Gerry B's Book Reviews

Thoreau in Love, by John Schuyler Bishop

A fictional tale of youthful love and misgivings, evolving into a 19th-century literary giant

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thoreau in love - coverStory blurb: Two years before he goes to Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau, 25, leaves Concord, Massachusetts, to live in New York, where the new America is bursting into life. But before he even gets there he falls in love—with a young man.

It’s 1843, a repressive puritanism still hangs over Concord, Massachusetts, and Henry Thoreau wants out. When his mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, gives him an opportunity to move to New York City, Henry leaves Concord with no thought of ever returning.

In his journals, 250-some pages about his trip to New York have been ripped out, the only substantial number of pages missing from the forty-seven journal volumes. What was so scandalous that Thoreau—or, more likely, his literary executor—decided no one should see it?

And why did Thoreau stay only six months in New York?

Thoreau’s biographers go out of their way to convince us that the writer was heterosexual, although he never married and wrote freely in his journal about the beauty of men. His poem “Sympathy,” one of the few published in his lifetime, is a love poem to a boy who was his student. (About that poem, one celebrated biographer went so far as to say, “When he wrote ‘he’ Thoreau really meant ‘she,’ and when he wrote ‘him,’ he really meant ‘her.’”) By denying Thoreau’s real sexuality, scholars have reduced him to a wooden icon.

Thoreau in Love imagines the time of the missing pages, when Thoreau emerged from his shell and explored the wider world and himself before he returned to Concord, where he would fearlessly live the rest of his life and become the great naturalist and literary giant.

About the author: Schuyler moved into the city as soon as he could, wrote plays at home and worked in the Letters Department at Newsweek until his total output for three months work was two letters; he decided he was possibly burned out…. His boss did too, but she then hired him as a proofreader at Sports Illustrated, where Schuyler enjoyed the great benefits and moved up rapidly to copyreader and then, because of a story he wrote for the magazine, to the exalted position of Late Reader, possibly the greatest job that ever existed: when the editors and reporters went to Schuyler to go over their stories it meant they were finished their week’s work, and more often than not, because of S.I.’s deadline, Schuyler worked one 35-hour day and made lots of money. All the while he was writing and mostly not sending things out…. but a couple of years ago he resolved to change that….

Two of Bishop plays were produced many years ago off-off Broadway, and he’s had stories published in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times and in Alyson’s Best Gay Love Stories 2005. After a couple of years at sea and in Florida, he’s happily back in New York City.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

thoreau in love - portaitI don’t suppose there is anything more intriguing to a historian, or writer thereof, than to find 250 pages missing (ripped out) from a famous person’s personal journals. Why the possibilities are endless, and John Schuyler Bishop takes full advantage of this in Thoreau in Love [BookBaby; 1st edition, May 14, 2013].

Henry David Thoreau, an enigmatic and intriguing character in his own right, takes a trip to New York to tutor the children of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s relative William Emerson, in their Staten Island home. On the way he meets a breathtakingly handsome sailor, Ben Wickham, and despite Thoreau’s Puritan background and his (till-then) repressed sexual inclinations, he falls madly in love with this beguiling lad.

As the ‘captain’s boy’ Ben is experienced in the manly art of making love, and by the time they reach Staten Island a most touching and memorable love affair has evolved.

However, once separated, Thoreau begins to have second thoughts. He fervently wants to be ‘normal’ in order to avoid the recriminations of a mostly homophobic society, but  at the same time he carries on a romantic correspondence with Ben. Finally the two spend a couple of weeks together, and afterward they separate with Ben urging him to find his true self.

Thoreau then returns to Concord, and Walden emerges.

All of this is Schuyler Bishop’s invention, of course, but it is wonderfully credible and in keeping with Thoreau’s complex nature. It also explores the misgivings that most gay men experience somewhere along the line in their careers; even in today’s more liberal society. Arizona and Uganda are proof positive that to be gay, or GBLT, is still far from mainstream in 2014.

There are some graphic sex scenes, but it is the story that predominates throughout—as it should be.

Altogether, I think this is a story that will appeal to most everyone who enjoys a well-written historical fiction. Five bees.

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Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 64,229

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

 It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Don Messer’s Jubilee: The premier name in C&W folk music in the 1960s.

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If you would like to learn more about my other 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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February 24, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Gay romance, Henry David Thoreau, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

The Door Behind Us, by John C. Houser

Altogether an engaging and enjoyable story.

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the door behind - coverStory blurb: It’s 1919, and Frank Huddleston has survived the battlefields of the Great War. A serious head injury has left him with amnesia so profound he must re-learn his name every morning from a note posted on the privy door.

Gerald “Jersey” Rohn, joined the Army because he wanted to feel like a man, but he returned from the trenches minus a leg and with no goal for his life. He’s plagued by the nightmare of his best friend’s death and has nervous fits, but refuses to associate those things with battle fatigue. He can’t work his father’s farm, so he takes a job supervising Frank, who is working his grandparents’ farm despite his head injury.

When Frank recovers enough to ask about his past, he discovers his grandparents know almost nothing about him, and they’re lying about what they do know. The men set out to discover Frank’s past and get Jersey a prosthesis. They soon begin to care for each other, but they’ll need to trust their hearts and put their pasts to rest if they are to turn attraction into a loving future.

Cover art: Paul Richmond

About the author: John C. Houser’s father, step-mother, and mother were all psychotherapists. When old enough, he escaped to Grinnell College, which was exactly halfway between his mother’s and father’s homes—and half a continent away from each. After graduation, he taught English for a year in Greece, attended graduate school, and eventually began a career of creating computer systems for libraries. Now he works in a strange old building that boasts a historic collection of mantelpieces–but no fireplaces.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 1 JULY - 18 NOVEMBER 1916: The badly shelled main road to Bapaume through Pozieres, showing a communication trench and broken trees

THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 1 JULY – 18 NOVEMBER 1916: The badly shelled main road to Bapaume through Pozieres, showing a communication trench and broken trees

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, July 28, 1914—one of the bloodiest wars in world history (to that date)—it is appropriate to remember the human sacrifice in both fact and fiction. Therefore, The Door Behind Us by John C. Houser [Dreamspinner Press; 1st edition, October 13, 2013] is a timely contribution.

Fiction, I believe, is a particularly effective way of dealing with a broad range of ills occasioned by the victims of war while giving them a human face, which Houser has done remarkably well. Likewise, the time (post war, 20th-century—a time of lost innocence) and place (conservative, mid-west America) are equally brought to the fore with admirable accuracy.

The well-written blurb provides a good synopsis of the plot line. Here we have two disabled veterans, one an amputee, and both suffering from psychological damage as well. Frank has lost all memory of his life before the war—even his name—and “Jersey” Rohn has not only lost a leg, but he also suffers from the so-called “shell-shock syndrome,” a term that prevailed until well after WWII. Today, we know it as PTSD.

Brought together as strangers, but with much in common, they quickly form a bond that is remarkable strong: A bond that is built on their strengths as apposed to their frailties. This includes both emotional and physical love, but given the circumstances one could hardly expect less.

They then go on a mission of discovery—Frank to discover his forgotten memories, and Jersey to find a prosthesis to bolster his physical self.

There are very few shortcomings to this well-crafted story. The main characters are both likeable and credible: In love, but not overtly so—in keeping with the times. The ‘villains’ are nasty but not threatening, and the sex is passionate but about the right balance with the rest of the story.

Altogether an engaging and enjoyable story. Five bees.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 63,767

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

 It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  John Anderson, Free! A blow for freedom. In commemoration of Black History month.

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If you would like to learn more about my other 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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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.

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February 17, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay WWI stories, Historical Fiction, Historical period, WWI | Leave a comment

The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men, by Christina Hoff Sommers

An absolute must read for every man, woman and parent who wishes to see their children grow into healthy, well adjusted beings.

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the war against boys - coverBlurb: Despite popular belief, American boys tag behind girls in reading and writing ability, and they are less likely to go to college. Our young men are greatly at risk, yet the best-known studies and experts insist that it’s girls who are in need of our attention. The highly publicized “girl crisis” has led to many changes in American schools, politics, and parenting…but at what cost?

In this provocative book, Christina Hoff Sommers argues that our society has continued to overemphasize the troubles of girls while our boys suffer from the same self-esteem and academic problems. Boys need help, but not the sort of help they’ve been getting.

About the author: Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise institute in Washington, D.C. She has a PhD in philosophy from Brandeis University and was formerly a professor of philosophy at Clark University. Sommers has written for numerous publications and is the author of Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women. She is married with two sons and lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have been lamenting, of late, that men are being regularly emasculated in most radio and television ads to an extent that would not be tolerated if the same thing were happening to women. In fact, “Advertisers degrade men about 19 times more often than women, and usually to a higher degree,” says the National Coalition for Men. Given the insidious nature of advertising, and the fact that such ads are not only ubiquitous, but are also repeated hundreds of times a day, it amounts to a subtle form of social brainwashing.

To some extent, and perhaps at a more insidious level, this ‘brainwashing’ is what Christina Hoff Sommers is getting at in her book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men [Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition, August 20, 2013]. In it, she addresses the very real problem of boys failing or dropping out of a school system that is, intentionally or unintentionally, biased toward girls. The rationale is often couched in terms of ‘equal opportunity,’ but as Sommers points out there is a marked difference between ‘feminist equality’ and ‘feminist gender’.

male bashing feministsIn one of the more blatant examples, she describes in some detail how seventh-grade boys are told they will grow up to be abusers, even rapists. It is the sort of thing that men’s rights advocate, Warren Farrell, planned to talk about at the University of Toronto in December 2010, i.e. “the crisis among boys and how they were not doing well educationally,” when he was shouted down by about 100 feminists—as reported by Toronto Sun Newspaper columnist, Michael Coren:

There were around 100 of these fanatics, at the university before he spoke, ripping down posters, threatening and insulting anybody who tried to attend the lecture, and explaining as only heavily funded students can do, “You should be f—ing ashamed of yourself, you f—ing scum” to those with whom they disagreed. There is ample video evidence. ~ “Shrill backlash to men’s rights advocate,” December 8th, 2012.

Specifically, Sommers points out (with statistical verification) that girls tend to receive more academic attention, and go on to higher education in greater numbers than boys—even if feminists claim the opposite. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, after all, and complacency doesn’t grab headlines.

She also posits that boys are being feminized by discouraging traditionally masculine play, like physical competition and rough-housing, etc., for more feminine or unisex games. Moreover, this is being carried into the classroom by the choice of books like Jane Eyre, as apposed to more male oriented stories. Ergo, in terms of literacy, boys are being turned-off reading for lack of interest.

As a possible solution, Sommers suggests that boys would do better in a segregated system with other boys. It is not a new idea, England has had exclusive boys’ school for centuries. Moreover, private schools—such as St. Andrews College in Aurora, Ontario (Est. 1899), and Upper Canada College in Toronto (Est. 1829)—have both operated along this line for over a century with outstanding results.

Some people may feel intimidated by the title, i.e. the ‘war’* against boys, but to me it is quite appropriate. War has been declared, and is being waged against both boys and men, but it is only now that men are beginning to wake up to the fact. It is ironic, therefore, that it took a feminist—albeit an objective one—to sound the alarm.

An absolute must read for every man, woman and parent who wishes to see their children grow into healthy, well adjusted beings. Five bees.

*For those who still feel ‘war’ is too strong a term, see:Men’s rights under fire,” ~ Toronto Sun  Newspaper, February 7, 2014.

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Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 63,414

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Norman Lee (1862 – 1939): The Klondike Cattle Drive.

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If you would like to learn more about my other 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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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.

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February 10, 2014 Posted by | Academic study, bias in education, Christina Hoff Sommers, Feminism, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

I Am John I Am Paul: A Story of Two Soldiers in Ancient Rome, by Mark Tedesco

A well-written historical novel with an emphasis on history –

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i am joh i am paul - coverStory blurb: “Adventure, intrigue, faith, commitment, love and hate and everything between! Mark Tedesco has done it again, fashioning what is arguably his best work yet! He entices you on a phenomenal journey into the fascinating lives of two 4th century Roman soldiers, John and Paul, in a tale of loyalty and love that grabs you by the throat from the very first sentence and holds you spellbound, gasping for air as you’re swept from chapter to chapter with barely a moment to breathe. An unbelievable marriage of fact and fiction that will leave you applauding or appalled but never bored or indifferent. A must read!” Fox news.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I can’t say that I am well versed in Roman history, about average I suppose, so the extensive research conducted by Mark Tedesco in his writing of I Am John I am Paul [Academia Publishing; Second edition, November 9, 2012] was a help.

The basic story follows the adventures of two Roman Soldiers, Ioannes Fulvius Marcus Romanus, and his brother-in-arms, Paulus. The time is during the reign of Constantine  (306 – 337 A.D), and is typically full of political intrigue.

John and Paul meet during the Germanic wars, and form a loving bond that is put to the test when John is sent off to Alexandria by a tyrannical centurion. While in Alexandria, he becomes involved in Mithraism—a nice touch by the authorin order to explore this mystic religion—but, eventually, he is returned to Rome to rejoin Paul once again.

Another nice touch, and also a nice bit of drama, takes place when John and Paul undertake to successfully rescue the kidnapped daughter of the emperor, and in gratitude the emperor grants them both land and a house in Rome.

Not to be forgotten, either, is their experience with Christianity—i.e. “The Way.” After all, it was Constantine who converted Rome to Christianity (…and had “Great” added to his name), so historically it was an intriguing time that the author didn’t miss.

Technically speaking, this is not a gay story in the erotic sense—which doesn’t disturb me at all. It is romantic, given the love the two boys have for one another, but mostly it is a well-written historical novel with an emphasis on history. My kind of meat. Therefore, for people like myself, I’m going to go the full five bees.

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Views at Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 62,987

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Mary Grannan – “Just Mary”: Canadian pioneer in children’s programming.

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If you would like to learn more about my other 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.

       

  ♠♠♠

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!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

February 3, 2014 Posted by | a love story, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period | Leave a comment

   

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