Monthly Archives: December 2010

White, Christian – Christopher Stoddard (Triton Books)

Buy it now from our Amazon.com store –White, Christian
 

White, Christian is a story about a
nineteen-year-old gay teen who is paranoid, rebellious, a drug addict, sexually
promiscuous who feels unloved, and misunderstood.  Sound familiar?  You bet. 
In other words, just another typical novel about a troubled gay youth
and his “passage” through life with all the dysfunctions one would expect.  There is one difference with this
story…Christopher Stoddard. 

Christopher has a way with
words.  His prose is beautiful.  His characters are real. From the first page
the main character, Christian White will captivate you. You will want to help
him, you will become angry with him, and you will cheer him for small but
meaningful accomplishments. 

There are twists and turns in
Christian’s life that are unexpected, such as the scene with a guy named Juan
who Christian thinks is just another quick trick to earn some cash, but this
trick is anything but ordinary. 

“I gain consciousness
as I feel warm, thick liquid trickling down the middle of my forehead, taking a
left down the side of my nose and continuing to my chin, off of which it
drips.  I let out a moan of pain and
nausea and open my eyes.  Trying to wipe
the blood off my face, I discover that both my hands are tied with twine to
either end of the bed.  A glass beer
bottle with a chipped spout is lying on a tarnished silver tray next to me,
along with a pair of sharp-looking scissors, a bowling pin and pliers.  I hear humming and the sound of running water
coming from the bathroom.  Juan enters
with latex-gloved hands raised, like a doctor about to perform surgery.”

Without giving away too much
detail, this scene takes the novel on a whole new, exciting and unexpected
path.  Or at least that’s what I thought
and here is where I think the novel suffers, it doesn’t go down that path.  From this point forward Christian’s life goes
back to the way it was, chapter after chapter of quick sex for quick cash.  There was so much that could have been done
after that night at Juan’s, but it just doesn’t happen until the very end of
the novel.  The story becomes a bit
disjointed because of that.  It’s as if
the story with Juan never happened twenty or thirty pages, and then all of a
sudden it’s brought back to forefront of the story.

Regardless of what I feel is a weak
point in the book White, Christian is a great read.  Christopher Stoddard’s words flow across the
page.  His style is unique and will keep
the reader turning the pages.  

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Binding the God: Ursine Essays from the Mountain South – Jeff Mann (Bear Bones Books)

41p3iiD2zSL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_Buy from Lethe Press

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 Mann says:

The story’s in what might have happened. When I turned away from the crowd and stalked back toward my house … I expected one of those stones to hit me between the shoulder blades. If it had, if one of those no-doubt-drunk guys had gotten his dander up and followed me with violence on his mind, I would have pulled that knife. I would never 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.

© 2010, Jerry L. Wheeler

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