Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April 29

Mountain guy Jeff Mann's recent novel "Cub"

Jeff Mann, a professor of creative writing at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, grew up in Appalachia, specifically Covington, Virginia, and Hinton, West Virginia. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in numerous publications, most of them LGBT oriented. Much of his writing tells tales of gay mountain men.

Your blogger has just finished reading “Cub” (2014), his fourth novel and my introduction to the work of Jeff Mann. The book was a Christmas gift (thanks, Ron!) that I had put aside, because of my wariness of the genre of gay young-adult fiction, most of which is written by women. Ugh. So much of this stuff is poorly crafted. But I love it when I’m proven wrong; this one is a welcome exception.

The title refers to the young “bear” (and incipient BDSM) type, Travis, a high school senior book worm about to enter West Virginia University, and his bisexual boyfriend, Mike, a small-town local grease monkey. Mann's characters love the mountains and farming and tinkering under the hood of cars. They are not trying to flee Appalachia for a more trendy, sophisticated place. They eat pie (a lot of pie!), even if it means there's extra flesh around their middles. This story is the most real and honest depiction of first gay love I’ve encountered. Although formulaic – a tale of “opposites attract”– the exceptional quality of the writing and realistic plot involving an impending 4-year separation produce a book that packs an emotional wallop that sticks around long after reading the last page. I also suspect that much of this tale is autobiographical, so the story rings especially true. Available in e-reader formats and paperback.

The ending is a set-up for a sequel, which I can only hope is being written as we speak.

A sampling of reviews of “Cub”:   

“If this doesn't become a classic, there's no justice.” – Jerry Wheeler for Out in Print   

“The vast majority of small-town gay young tales generally involve the city as the goal. In “Cub,” you won’t find the typical gay kid desperate to escape the farm for the bright lights of the city. Instead, you meet Travis: someone not at odds with his rural upbringing, a poet and a passionate young man who isn’t like any youth I’ve read in gay young adult literature before. Travis is gay, yes, but he’s also worried that his unfulfilled penchant for kink might mean he’s on the path to becoming a sociopath. He’s burly and hairy and strong, not smooth and slim and toned...He’s angry, horny, frustrated and confused, and well aware that the world doesn’t want him the way he is...There's such a visceral reality to the thoughts and feelings in Travis. Added to the layer of "otherness" all queer kids face is his yearning for the rough/tender world of BDSM, and his intensity is brilliantly handled. This is Mann at his finest, and the potential relationship that builds in “Cub” is deftly handled. Lyrical and possessing that raw honesty, “Cub” should be the next gay young adult bestseller. Most importantly, with Travis, Mann has given a voice to youth who haven’t found themselves in the gay young adult books that have come before.” – Nathan Burgoine

Men who wear glasses:

Athletic pursuits:

Lads in underwear:

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Blogger Update

OK, gentlemen. Since I announced a week ago that I was abandoning this blog for an indeterminate period of time, I have been inundated with more than 70 e-mail responses. Some wished me well during a respite from blogging, others complained that they would no longer have a blog to read with their morning coffee, but most were comments from readers who said they thought my blog was singular, because it offered "tasteful" erotic gay images of various categories alongside news items and bios of men who influence gay life and gay history -- fine compliments for which I am grateful. And most of these e-mails begged me to return to blogging as soon as possible.

Here's the deal. The past week has been bliss. I've had time to read books, listen to music, take a couple of long walks in the Virginia countryside (where I make my home), ride a horse (Steinway), attend a couple of concerts and see to the care of my octogenarian mother, who is in advanced stages of dementia. I was also able to spend three days with my partner, whose office relocation has led to his purchasing a home nearly three hours distant from my house.

This week has made me realize that daily blogging is behind me, because the tedium of daily posting has made me weary of a process I used to enjoy and look forward to. So from now on, I'll post when I feel like it and have something special to share. I'm guessing that this will be no more than three or four times a month. For you impatient types, there are years and years of archives to browse.

Check back in a few days for a full-length blog post. And enjoy your weekend, gentlemen.