Gerry B's Book Reviews

Stanley Park: A Novel, by Timothy Taylor

A fun, slightly tongue in cheek, read that scores more times than misses.

bee4

 

Click on the above cover to purchase.

Click on the above cover to purchase.

Story blurb: Jeremy Papier is a Vancouver chef and restaurateur who owns a bistro called The Monkey’s Paw. The novel uses a “Bloods vs. Crips” metaphor for the philosophical conflict between chefs such as Papier, who favour local ingredients and menus, and those such as his nemesis Dante Beale, who favour a hip, globalized, “post-national” fusion cuisine.

Papier also endures conflict with his father, an anthropologist studying homelessness in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, who draws him into investigating the death of two children in the park.

About the author: Timothy Taylor is a Canadian novelist and short story writer. Born in Venezuela, he was raised in West Vancouver, British Columbia and Edmonton, Alberta. Taylor attended the University of Alberta and Queen’s University, and lived for some years in Toronto, Ontario. In 1987 he returned to British Columbia. Taylor currently resides in Vancouver.

Taylor’s short story “Doves of Townsend” won the Journey Prize in 2000. He had two other stories on the competition’s final shortlist that year, and is to date the only writer ever to have three short stories compete for the prize in the same year. He subsequently served as a judge for the 2003 award.

His debut novel, Stanley Park, nominated for the Giller Prize and chosen to be the 2004 One Book, One Vancouver, was followed by Silent Cruise, a collection of eight stories and one novella.

logo - gbbr

Review by Gerry Burnie

Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia. Ranked among the worlds most  outstanding parks

Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia. Ranked among the worlds most outstanding parks

Two things attracted me to Stanley Park: A Novel by Timothy Taylor [Counterpoint; Reprint edition, September 25, 2003]: It’s Canadian through and through, and it’s about food.

I’m a self-confessed—and self-described, ‘foodie.’ Not the faddy fusion foods, or the trendy I-eat-it-because-it’s-the-thing-to-do dishes, but good, well-prepared standard fare. I think I may be a ‘Blood’ too (as apposed to a ‘Crip’), but I must confess I have no idea what these two terms mean, let alone their derivation.

Taylor’s novel has three lines of focus: Food, Stanley Park, and corporate domination. Regarding food, his attention to, and reverence for, the preparation of imaginative dishes may be a bit slow reading for non-foodies, but otherwise it’s entirely in keeping with the theme. It is also, in some ways, a metaphor for dedication and loyalty to a conviction in spite of forces to the contrary.

'Gastown'. Vancouver, British Columbia. One of the best known downtown neighbourhoods.

‘Gastown’. Vancouver, British Columbia. One of the best known downtown neighbourhoods.

Regarding Stanley Park, one can hardly discuss Vancouver without including ‘Gastown’ or Stanley Park. To Vancouver it is what High Park is to New York, so it is quite natural that the author would lavish it with detail—to put it on the map, so-to-speak. And what other way is more appropriate, or imaginative, than to have the main character Jeremy Papier’s father live there studying the homeless.

The imaginative choice of names is clever, too—i.e. Jeremy Papier (“Jeremy Paper”) and Dante Beale (owner of “Dante’s Inferno”). I have long maintained that authors don’t give quite enough consideration to names. In my opinion, they are as important as choosing just the right descriptor for anything else. In any event, Beale is corporate-lowest-common-denominator-mentality personified, and Taylor has a great deal of fun tweaking this concept (while take a well-deserved pop-shot at Starbucks.)

Whether these three somewhat disparate themes stitch together effectively is a matter of opinion. They worked reasonably well for me, although I must admit some disorientation at times. Nonetheless, there have been comments expressed on both sides of the discussion.

What I found didn’t work—although I understand the author’s wish to include it as a bit of local lore—is the unsolved discovery of the two skeletons in the park. It is a sub-plot that just didn’t fit, and left this reader looking for a resolution that didn’t come.

Altogether, it’s a fun, slightly tongue in cheek, read that scores more times than misses. Four bees.

