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Wild Animals I Have Known Paperback – January 1, 2002

10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A fabulous emotional roller-coaster of a read." -- Out Front Colorado

"Difficult to put down… a small epic of neurotic behavior. ... a graceful, sad, and very skillful tale..." -- Andrew Holleran, The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide

"One part Armistead Maupin, one part Chi Chi LaRue… Offers a twinge of delightful, guilty pleasure." -- Jason Dorn, SFWeekly

"The best memoir of 1970s San Francisco published so far." -- Jesse Monteagudo, Dallas Voice

From the Inside Flap

In the late 70s there was a massive migration of young gay men to San Francisco. They left home in droves, travelling by plane, bus, Pinyo or Volkswagen. Struggling to make ends meet, many worked in bookstores and restaurants, all the while taking advantage of a scene of sexual hedonism.

"Hope springs eternal for young KB, who blows into San Francisco in 1977 at the age of 21 and sees romantic possibility in every denim bulge, every cruisy glance, every trail of kisses that leads to bed. A literate and literary observer, he unapologetically guides the reader -- squirt by squirt -- through a tempestuous era, surviving fire, earthquake, plague, psychotic boyfriends, and other natural disasters with humor and libido intact. I was moved to find an entire emotional life crammed into these pages: loss, love, fear, doubt, joy." --Don Shewey, author of "Sam Shepard," contributor to "Best Gay Erotica 2000"

"Unrepentant in its frank look at sex, while at the same time subtly addressing the complexities of relationships and the human heart, Wild Animals I Have Known recalls The Orton Diaries and Notes of a Desolate Man in both its honesty and directness ... Erotic, funny, sad, and devastatingly true." --Mitch Cullin, author of Tidelands

"Very moving and also very unusual, these exciting diaries are filled with warmth, humor, San Francisco history, and the fascination of an honest and courageous life." --Jerry Rosco, author of Glenway Wescott Personally


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Green Candy Press (January 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931160082
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931160087
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Monteagudo on May 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
Too much gay writing these days tries to ignore the very thing that makes us gay - men having sex with men. Kevin Bentley's frank diary entries puts gay sex where it belongs, right in the center of his narrative.
Memoirs of gay life in San Francisco's golden age - between Stonewall and AIDS - are precious and few, in part because so many of the men who lived during that period are dead. "Wild Animals I Have Known", in my humble opinion, is the best memoir of 1970's San Francisco gay life that I have read so far. Though Bentley is as apolitical as most gays then or now - he ignored Harvey Milk and spent the White Night Riots getting the clap from a trick on a rooftop - by living an openly gay life he acted out the ideals of gay liberation. Bravo, Kevin!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on July 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
Kevin Bentley's remarkable memoir, Wild Animals I Have Known: Polk Street Diaries And After, is set in San Francisco during the late 1970s and is based on Bentley's personal diary. In 1997 he was 21 years old, bookish, exuberantly promiscuous, laughably romantic, terrified new arrival. A young gay man arrived in the "gay mecca" that was San Francisco, a place where he would stay until his fortieth year. Here detailed are the gay bars, baths, a quirky old financial district book store, a funky apartment building on Nob Hill, street fairs, and side trips to Monterey, Santa Fe, and even West Texas. But it is the stories of love, sex, self-doubt, friendship, and unapologetic partying that comprised the basic elements of the gay lifestyle that truly grab the reader's total attention. Wild Animals I Have Known is an autobiographical "picture window back through time" offering a dramatic, vividly portrayed, and legendary gay milieu.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you liked Armistead Maupin's fictionalized tales of 70s-era San Francisco, you'll find Kevin Bentley's memoir a fascinating complement to them--or a wonderful stand-alone read. Bentley's diaries detail his coming of age and his hunt for Mr. Right and Mr. Right Now in San Francisco's glory days. Funny, graceful, dirty, and moving--what a great mix! I highly recommend this.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephen O. Murray VINE VOICE on June 28, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The entries that Kevin Bentley has chosen to publish from his "Polk Street Diaries" of that era are primarily about sexual adventures, often comic misadventures. Anyone who does not want to read about men having sexual encounters with men should steer away from this book. Like Renaud Camus's TRICKS from the same pre-AIDS era, or Ricardo Ramos's FLIPPING about that time in San Francisco, Bentley was finding out who the men he met were through sex: what they did, how they did it, and the places they lived. It was often the books (or the total lack of books), the recorded music (LPs then),, and the artifacts in a trick's room or apartment that made incompatibility obvious.
"Getting laid" was a focus then and there for gay men (and for most young men most of the time in other eras and locales). However, it was necessary to make a living to have a place to live and to pay bar cover charges (and, perchance, to eat, bhough that was a low priority at the time). The gay novels of Manhattan/Provincetown/Fire Island sex, drugs, and disco elide this, leaving readers to guess how the characters acquired money. Something I particularly appreciate in Bentley's book is his chronicling the difficulty of making a living. It also chronicles what the Swedish investigator Benny Henriksson dubbed "the risk factor of love" (reducing "promiscuity" and having unprotected sex with an HIV-infected partner).
Like the fictional inhabitants of 28 Barbary Lane, Bentley paid no attention to politics (gay, HIV-prevention, or any other kind). Less sexually adventurous than Bentley, and writing in a "family newspaper," Armistead Maupin in his well-known "tales" only hint at what life was like for gay men during "the golden age of promiscuity." Written at the time (though culled recently), these diary entries tells it like it was--without apologies, without shame, and without the chauvinism of "lgtb pride."
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Had I not lived in the same San Francisco neighborhoods and frequented the same bars, clubs, theaters and restaurants during exactly the same time period as the author, I probably wouldn't have found this book as compelling to read as I did.

Like Mr. Bentley, I too, was also a Polk Street clone -- fresh out of college and recently escaped from the intolerant Midwest, trying to "come out" while living in my first apartment, a Tenderloin studio. Clad in bomber jacket, green striped leather Adidas and crotch worn 501's during the late 70's and 80's (switched to pink Oxford cloth shirts and GAP kakkis). I spent more time at the Giraffe than I'd care to admit, and hooked up with more characters than I'd care to disclose. Naturally, I found this book to be relatable. I could have written most of it.

That said, I may be a bit more forgiving of the story, or lack thereof, than most. I couldn't put the book down, hardly turned on by the non-stop sexual descriptors hitting the reader at a rapid, non-stop rate (I was astoundingly virginal by comparison), but because of the honestly with which the author reveals himself in the pages.

Simply put, it's a smutty and raw coming of age story where Peter Pan grows up, one trick at a time, and amazingly lived to tell the tale.
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