Gerry B's Book Reviews

For a Lost Soldier, by Rudi van Dantzig

A powerful story of coming of age –

Story blurb: Forty years after the fact, Dutch choreographer Jeroen Boman recalls a wartime romance. During the Allied liberation of Holland, the eleven-year-old Boman entered into a tender relationship with a Canadian soldier. Back to the present, Boman attempts to incorporate his experiences in his latest ballet work, a celebration of the Liberation.

The printed version of For a Lost Soldier is no longer available, but the film version (written by director, Roeland Kerbosh) is available on DVD.

About the author: The choreographer and director Rudi van Dantzig (August 1933 – January 2012) played a major role in the development of classical ballet in the Netherlands. Many of his ballets contain a strong thread of social criticism; he was not afraid to explore difficult subjects. The vividly theatrical Monument for a Dead Boy (1965) told the story of a boy who discovers his hitherto repressed homosexuality and is ultimately destroyed by his own desires. This ballet brought Van Dantzig international notice and was mounted for several major companies.

He also had a second career, which developed later in his life, as a novelist. In 1986 he wrote an autobiographical novel, Voor een verloren soldaat, about his love affair while a young boy with a Canadian soldier, which became a great success. It was awarded several times and a film was made of it. An English translation, For a Lost Soldier, was published in 1996.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In preparation for this week’s review, I went in search of a gay Canadian novel in all the usual places (including Amazon.ca), but I may as well have gone searching for a unicorn! All I found were a couple of pages of outdated, academic, and even American offerings (i.e. The Best American Short Stories 2012). To add insult to injury, my own novels weren’t even included.

All was not entirely lost, however, for I came across a book I had read some time ago, For a Lost Soldier, by Rudi van Dantzig, [Gay Men’s Press, 1997], which is now out of print. However, a DVD film version (written and directed by Roeland Kerbosch, and starring Maarten Smit as young Boman, Jeroen Krabbé as the adult Boman, and Andrew Kelley as the Canadian soldier) is still available.
The book and the film differ quite significantly, especially in the way the ending is constructed, but the basic story outline is the same.

Near the end of the war in Holland, eleven-year-old Jeroen Boman is sent to live in the country due to a food shortage in Amsterdam. However, despite a relative abundance to eat he is wracked with loneliness for his parents and friends.

This is subject to change when the village is liberated by a group of Canadian Troops, and Jeroen encounters a 20-something soldier named Walter Cook. Jeroen revels in the attention shown by Cook, and a relationship is formed between them that eventually becomes sexual in nature.

A dark cloud forms, however, when Cook’s regiment moves on, and he leaves without saying goodbye to a devastated Jeroen. Even the photograph of him—the only token Jeroen has left—is damaged by rain.

The remainder of the novel is dedicated to Jeroen’s life when he returns to Amsterdam, and the desperate but fruitless search for his first, lost lover. Eventually Jeroen is forced to realize that all he has left are memories.

Given the controversial nature of man/boy love, even when it is pseudo-autobiographical (as it is in this case), a number of people will be put off by this point alone. However, the sexual aspect in the novel is delicately handled, and in the film it is so subtle that one might actually miss it. What remains is a powerful story of coming of age, and the lifelong impact of first love. Five bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 38,355

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

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November 26, 2012 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Coming out, fiction/autobiographical, Gay romance, Historical period | Leave a comment

Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays, by Bernadette Barton

An interesting and informative study

In the Bible Belt, it’s common to see bumper stickers that claim One Man + One Woman = Marriage, church billboards that command one to “Get right with Jesus,” letters to the editor comparing gay marriage to marrying one’s dog, and nightly news about homophobic attacks from the Family Foundation. While some areas of the Unites States have made tremendous progress in securing rights for gay people, Bible Belt states lag behind. Not only do most Bible Belt gays lack domestic partner benefits, lesbians and gay men can still be fired from some places of employment in many regions of the Bible Belt for being a homosexual.

