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Binding the God: Ursine Essays from the Mountain South Paperback – December 1, 2010
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.