here is the insight of the author as he writes about men that we all know.
Casillo gives us compelling stories and this is such a change from some of the stuff that some call literature that we have been getting lately. What Casillo gives us in his stories say more about gay life than any novel I have read in a long time and I read quite a lot. He touches on the themes that we all live through and his characters are not just realistic but remind us of either ourselves or people we know. We see them for who they are and are aware of the forces that make them act the way they do. Because he provides us with plots and people with whom we can identify, his stories are what we want to read. There is passion here and the stories are filled with “unexpected moments of great insight and dashes of black humor and incredible wit”. The best I can say is “Bravo” and that is just not enough.