Review: ‘Kiss and Tell’ by John Sam Jones

Kiss and Tell John Sam Jones short story collection book review

Kiss And Tell presents a clash between homosexuality and the forces that aim to demonize it. These include mainly homophobia, which blankets the entire collection, as well as religious bigotry, prejudices stemming from AIDS, and hostile family dynamics.

It begins with mentions of various forms of oppression, from the fates of the pink triangle-donning victims of the Holocaust to culture-defining slavery. The bleak sense of alienation this introduces can be felt throughout. This maneuver is carried out incredibly well, however, and proves that Jones is in possession of a truly unique voice. His talent transports you wholly out of your body, leaving you keen to see what else he’s capable of.

In particular, it’s his inclusion of mythical elements, such as seductive mermen, that adds allure to the collection’s ambient setting. Ultimately, it cements Wales as a breathtaking place burdened with small-mindedness and various tensions.

For the most part, the stories are relatively subdued, showing scraps of people’s lives as opposed to weaving sensational plotlines. In fact, the titular story can easily be considered the most scandalous and provocative of them all. The rest, though varied thematically, is centered more on the idea of domesticity, with all that it entails.

In its entirety, Kiss and Tell seems to be trying to cover all the planes of the gay existence, from the threat of casual violence and the suppression of one’s identity to HIV, surrogacy, adoption, misguided views on pedophilia, the beauty of physical intimacy, the longevity of love, and much more.

Though approached with great imagination and forbearance, this is an impossible task from the outset. That’s why it’s hard to become emotionally invested in the brief snapshots of the characters’ lives, and why we’re often left with the same sense of fleeting dismay. And with the recurring theme of homophobia weighing down the pages of the book, most stories come across as a little sad, and a little repetitive. 


Publication date: February 7, 2022 (Parthian Books)

Rating: 3

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