McClelland, Mike. “Gay Zoo Day: Tales of Seeking and Discovery”, Beautiful Dreamer, 2017.
Looking for More
I did not have a lot in common with my father but I do remember when he said to me that when I reach the point that there is nothing to look for, I could close it down and stop living. I believe that everyone has something to look and strive for and that is what Michael McClelland’s collection of stores, “Gay Zoo Day” gives us. Regardless of how we seek that elusive quality, the end is meant to make each of us into a more complete person. Then there are also those who claim to looking for something but I believe that is a cover-up. We have all heard that “the grass is always greener” in someone else’s yard and we all want to have the greenest grass. How we go about this differs with each person but the goal of further enrichment is universal. Whenever I review a book of stories, I face the decision of reviewing the book as a whole or reviewing each story separately and I really have a hard time trying to answer that question. There is always the risk of writing spoilers and I thinking doing so is fair. Let me just say that there is great variety and diversity here.
It is always fun for me to read a new writer—it is like making a new friend with the difference being that it is the writing that is the way to see someone’s personality. I can tell you that I gather that author McClelland has wonderful style and quite a way with words and that he is a detailed person. He manages to relay to us details that take us into his characters and plots while using diversity to give us a fantastic read.
When I review an anthology of stories, I face the debate of whether to look at each story and write about it or to just write about the book as a whole unit. I am still debating that as I write now and only by the time that this review is finished will I know what I ultimately decided to do, if then. If there is an overriding theme here it is humanity. The settings and the characters differ but there is a sense of humanity in each of the stories. There is also a sense of urgency and intimacy in each of the stories and we as readers are pulled in immediately. I have no idea about life in Africa yet I was there as I read “Sheffield Beach” or “Mombassa Vengeance”. I know the fear that is raised by AIDS in this country but not in other places yet I felt the fear in London in “Gay Zoo Day” and what I know about space is what I learned from TV and school yet I was off with “Yev”.
I do feel that I must mention that these are stories like we read everyday but here the characters happen to be gay. The characters are all on the path to self-discovery, they want to know how they became who they are. We have had so many stories about coming-out but we are missing stories of self-realization and this collection fills that gap. As many of you know, I have been reading and reviewing our literature for years now but what you may not know is that I do this because I believe in who we are in what we have to say. There have been many short stories with gay and lesbian characters and with gay and lesbian settings. What there has not been are literary LGBT short stories but there are now with this collection. In this one book, Mike McCllelland has raised the bar. His stories have depth and subtexts and are really like reading short novels. Our characters are developed and there is a sense of satisfaction that comes with reading their stories.