Buy it now at TLAgay.com or at our Amazon.com store – Binding the God: Ursine Essays from the Mountain South
Everyone’s favorite leather bear daddy, Jeff Mann, is back
with another volume of essays and observations, Binding the God—a
perfect companion to Edge: Travels of an Appalachian Leather Bear. Where
Edge roamed the U.S. and Europe, however, Binding the God is
content to survey subjects mostly closer to Mann’s home.
What always impresses me about Mann’s work is its fearless
self-examination. Confessional writing is nothing new, but rather than hiding
behind self-deprecating humor like Augusten Burroughs or reveling in depravity
like so many other authors hellbent on exposing their addictive personalities,
Mann meets his life head on with a frank, engaging involvement. He never
distances or hides behind himself for the sake of his own comfort.
Take, for example, the unabashed hero worship of “Loving
Tim; or My Passionate Midlife Affair,” in which Mann confesses his adoration of
country music superstar Tim McGraw. His fangurl behavior—buying keychains and
coffee cups adorned with McGraw’s image—is disarming and his lust for McGraw is
evident, but it’s his trenchant observations of crowd behavior as well as his
own at a McGraw concert that really make this piece pop.
Among my other favorites here are the short, punchy folk
culture reminiscences in “’Til the Ductile Anchor Hold,’” whose title comes
from Walt Whitman’s “A Noiseless, Patient Spider,” his obsession with a certain
Oscar-robbed film in “Country Boys, Butch Queers and Brokeback Mountain,”
and the steadfast love of Southern culture in the face of political and
religious adversity in “Negative Capability in the Mountain South.”
But no incident cuts closer to the queer bone than the
possibility of mayhem against a drunken partygoer throwing rocks at his mailbox
in “Southern (LGBT) Living.” The confrontation itself is unremarkable, but as
story’s in what might have happened. When I turned away from
crowd and stalked back toward my house … I expected one of
stones to hit me between the shoulder blades. If it had, if one of
no-doubt-drunk guys had gotten his dander up and followed me
violence on his mind, I would have pulled that knife. I would
have carried it out there if I hadn’t been truly prepared to use it.
How many times have we, as gay men and women, felt that tug,
that willingness to use violence because we are sick and tired of talk and
patience and compromise? Mann isn’t afraid to admit those instincts but knows
full well that words cut deeper than blades.
But no matter what he’s using, I’m glad he’s on our side.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler