Review: Delilahs – Stories From The Closet Till Closing Time (John Maley)

{C2ABA020-7E87-4F4E-BFA3-DF40113810DF}Img100A collection of interconnected short stories set around a Glasgow gay bar in (one assumes) the late 90s, Delilah’s is someplace between Cheers and Queer As Folk, though with a rather more literary feel that lends it a degree of darkness underneath the shine.

The central figure of the collection is Joanie, the resident drag queen, and a constellation of other figures who weave in and out of the stories–the ageing regulars Mama and Papa and a neurotic lesbian are the most frequent–but its frequently the most tangential of characters that are central to the best stories. In fact, the highlight of the collection features the only character who is not a Glasgow resident, an HIV positive man returning to a family that doesn’t even know he’s gay. It’s a haunting and delicately handled story that sets the tone for the book early on, and really that’s the great trick of Delilah’s: taking the zany archetypes of the gay world and investing them with humanity that, in the end, is quite ordinary.

As a collection it is neither as glitzy as its cover suggests, nor as grim as some of the other explorations of gay culture are wont to be (there’s no gay-bashings, no-one dies as a narrative punishment for their homosexuality). It’s frank, brazen and in places quite filthy without ever setting out to be in-your-face, and there’s a curiously 90s feeling to it that, whilst hard to pin down exactly the reasons why that’s so, gives it the feeling of a time-capsule of a time and place that’s at once similar and distant to today’s gay bars.

Overall, it’s a great set of stories, perhaps more than the sum of its parts in creating a feeling of interconnectedness and community across a fascinating constellation of characters. Well worth a read.

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