Monthly Archives: August 2011

“Going Golem” from TABLET MAGAZINE–A Look at the Ancient Jewish Monster

Going Golem

Forget vampires and zombies. For meaningful meditations on attraction, power, and body, young readers should turn to that ancient Jewish monster, the golem.

By Marjorie Ingall | Aug 30, 2011 7:00 AM |

We’ve always loved golems. The notion of a soulless husk suddenly given life is deliciously resonant. First there was Adam, formed from dust and given breath by God. Then there were a thousand variants, from the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the manic cleaning implements that Mickey Mouse animated but failed to control in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice to the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The idea of a powerful creature being given consciousness, then behaving in unpredictable ways, is thrilling.

It’s also troubling. The legend of the Golem of Prague involves the 16th-century Maharal, also known as Judah Loew, a powerful rabbi who created a golem (the word derives from the Hebrew for unshaped form) to defend the ghetto from pogroms. In the tale’s many versions—a 19th-century German novel, short books by Elie Wiesel and Francine Prose, golem-themed episodes of The X-Files and The Simpsons—the golem often winds up attacking its maker, becoming more vicious than intended, or devastated by its own clay heart.

Golem by David Wisniewski

Given the folkloric, timeless nature of the tale, it’s no wonder it has inspired so many children’s books. This year’s entry, The Golem’s Latkesby Eric Kimmel, illustrated by Aaron Jasinski, is a cartoony, not-very-scary version of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, in which a lazy maid delegates the potato-pancake-making to a golem, leading to a giant interfaith party to which the emperor brings applesauce. It’ll be out in a couple of months and would, of course, make a delightful holiday gift. However, I’m drawn to the darker versions of the tale. David Wisniewski’s Golem, which won the Caldecott Medal for the best illustrated children’s book of 1997, is really, really scary. (Any book that explains blood libel is not for the youngest kids.) The layered, paper-cut illustrations are amazing, and the story emphasizes the golem’s nascent humanity. The creature cannot control its anger, but also loves sunrises and flowers. After an explosion of rage, it begs the man it thinks of as its father: “Please! Please let me live! I did all that you asked of me! Life is so … precious … to me!” Rabbi Judah returns him to clay anyway, with the (comforting?) observation that the golem won’t remember anything about being alive.

Clay Man: The Golem of Prague

For middle-grade readers, there is 2009’s Clay Man: The Golem of Prague by Irene N. Watts, illustrated by Kathryn E. Shoemaker. This one draws a pretty explicit Holocaust parallel (the Jews have to wear yellow circles on their clothing), and the soft pencil illustrations have a gentle, mournful quality. Other excellent middle-grade versions are Barbara Rogasky’s 1996 The Golem, with ominous, deep-toned illustrations by the late, great, four-time-Caldecott winner Trina Schart Hyman (it’s out of print but still readily available online), and I.B. Singer’s The Golem, in which the pathetic golem falls in love, featuring soft watercolors by another Caldecott rock star, the brilliant Uri Shulevitz.

But it’s in the young-adult category that I think the golem story achieves the most nuance. Teens love horror: Conventional wisdom has it that monsters represent the untamed id of adolescence, the inability to control one’s own urges. Vampires, a staple in young-adult lit, are all about longing and sometimes sublimated sexuality; werewolves are pure animalistic brutality; fallen angels reflect fears about the consequences of not being perfect; zombies represent brainless conformity.

Clay by David Almond

The golem fits in perfectly. Clay, the 2007 novel by the acclaimed British writer David Almond, is perhaps the most literary of young-adult golem books. In it, an altar boy in a faded coal-mining town meets a mysterious newcomer who may have the power to create life from earth. Almond’s perspective is Catholic, but his biblical and moral themes are very familiar to Jews, and the book is clearly based on the golem story. Davie, the protagonist, wrestles with notions of good and evil, the desire to create and the power to destroy, and the way attraction and repulsion can be mixed. There are themes about the end of innocence, the expulsion from paradise, forgiveness and redemption, and the responsibilities of the artist. The Northern English dialect can be challenging, but this is a powerful, very creepy, and haunting book.