In Pray the Gay Away, Bernadette Barton argues that conventions of small town life, rules which govern Southern manners, and the power wielded by Christian institutions serve as a foundation for both passive and active homophobia in the Bible Belt. She explores how conservative Christian ideology reproduces homophobic attitudes and shares how Bible Belt gays negotiate these attitudes in their daily lives. Drawing on the remarkable stories of Bible Belt gays, Barton brings to the fore their thoughts, experiences and hard-won insights to explore the front lines of our national culture war over marriage, family, hate crimes, and equal rights. Pray the Gay Away illuminates their lives as both foot soldiers and casualties in the battle for gay rights.

Bernadette Barton (Ph.D. University of Kentucky 2000) is Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Morehead State University. Her research and teaching interests include sexuality, gender, popular culture, religion, qualitative methods and the sex industry.

Bernadette’s scholarship explores the experiences of members of marginalized groups. She is most fascinated by issues of transformation and social justice, such as: what makes someone conscious of social inequality? What causes people to change oppressive attitudes and behaviors? How can we really see one another across vast differences of geography, gender, race, class and sexual identity? Over the past fourteen years, Bernadette has worked on two major research projects, each exploring issues of inequality, gender, identity and sexuality. The first is a study of exotic dancers, published by New York University Press titled, Stripped: Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers, and the second a study on religion and homosexuality in the Bible Belt titled, Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

While Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays, by Bernadette Barton, [NYU Press, 2012] may not be for everyone, it is nonetheless a timely (and scary) read.

We (including us Canadians) have just come through what is arguably the nastiest presidential election campaign ever in U.S history, during which the fundamentalist Christians tried to set GBLT human rights back at least a half-century or more.

It is not to say that all Christians are homophobic, and there are plenty of homophobes who are Non-Christian, but almost invariably the Christian card is dragged out to condemn homosexuality for everything from the Great Flood (itself a myth) to Hurricane Sandy.

Sociologist, Bernadette Barton, is well qualified to tackle this subject, which she does so by going to the source—gays living in the so-called “Bible Belt.” What she finds is not particular new or surprising. Homophobia is a self-perpetuating attitude, generally planted by narrow-minded, uber-religious types, and carried forward from generation to generation by negative reinforcement. This accounts for broad-based consistency sufficient to identify a particular area as being homophobic.

From the recipients point of view, growing up gay in such a repressive atmosphere can be isolating and traumatic (sometimes physically), and it takes a Herculean amount of courage to come out under such hostile circumstances. None of this is particularly new, however, and so a ‘break-through’ study it is not.

Nonetheless, the writing is at a very high level, and Professor Barton’s insights are reliable and informative; therefore, I recommend Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gaysas a really interesting read. Four bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 37,793

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Notice to a:ll those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by. I’m in St. Augustine, Florida, but through the marvel of the internet I can carry on. See you again next Monday.

November 19, 2012 Posted by | Gay non-fiction, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

When the Bluebird Calls (The Heart of the Mountain #1), by Leiland Dale

For lovers of true romance in the Harlequin style –

Devon Reid, veterinarian, had a partner of 2 years, a beautiful house, and a fantastic job. Then, life as he knew it, changed.

Six months ago, he became his mother’s sole caretaker when her cancer returned. With his constant absence from home, his relationship ends leaving him alone in one of the most emotionally draining points in his life. When his mother passes, he is lonely and loses his zest for life.

With his emotions and life in turmoil, Devon decides it’s time to make a change. Leaving the city life behind and taking a job in a small town in Montana, was just what the doctor ordered. Then, he meets the hunky ranch foreman, Greg Elliot.

Greg has lived most of his life on a ranch. Living in a small town didn’t offer many prospects for a relationship, until he meets the new veterinarian in town.

While they try to resist the obvious mutual attraction, a fateful call during the night changes it all.

What is a city boy to do when a small town cowboy ropes him in?

