Book Reviews

Foreign Affairs: Male Tales of Lust & Love by Daniel M. Jaffe at Rattling Good Yarns Press

Genre Mixed Orientations / Contemporary / Paranormal / Ghosts/Spirits/Hauntings / Romance / Erotica
Reviewed by Bob-O-Link on 14-September-2020

Book Blurb

In this newest short story collection from award-winning writer, Daniel M. Jaffe, red-blooded American men revel in wild romps, lose themselves in romances, discover unexpected friendships, and wrestle with shocking encounters, all while vacationing abroad. These travelers befriend a serial killer in a Munich bathhouse, a gay Holocaust ghost in Prague, a shape-shifting seductress in Mexico City, a desperate prostitute in Seville, a closeted Catholic school administrator in Dublin, an old woman who feels herself a prisoner in Soviet Leningrad. On an El Al flight home from Israel, a New Yorker tries to make sense of a fellow passenger contentedly sealed head-to-toe in a plastic bag. A tourist from West Hollywood wonders in Spain whether he should cruise a handsome older man seemingly right out of an El Greco painting. A New Jersey suburbanite strives to suppress forbidden urges while on a public Puerto Rico beach. The Americans here are young, middle-aged, senior. They are gay, bi, and straight men longing for other men, for women, for a trans old friend. Whereas many of these stories are realistic, others bring to life ghostly incarnations of those long dead, beings who defy definition, even the Devil himself. In Foreign Affairs, Daniel M. Jaffe blends humor, suspense, and eroticism with compassion for human frailty and respect for the universal struggle not simply to endure but to overcome. These stories titillate, intrigue, and tug at heartstrings.

 

Book Review

Oh, boy. Short stories. Reading them is so much like attending a party at which nothing else but hors d’oeuvres is being served. Any part of the proffered selection may hit the spot, or may be thematic or totally random. Will your appetite be satisfied or will you be left wanting? [On a personal basis, my attention span and reading fortitude have become touchy with advancing age: I like to regularly switch up between my literary ingestion, making the good stuff last longer and providing relief as I work through the lesser material. So, short stories are ideal.]

 

Let’s take a look at some of Mr. Jaffe's offerings in ‘Foreign Affairs’.

 

The blurb, above, gives you an idea of the stories’ broad approach. The initial story, The Importance of Being Jurassic, relates the impressions of a gay man in his fifties while visiting Ireland during their national referendum approving gay marriage. While he has a sexual encounter with Declan, another mature man he picks up in a gay pub, the story is more a discourse on the particular time and place (that is, gay awakening and religious weakening). Just so current for us, Declan observes: “And all I know about America is that you all carry guns and shoot black teenagers when you are high on crack.” It seems that sex is not the hero’s purpose, but a marvelous way of communicating with a new-met local.

 

In Cobblestone Elegy, Sol, the narrator, visits Prague to tour Holocaust sites in the place of his Jewish family’s origin – and subsequent escape. He eschews seeking gay sex, unknowledgeable of the local social norms. Sol is embarked on exploring the “enduring nature of collective historical memory”. This is a touching tale that will appeal to all alike - Jews and non-Jews, gays and sexual civilians, as it beautifully evokes the pains and gains of time of each. Here we see the literary Mr. Jaffe at his Jewish, gay, mystical, and education best. [Please note: while Mr. Jaffe often proudly evinces his Jewish background, he is quite the universal writer. And this latter comment is made without regard to our common religion. Oh, you thought me Irish, with my surnom de review of "O-Link”?]

 

Gift Wrapped is a narrator’s enlightening internal dialog concerning religiosity, homosexuality to a lesser degree, and “otherness.” He is flying home from Tel Aviv where he attended the Gay Pride Parade (resplendent with T-shirts saying: “Oy vey - I’m Gay”), an event glorifying individualism. It is that very characteristic which is compared to Jewish-Orthodox mores, and questions of whether gays should confront and challenge our conservative critics or merely settle for “passing”. [The story is pointed, but uses many Hebrew words without translation, and while not a total hindrance, it may be just a little disconcerting.]

 

In the Colony presents thoughts about pedophilia, in San Juan. Though well constructed, it is also (successfully?) disturbing. Innocence Abroad, with the total absence of gay sex – or even hints of gay sexuality, may be a disappointment for the demographically expected readers of this review site. Well, get over it! This is truly further proof of Mr. Jaffe’s skilled literary workmanship at development and presentation of characters in a simple but affecting plot.

 

The Trickster allows the author to broaden our oft-expected base of literary main characters. The hero (i.e., loosely employing that term) is in his midfifties, bald, gray hair on the sides, and sporting a frizzy white beard. He is traveling in Spain to an International Bears Week - with hopes of intimately attracting a multitude of gay men for whom he is a perfect treat. I’ll not ruin this perfect character study with more details.

 

Enough! There are five more wonderful entries in ‘Foreign Affairs,’ surprising, refreshing, and thought-provoking. It seems appropriate to let you discover them without my further guidance, especially as, in general, part of the special joy with short stories is the absence of heavy foreshadowing and the skilled use of either irony or surprise. I think that Mr. Jaffe’s tales, both sexual and sexless, have broad appeal to readers occupying places up and down the Kinsey scale.

 

Kudos to Mr. Jaffe, a master-provider of tasty literary hors d’oeuvres. Welcome to the party.

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Circumspect Press for the purpose of a review.

 

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Collection, 165 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 07-September-2020
Price $8.95 ebook, $17.95 paperback
Buy Link https://www.amazon.com/Foreign-Affairs-Male-Tales-Lust-ebook/dp/B08HPKZ3TQ