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Binding the God: Ursine Essays from the Mountain South Paperback – December 1, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

These essays reflect Mann's other literary abilities; the language is poetic, and the erotic passages burn hot: they are relatively few, but they are highly charged. The most striking, and consistent, element of this collection is how honest and open Mann chooses to be with his readers, not only with the fetishes and obsessions he's already thoroughly documented in earlier works (his love of Appalachian language and cuisine, his infatuation with country singer Tim Mcgraw, his love of bladed weapons and the heroic stories, ancient and modern, in which they so often play a part--not to mention his deeply ingrained appreciation of Southern manners and his kinship with nature, especially the beauty of mountain terrain), but with the course of his own life.

By ''ursine essays,'' Mann is referring to his identity as a bear. He relishes the vocabulary of strength in discussing this most central aspect of his identity, calling himself ''husky'' and ''burly,'' describing how he ''growls'' in response to a broad palette of emotion: appreciation, lust, anger, resentment. More: Mann lets us know more than once that he's a ''leather bear,'' and his love of bondage--mostly as a top, but occasionally as a submissive--plays as essential a role in these selections as do any of the other themes Mann explores, including relationships, travel, and cultural heritage....

It's the complexity--and those conflicts--that allows Mann to blend such disparate strands in his writings and in his life. Rather than set two diminished concepts against one another--say, sex and spirituality, with the nuance and nourishment boiled out of them by facile posturing--Mann looks to a broader focus that allows all of his aspects (and, by extension, all of the elements of any human being) to jostle, compete, reinforce or cancel out. Thus, he can contain a poet's fragile heart within a joyously hot and hairy chest, and allow himself to look for the same in others.

These essays are full of humor, anecdote, political fury, and sexual frisson. They also contain a deep and melodic religious resonance. This burly leather bear poet brings word and flesh together in the most compassionate, if underserved, sense of untrammeled faith. --Kilian Melloy for Edge Online

Lambda Award-winning writer Jeff Mann follows up on his Edge: Travels of an Appalachian Leather Bear with this second collection of personal essays. And these essays are deeply personal--reflecting both his deep affection for the land and people of the mountains and the deep pain the homophobia endemic to the region causes him.

Mann is a gay, pagan, leather bear, and in many ways, you might think this makes him out of place in the mountains of West Virginia. But he is also an Appalachian, and a country boy--and he can't live comfortably away from the region and its people. Instead, he uses his multiple outsider status--gay, blue-collar, mountain, pagan, and bear--to educate and enlighten the classes he teaches and the communities in which he dwells. The essays in Binding the God will do the same for the urbane and sophisticated, the slender and smooth-chested, and the A-list gays, and will remind us all that the GLBT community and GLBT culture is everywhere.

That's not to say that Mann s home does not cause him pain. Despite his deep affection for the land and people of the Mountain South, he is acutely aware of its conservative politics. He looks around at the gym and sees a hot man, his perfect good ol' boy type--and realizes the object of his affection is likely straight and even homophobic. But then, he has a great time bonding with the men painting his house, and they don't mind that he's gay, because he can talk trucks and cowboy boots and country music. Being a hill-queer may be a contradiction--but it's one with which Mann has learned to live. And if he has to occasionally escape to gay-friendlier climes, the mountains always call him back home.

Some may be wary of the sexual content, but without it we'd get a distorted view of the very complicated Jeff Mann. The essay ''Bondage Tape in Budapest,'' for example, illuminates the relationship between leatherbear Mann and his vanilla partner. And when Mann talks about Tim McGraw, not just as a musician, but as a sex object--well, I can relate. I only ever listened to Tim McGraw because he looked hot on the album cover!

Recommended for all public and academic libraries, and particularly for those libraries serving GLBT or Appalachian communities. --John Bradford for the GLBT Roundtable of the American Library Assoc.