Available in ebook format, only – 223 KB

About the author: Initially, Leiland began reading Harlequin Romance and Silhouette Desire but later transitioned to Silhouette Nocturne. But after reading the first M/M erotic romance, tons of M/M material soon followed. As an avid reader, Leiland decided one day to take a stab at writing a book. These days, when not writing something new, Leiland can be found reading a steamy romance (shifters are a fav!), taking the pet dog for a walk or watching movies such as A Walk to Remember.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I think what first attracted me to When the Bluebird Calls (The Heart of the Mountain #1) by Leiland Dale [Silver Publishing, 2010] was the award-winning cover by Reese Dante. It’s sexy without being overly erotic. The second thing was that the blurb didn’t mention “hot,” “steamy” or “lusty” even once, and that was enough to overcome my usual avoidance of contemporary western novels.

The plot is rather simple. Devon Reid is an urban veterinarian, gay, and with a boyfriend. Tragedy strikes when his mother is stricken with a fatal form of cancer, and with her loss, as well as the break-up of his relationship, he decides to escape to the rural town of Bridger, Montana.

Here he continues is veterinary practice, and one of his clients is a ruggedly handsome, ranch foreman by the name of Greg Elliot.

It is very much a situation of ‘love at first sight’ for both of them, and a courtship of sorts follows. However, it is not until they are fortuitously brought together when Devon is called to assist the birth of a colt, and from there it is pretty well a situation of happy-ever-after.

My views:

It’s interesting that the author started off by reading Harlequin Romance novels, because this is definitely a romance: A lonely ingénue dreaming of love; a storybook town nestled in the rolling hills of Montana; and a hunky foreman ready to settle down with the right guy. It`s not the way it generally happens, but it is the way we`d like to see it happen. Nothing wrong with that.

However, even Harlequin Romances have some sort of tension (angst) written into them, a ‘pinch of salt’ if you will, and this is what wI wias missing from the mix. Everything was just too idealistic. It is not so much a credibility problem as a lack of colour and variation.

The pace was also a bit frenetic at times—especially the opening scenes with the death of the mother and the alienation of the boyfriend. It was all over so briefly that I just didn’t get to feel Devon’s desolation quite as much as I should have. True, this is a novella (about 85 pages), but a paragraph or two to describe Devon’s sense of loss would have helped throughout the remainder of the story.

Having said that, however, it is a good read for lovers of happy-ever-after romances. Three bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 37, 347 (That’s up 747 visitors from last week).

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Notice to a:ll those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

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A star in the making. Canada is blessed with a remarkable array of talent, and one of the up-and-coming young stars is concert pianist,  Lucas Porter. He has won several awards and been featured on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporations’ NEXT program. Click on the image to hear Etude, Opus 4, by Frederick Chopin.

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

 Thanks for dropping by. We hit a milestone this week by coming just short of an 800-visitor week. Thank you so much for your participation.

November 12, 2012 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance | , , | Leave a comment

Sailors and Sexual Identity: Crossing the Line Between “Straight” and “Gay” in the U.S. Navy, by Steven Zeeland

Gerry B’s Book Reviews’ Remembrance Day Tribute

 

Remembrance Day Facts

  • Remembrance Day was originally known as “Armistice Day”
  • In Canada it became Remembrance Day by Act of Parliament in 1931.
  • It is known to our neighbours and allies to the south as “Veteran’s Day”.
  • The poppy is the symbol that individuals use to show that they remember those who fought and died in the service of their country.
  • The idea of the poppy originated with the 1915 poem “In Flanders Field” by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Medical Officer in the First World War. His poem reflects his first hand account of what he witnessed while working from a dressing station on the bank of the Yser Canal.
  • An American woman, Moina Michael, was the first person known to have worn a poppy in remembrance.