♠♠♠

Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 71,394

♠♠♠

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:  Pioneer education in Canada, Part II: Taught to the tune of the hickory stick.

logo - gerry burnie books - couple

       

 

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.

July 28, 2014 Posted by | Canadian content, Fiction, non-GLBT | , , , | Leave a comment

Native: A Novel, by William Haywood Henderson

A coming out and coming of age in a ruggedly contemporary, Western setting, with ancient berdache undertones.

bee3

 

 

logo - gbbr

 

Click pn the above cover to purchase.

Click pn the above cover to purchase.

Story Blurb: Four years before Annie Proulx’s story “Brokeback Mountain” appeared in the New Yorker, William Haywood Henderson published Native, the tale of three gay men ensnared in the politics and prejudices of an isolated ranching town in Wyoming’s Wind River Valley. Blue Parker, a careful twenty-three-year-old ranch foreman, in love with the West and his home in the mountains, finds himself drawn to his new ranch hand, Sam. For the first time in his life, Blue feels the possibility of a romantic connection, and he makes tentative plans to secret himself and Sam away in an idyllic camp high in the mountains. But the arrival in town of Gilbert, a Native American from the Wind River Indian Reservation, a man who fancies himself a modern-day berdache (or Two-Spirit), pushes Blue and Sam in unexpected, dangerous directions. Gilbert attempts to recreate the ancient traditions of his people, but the world has changed. Ultimately, Gilbert must try to find a new place for himself in society, and Blue must choose between his home and protecting the man he loves.

♠♠♠

Review by Gerry Burnie

When you read as many GBLT books as I do, you begin to notice a similarity that runs from one book to another. It is almost as though there was some sort of ‘Harlequin Romance’ formula being followed. So, when a slightly different story pops up, even though some of the elements have been explored before, I generally go for it. Such is the case with Native: A Novel, by William Haywood Henderso [Bison Books; First Paperback Printing edition, May 1, 2010]

Blue Parker is the surprisingly young foreman of a Wyoming ranch, and gay, and as such he is infatuated with Sam—a boyishly handsome hired hand. Blue has plans to assign Sam to a line-camp high up in the mountains; a veritable Eden where they will be able to meet in seclusion and relative safety.

Enter Gilbert, a two-spirit ‘berdache’ who possesses special powers, and who goads Sam into a raunchy Apache-type dance at the small town’s honky-tonk bar.

Blue is embarrassed and confused, and so he stomps out, leaving Sam to the mercy of the red neck cowhands. Consequently, Sam is severely beaten for his naïveté, but now, moved by love and compassion, Blue moves him into his own Cabin. This has its own falling-dominos-effect as the story winds down to an uncertain climax.

As I mentioned, previously, this story has an interesting and somewhat unique theme to it—a coming out and coming of age in a ruggedly contemporary, Western setting, with ancient berdache overtones. That’s good.

It is also written in a lyrical style, with much time given to painting a word picture of the breathtaking Wyoming landscape. That’s good, too.

However, it presents its own challenges as well. In many way it reads like a stage coach ride as it lurches along, often with the driver meandering on and off the trail. Indeed, it boldly goes where every novelist is cautioned not to tread. In other words, it changes points of view from one character to another, not only flashes backward, but also forward and to the present as well. Still, there are twists and passages that are brilliant in both concept and delivery.

I’m going to give it three bees, and beyond that you can decide for yourself.

♠♠♠

 Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 71,243

♠♠♠

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:  Point Blankets … a.k.a. “Hudson Bay Company Blankets”

logo - gerry burnie books - couple

       

 

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.

 

 

July 21, 2014 Posted by | Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Native American, Gay romance, Gay western, M/M love and adventure | Leave a comment

Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, by Paul Monette

A fascinating story of one man’s half-a-life, articulately written, and unapologetically candid.

bee4

 

 

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Book description: Paul Monette grew up all-American, Catholic, overachieving . . . and closeted. As a child of the 1950s, a time when a kid suspected of being a “homo” would routinely be beaten up, Monette kept his secret throughout his adolescence. He wrestled with his sexuality for the first thirty years of his life, priding himself on his ability to “pass” for straight. The story of his journey to adulthood and to self-acceptance with grace and honesty, this intimate portrait of a young man’s struggle with his own desires is witty, humorous, and deeply felt.

