Jaffe, Daniel M. “Foreign Affairs: Male Tales Of Lust & Love”, Rattling Good Yarns, 2020.
I am a long-time fan of Daniel Jaffe and look forward to everything he writes so when I received his new book, “Foreign Affairs: Male Tales Of Lust & Love”, I immediately began to read it. Here are eleven stories about American restless men who are vacationing out of the country and each story is special. They are sexy and yet they are touching looks at how we live.
Most of the men we meet here are gay, Jewish and go to unfamiliar places to that will satisfy them erotically and spiritually. carnally and spiritually. I always find it difficult when reviewing a collection to decide whether to write about the book as a whole or to summarize each story. Here I will do a bit of both.
Jaffe has created characters that are well drawn in his lovely prose that is at times humorous and filled with social observation. Strangers in strange lands experience strange adventures. This is not erotica but it is thought provoking. Now on to a few of the stories.
In “The Importance of Being Jurassic,” we read about an American reporter in Dublin who meets a closeted Catholic man who sees oral sex as a filthy sacrament. Ireland is going through its national referendum approving gay marriage. The reporter has sex with Declan, another mature man he picks up in a gay pub but this is not a story about sex but rather it is a discourse on a time and a place.
Sol, the narrator, in “Cobblestone Elegy” has come to Prague to visit Holocaust sites in the place from which his Jewish family escaped. He is in Prague to awaken his historical memory and his journey is emotional and shaking. Time has progressed but not without leaving behind pains of the past. it beautifully evokes the pains and gains of time of each.
Jaffe explores both his religion and his sexuality in “Gift Wrapped”. The narrator is on his way home to the States after been in Tel Aviv for the Gay Pride celebrations. He is dealing with how we, as gay men, should deal with other gay men who pretend to be straight so not as to bother those who do not agree with the lifestyle. We look at prejudice, both internal and external and see that who we are depends a great deal on where we are from, how we were raised and the influences on our lives. I found so much of myself in this story that I reread every line three times.
Other stories deal with pedophilia (“In the Colony”), aging (“The Trickster”), an orgy on the way to eternity (“Walpurgisnacht”), love with a sex worker (“El Bochorno”) and changing one’s ways (“The Return”). There is no way I could fairly cover all of the stories but I do want to mention one more story that really shows writer Jaffe’s skills.
“Innocence Abroad” has no gay sex and is not a gay themed story. Through a simple plot and well-drawn characters, we meeta middle-aged Soviet woman, trying to find a way to immigrate to the United States. She attempts to get a much younger American student to marry her.She is desperate to escape the economic, political, and spiritual repression of Russia and the story is a real heartbreaker.
In each story, the main characters, regardless of their sexual orientation or ethnicity, are searching for something and in most cases it is the fulfillment of desire but there is also a search foe wisdom and knowledge, the past or some form of being redeemed. Jaffe wonderfully gives us the places where the stories take place through fine descriptions and sensuosity.
Jaffe bings humor, suspense, and eroticism together to show that we still have a great deal to do in our lives. I realize that I did not say anything about “Tilting Ilana” and “Where the Old is New” so that there are two stories that those reading this will know nothing about. I can assure that after reading them and the other nine stories, you will feel like a better person. Location, history, personality and prose come together to give us a read that is also an experience.