About the Author

Jeff Mann grew up in Covington, Virginia, and Hinton, West Virginia, receiving degrees in English and forestry from West Virginia University. His poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in many publications, including The Spoon River Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Laurel Review, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, Crab Orchard Review, Bloom, Appalachian Heritage, and Best Gay Stories 2008. He has published three award-winning poetry chapbooks, Bliss, Mountain Fireflies, and Flint Shards from Sussex; two full-length books of poetry, Bones Washed with Wine and On the Tongue; a collection of personal essays, Edge: Travels of an Appalachian Leather Bear; a book of poetry and memoir, Loving Mountains, Loving Men; and a volume of short fiction, A History of Barbed Wire, which won a Lambda Literary Award.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Bear Bones Books (December 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590212193
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590212196
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,886,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Dustin Merton on March 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
this was a great follow up to his previous essays in edge. the best thing i can say about the writings of mr mann is their honesty and transparency. there is something reassuring about reading about a man so comfortable with himself. i never have to wonder what mann is thinking about. he lays it all bare right there on the page. he is a complex man and all of his complexities come across clearly. people would be so much better off if they took the time to analyze and accept the real person inside of them, the way i feel mann does in this book. he is an erudite professor. he is a southern boy. and my fave is his aspect of being a bdsm leather bear. i can relate to his love of tim mcgraw. i can relate to his love of small town, but also the pull of the occasional big city adventure. he loves to travel the world, and i can relate to that aspect as well, since he has discussed many places i have visited myself. also, any bears that read this book, dont read it at work like i did. i read the chapter on tying up a man, and that was a mistake if you catch my drift. just relax and enjoy this book. use it to help discover yourself. i think these books are a great gift to bears everywhere. i say this because these writings tend toward a specific readership. i even picked up another book he talks about in this essays, the front runner, and it has turned out to be a very good read as well. give him a chance, i dont think you will be disappointed. i cannot wait to read some of his fiction as well, i have high hopes.
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This is a work of absolute guileless honesty. It is as if Jeff Mann has carved a window in his body to allow us to peer in and touch the essence that makes him who he is. This sort of courage and risk is what makes an artist of any medium great. The artist opens and communicates truth in both emotional and intellectual as well as poignantly personal expression. We hear, see, receive and expand our own minds, emotions and intellect in response. Thank You Jeff!
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I first found Jeff's writing in masters of midnight, a gay vampire themed anthology and said, hey, i gotta read more of this guy....and so i have been and must say that the stories in binding the god are some of the best i've ever read........if you've never been to the appalachian mountain area, you sure will be when you read this book......i really enjoyed descriptions of good southern food, sexy mountain men, eccentric friends and family, and some true heart-felt feelings of jeff's he so lyrically and boldly shares with his readers.......a great read everybody, i encourage you to check it out; you'll love it like i did and just like me you'll end up saying, "Heck, I cain't hep it !!......enjoy, dan
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I first discovered Jeff Mann in an anthology about gay vampires. I thought his stories were excellent and was really happy to learn he had written more gay vampire stories. I have to admit that I listened to these essays via audible and found them insightful and entertaining. Queer men living and functioning in southern/Appalachian cultures has always interested me and this group of essays provides an insight to Mr. Mann and his life as a gay man in this community.
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This collection of essays was very boring. Jeff Mann can't write an essay without writing about himself, playing the part of a whiny professional victim when it comes to being a gay man or part of the larger so called "LGBT community", writing about the large number of men he's had sex with, writing about how he's sleazy and into cheating on his so called "partner" and into helping bi and gay married men cheat on their partners/spouses with him, and the essays in this book were very boring and served no purpose than for Mann to give himself an ego boost. Jeff Mann writes about how he has no close male friends, and how he does not form friendships with bisexual and gay men. Is it any wonder why heterosexual men, and bisexual and gay men don't want to be his friend?

I have met people who have had classes with Mann at the university where he lectures. He is not a good creative writing professor, is lecherous towards his male students he finds hot, and his poetry is not good either.

Now onto the essays in the book. They were boring, they were pretty much all only about the author, and there was an undercurrent of biphobia, transphobia, and a lot of heterophobia in the essays since bisexual and trans people were not mentioned, and Mann is one of those bitter gay men who hate heterosexual people especially heterosexual men-while at the same time lusting after what he'll never have. Avoid reading this book, since you won't come across a well written essay in it.
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