About the author: In novels, poetry, and a memoir, Paul Monette wrote about gay men striving to fashion personal identities and, later, coping with the loss of a lover to AIDS.

Monette was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1945. He was educated at prestigious schools in New England: Phillips Andover Academy and Yale University, where he received his B.A. in 1967. He began his prolific writing career soon after graduating from Yale. For eight years, he wrote poetry exclusively.

After coming out in his late twenties, he met Roger Horwitz, who was to be his lover for over twenty years. Also during his late twenties, he grew disillusioned with poetry and shifted his interest to the novel, not to return to poetry until the 1980s.

In 1977, Monette and Horwitz moved to Los Angeles. Once in Hollywood, Monette wrote a number of screenplays that, though never produced, provided him the means to be a writer. Monette published four novels between 1978 and 1982. These novels were enormously successful and established his career as a writer of popular fiction. He also wrote several novelizations of films.

Monette’s life changed dramatically when Roger Horwitz was diagnosed with AIDS in the early 1980s. After Horwitz’s death in 1986, Monette wrote extensively about the years of their battles with AIDS (Borrowed Time, 1988) and how he himself coped with losing a lover to AIDS (Love Alone, 1988). These works are two of the most powerful accounts written about AIDS thus far.

Their publication catapulted Monette into the national arena as a spokesperson for AIDS. Along with fellow writer Larry Kramer, he emerged as one of the most familiar and outspoken AIDS activists of our time. Since very few out gay men have had the opportunity to address national issues in mainstream venues at any previous time in U.S. history, Monette’s high-visibility profile was one of his most significant achievements. He went on to write two important novels about AIDS, Afterlife (1990) and Halfway Home (1991). He himself died of AIDS-related complications in 1995.

♠♠♠

Review by Gerry Burnie

I was in the mood for a gay non-fiction story this week, and so I went looking. One would think that with all that is currently happening, there would be a dearth of non-fiction stories, but no. However, I did come across Paul Monette’s perennial Becoming a Man: Half a Life [Open Road Media, March 25, 2014]. It is a re-release of an earlier 1992 version, but since it is set in the 1950s and 60s—and biographical—it is still a relevant read.

Almost all gay men can relate to Monette’s story, as witness the number of reviews (the majority by men) that start out: “I could identify with so much of Monette’s feelings…” or “Coming of age in the fifties, Paul Monette lived a life that, in a sense, paralleled my own as I too am a child of the fifties.”

To these reminiscences I can add my own, for I too came out in the 1950s. Moreover, I too lucked out by having an older, well-established and highly-regarded man take me under his wing, to teach me that if you aim for the chimney pots you will reach the window sills, but if you aim for the stars you will reach the chimney pots.

I must say, however, that my life was not quite so unapologetically dramatic as Monette’s. Yes, like Monette, I instinctively realized that I had an attraction to men before I knew what sex was about, and yes, I quickly learned it was wrong; but only because the Church and my mother said so.

I also learned to keep it to myself at high school, and I was sometimes teased on account of ‘being different,’ but it never got worse than that. In fact, I was more likely to quietly sought out than bullied.

Nonetheless, I do parallel him again as soon as I got out into the working world, where keeping your mouth shut about your sexuality was part of keeping your job. Likewise, ‘playin la game’ (i.e. dating, and living the straight life) was expected—not so much for yourself as others.

Monette is brutally candid when it comes to this aspect, as well as other aspects of his life. Nothing, including an incident of pedophilia, is held back; however, not once did I get the impression he was looking for forgiveness or sensationalism. It was just as it had happened with nothing held back.

One aspect that I could have been happy with a little less of was his self-analysis; particularly of his younger years. Perhaps this is because I try to never analyze myself at any stage, and in this regard I think he should have stuck more to the facts. After all, many of the things he dwelt on carried their own explanation.

