Alley, Henry. “The Dahlia Field”, Chelsea Station, 2017.
Fourteen Stories on Male/Male Attraction
I believe that all gay man have two aims in life—to be able to face our inner selves and to have the opportunity to live a safe gay life. Both of these aims are found in each of the fourteen stories by Henry Alley even if the characters and the settings are widely diverse as they are here. We meet “the business man, the actor, the house painter, the arborist, the student, the scientist, the gardener, the professional athlete, the musician” and the women that are in their lives. Sometimes we forget that the coming-out process actually comes from deep within each of us and it is not a singular action that repeats throughout our lives and we certainly see that in these stories.
The real beauty in what we have here is the use of language. Writer Alley writes from the heart in rather simple prose that pierces the outer shell of his characters. As we read we get to know them and we understand why they think the way that they do. In coming out they reveal something from the inside and we share theirs and vulnerabilities. I remember reading a book entitled “How to Be Gay” and wondering why anyone would need to write much less to read a book based on learning how to be gay especially if we hold to the theory that we are born gay. I did not seem to consider that being gay depends on much more than sexuality and so much of this we learn from others. It is also a way of life and that is what we see so clearly here. Rather than go through each story and writing summaries, I chose to say that there stories iterate what so many think and do not know how to put into words. Henry Allen does that for us.