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Story Blurb: In Sailors and Sexual Identity, author Steven Zeeland talks with young male sailors–both gay- and straight-identified–about ways in which their social and sexual lives have been shaped by their Navy careers.Despite massive media attention to the issue, there remains a gross disparity between the public perception of “gays in the military” and the sexual realities of military life. The conversations in this book reveal how known “gay” and “straight” men can and do get along in the sexually tense confines of barracks and shipboard life once they discover that the imagined boundary between them is not, in fact, a hard line.The stories recounted here in vivid detail call into question the imagined boundaries between gay and straight, homosexual and homosocial, and suggest a secret Pentagon motivation for the gay ban: to protect homoerotic military rituals, buddy love, and covert military homosexuality from the taint of sexual suspicion.Zeeland ‘s interviews explore many aspects of contemporary life in the Navy including: gay/straight friendship networks the sexual charge to the Navy/Marine Corps rivalry the reality behind sailors’reputations as sexual adventurers in port and at sea men ‘s differing interpretations of homoerotic military rituals and initiations sex and gender stereotypes associated with military job specialities how sailors view being seen as sex objectsEveryone interested in the issue of gays in the military, along with a general gay readership, gay veterans, and gay men for whom sailors represent a sexual ideal, will find Sailors and Sexual Identity an informative and entertaining read.

Available in hardcover and paperback formats, only – 338 pages

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Review by Gerry Burnie
Although Sailors and Sexual Identity: Crossing the Line Between “Straight” and “Gay” in the U.S. Navy by Steven Zeeland [Routledge, 1995] is somewhat outdated, the tales of male interaction and bonding, as well as sexual exploration and activity remain unchanged. Therefore, it is still a relevant read.

At the time of its writing, ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was still the prevailing rule regarding the military, and although it was an improvement over the witch hunts that had preceded it [See: Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two, by Allan Bérubé] it was nonetheless a political compromise that left the whole question of sexuality in a sort of limbo. At times it was enforced, at other times it was used as an excuse to exit the service, but just as often it was simply ignored.

However, Sailors and Sexual Identity is not about DADT. Rather, it is, in the words of the author: “[A]…hope that an improved understanding of the sexual realities of military life will contribute to the discrediting of falsehoods and lies used to justify oppression of persons who self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and anyone who participates in consensual sexual activity with others of the same sex.”

To do this, Zeeland “met more than 200 sailors and marines and taped conversations with 30, and of that number, the transcripts of 13 make up this anthology.

Lacking all the requisite scientific controls, this is not a clinical study per se, nor has Zeeland represented it as such. Rather, he describes it as a collection of interviews documenting the lives—both sexual and military—of men in the service, and from whom he has learned. In some ways it is well he distanced himself from an academic study, for it would no doubt have been criticized for being unscientific, and otherwise stigmatized as a laborious read (which it is not).

Zeeland has yet another stated objective, however, and that is to show through empirical observation that the line between “straight” and “gay” is often an ambivalent one; that:

“[H]omosexual expression is a natural possibility for men who identify themselves as heterosexual, and that the unavailability of women is often not so much a cause of, but an excuse for, sexual feeling for another male.”

To me this is the most interesting aspect of Zeeland’s study. It has long been a suspicion of mine that the above statement is true (based in part on personal experience), but I wanted to see some evidence that would back this up. What I got from Zeeland’s study was a solid “maybe.” Most interviewees reported at least some experience with men who identified themselves as “straight,” and who staunchly held on to some stereotypical vestige of  their heterosexuality to ‘prove’ it—like refusing to kiss, or “bottom”—but nonetheless freely indulged in homosexual acts. However, because of the anecdotal nature of the study the question remains unresolved in my mind.

This is one of those books that will interest readers with a navy or marine background, or who enjoy reading about the experiences of others—like I do—but at $42 (paperback, new) it will not be for everyone. Three and one-half bees.

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 36,585

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Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.Thanks again!

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We also remember those who gave up their loved ones to the service of others. Thank you!

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by. Add a “like” of comment so that I know you’ve been here. See you next Monday.

November 5, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Gay military, Gay non-fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic | Leave a comment

   

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