This is a fascinating story of one man’s life (half life), articulately written, and unapologetically candid. Recommended, four bees.

♠♠♠

Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 71,066

♠♠♠

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:  Pioneer Schools and EducationTaught to the tune of the hickory stick!

 

logo - gerry burnie books - couple

       

♠♠♠

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.

 

 

 

 

 

July 14, 2014 Posted by | AIDS, biography, Gay non-fiction, Memoir, Non-fiction, Paul Monette | Leave a comment

The Medici Boy, by by John L’Heureux

Love, lust, jealousy, murder, power and intrigue — Just the way a 15th century novel should read.

bee4

bee-half

 

 

 

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in kindle format.

Story blurb: The worlds of art, politics and passion collide in John L’Heureux’s masterful new novel, The Medici Boy. With rich composition, L’Heureux ingeniously transports the reader to Donatello’s Renaissance Italy—directly into his bottega, (workshop), as witnessed through the eyes of Luca Mattei, a devoted assistant. While creating his famous bronze of David and Goliath, Donatello’s passion for his enormously beautiful model and part time rent boy, Agnolo, ignites a dangerous jealousy that ultimately leads to Agnolo’s brutal murder. Luca, the complex and conflicted assistant, will sacrifice all to save the life of Donatello, even if it means the life of the master sculptor’s friend and great patron of art, Cosimo de’ Medici.

About the author: John L’Heureux has served on both sides of the writing desk: as staff editor and contributing editor for The Atlantic and as the author of sixteen books of poetry and fiction. His stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and have frequently been anthologized in Best American Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. His experiences as editor and writer inform and direct his teaching of writing. Since 1973, he has taught fiction writing, the short story, and dramatic literature at Stanford. In 1981, he received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and again in 1998. His recent publications include a collection of stories, Comedians, and the novels, The Handmaid of Desire (1996), Having Everything (1999), and The Miracle (2002).

 

♠♠♠

Review by Gerry Burnie

When I think of 15th century Italy and the Medicis, I think of people dressed in cloaks, skulking about on nefarious errands, as well as Roman-nosed clergy and medieval nobility indulging themselves on sumptuous living, intrigue and lust. Happily, John L’Heureux captures all this in his latest book, Medici Boy [Astor + Blue Editions, LLC.; 1 edition, April 7, 2014].

Donatello's "David and Goliath" located in the  Bargello, Florence.

Donatello’s “David and Goliath” located in the Bargello, Florence.

It is told from the point of view of Luca Mettei, Donato Donatello’s fictional assistant. Most everyone will recognize that Donatello (c. 1386 – December 13, 1466) was the Florentine sculptor who created, among other masterpieces, the first free-standing nude sculpture since the Classical Greek era—the beautiful and enigmatic David and Goliath.

What makes the story intriguing is that L’Heureux has went behind the bronze to give it a personality; that of the radiantly beautiful and nymph-like model, Agnolo. Indeed, when you compare L’Heureux’s creation to the perceived personality of the statue, the similarity is remarkable. There is the same Narcissistic and self-centred beauty that could very well attract the unwary to their doom, and in this case, Agnolo himself..

Other notable characters add a measure of intrigue, as well. For example, Cosimo de Medici, the inspiration for Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince, was banker to the Vatican, enormously wealthy, a political manipulator extraordinaire, and patron of the arts. It was he who commissioned Donatello’s David for his garden.

Beside all this cloak-and-dagger intrigue, honour and loyalty also exist—as in Mattei’s loyalty to his master, Donatello. In this story Mattei is heterosexual, but in an age where the lines were sometimes blurred, on can image an affectionate love (at least) between the two.

Indeed, it has all the ingredients of a Florentine caper, i.e. love, lust, jealousy, murder, power and intrigue. Four and one-half stars.

♠♠♠

Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 70,874

♠♠♠

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:  The legend of “Fireaway” – the ‘voyageur’ horse

♠♠♠

If you would like to learn more about 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.

       

 

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!

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

 

 

July 7, 2014 Posted by | Gay fiction, Gay historical fiction, Gay Medieval prtiof, Historical period | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: