THE BRITISH WRITER Neil Bartlett has constantly astonished me, first with his debut novel, Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall (1992), then with novels such as Skin Lane (2007; reviewed by me in the March-April 2009 issue), and now with Address Book, a collection of seven first-person short stories that take their titles from the address where each occurs.
The stories cover a range of times. In the first, a man remembers a sexual experience he had as a teenager in 1974. The second, in AIDS-drenched 1987, has a disco queen describe a moment of rage at a contemptuous straight world. The third takes place in 1891, where a teacher writes about the Italian laborer he uses as a model for a banner of St. Michael. Next, in 2004, a man tells about giving a speech at a celebration of a civil partnership between two lesbians. Then it’s back to 1965, and a pregnant woman narrates her interaction with her gay neighbor. In the early 2010s, a priest tries to intervene in an immigration case. Finally, in more or less the present, a man confronts his grief over his recently deceased husband.
Michael Schwartz is an associate editor for this magazine.