Swoon by Nina Malkin

On the other end of the literary spectrum is Swoon, a 2010 novel by Nina Malkin. This is your classic girl-meets-boy-who-inhabits-a-golem-that-girl-has-created story. It is sexy, sexy cheese. The book’s heroine is Dice (short for Candice) and the hot, nasty golem is Sin (no, really–short for Sinclair). Do not confuse Dice or Sin with the other Gossip Girl-esque characters, Pen, Marsh, Gel, Crane, Doll, Con, Duck, and Boz, though everybody does tons of drugs and has tons of sex. Turns out, as things so often do, that Sin has been seeking a body to inhabit so he can return to the Connecticut town where he was murdered a couple hundred years earlier and take revenge on the descendants of his torturers. Sin is horrid to Dice, but she loves him anyway, because he’s a hot golem. Malkin keeps using the word “golem” (along with “dust-boy” and “dirt devil”), but Swoon differs from the classic golem tale in that Sin exists independently of a body; Dice has only provided a receptacle for his angry soul. In that way, it’s really more of a dybbuk story. A sexy, cheesy dybbuk story.

Storm Thief

I loved the heartbreaking golem in Storm Thief by Chris Wooding (2006), and I think teenage fans of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fantasy will, too. After being caught in a “probability storm,” a kind of violent ripple of atmosphere that unpredictably changes things in its wake, the golem has been separated from his maker. He has only flashes of memory of being made, and he desperately wants to know who he is and what his purpose is. The golem is prone to flashes of rage, but he also wants to love and help. (He’s a cross between Frankenstein’s monster and Wolverine.) Unlike Swoon, which is a story of selfishness, this book is all about sacrifice. The golem is a secondary character, but he’s the one who stuck with me. Maybe because I’m a parent; we understand sacrifice.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (2011), by Catherynne M. Valente, is pretty florid; I wanted to yank out half the adjectives and stomp on them like ants. But among all the over-the-top fairies, marids, gnomes, changelings, witches, selkies, hippogriffs, and djinn, there’s a female golem made of soap. I loved her. “Her face was a deep olive-y green castile, her hair a rich and oily Marseille, streaked with lime peels. Her body was patchwork: here strawberry soap with bits of red fruit showing through, there saffron and sandalwood, orange and brown. … Her eyes were two piercing, faceted slivers of soapstone. On her brow someone had written TRUTH in the kind of handwriting teachers always have: clear and curling and lovely.”

This golem, too, longs for her absent maker. Despite her grief, she lives to serve. She cleanses the book’s heroine of the dust of her journey, breaking off her own fingers with a snap to throw into different baths—baths that give courage, renew wishes, foster luck. This rare female golem wants to nurture, not destroy. Unlike most golems, she can speak (when she does, soap bubbles escape her lips). She’s powerless, but not voiceless: Many young girls, pouring out their hearts in diaries and to friends, can understand that duality. She’s all yearning; again, girls can understand that feeling all too well. She’s also the only completely kind female figure in a fairyland full of men and boys and mean girls. And like the tree in The Giving Tree, she disappears as she helps and helps and helps.

A golem is a sturdy creature on which to hang a young-adult story. It works as a repository for every theme that speaks to teenagers: Who am I in the world? What powers do I have? Who can I trust? How do I create a separate existence from my parents’? How do I control my anger and manage my baser instincts? In many stories, the golem is an overgrown child, an identity teenagers fight against and relate to simultaneously. In When Toys Come Alive, Lois Rostow Kuznets, a professor emeritus of children’s literature at San Diego State, discusses how toys can represent our concerns about technology. Kids today have even more understanding of the dangers of technology than their predecessors—they grew up seeing the way gossip and bullying can spread through social media in the blink of a non-soapstone eye. Stuffed animals, unlike Facebook and Twitter, wait patiently for loving humans to come back. Perhaps the golem, made of earth and clay, represents a longing for a simpler, less networked, more easily turned-off past.

“How to Survive a Plague”— A New Documentary

“How To Survive A Plague”

A New Documentary

Amos Lassen

I just heard about a very important new documentary from director David France. “How to Survive a Plague” is a full length film about AIDS activism and it contains never seen before and archival footage from the ‘80’s and 90’s that give credence to the untold story of what went on during the age of AIDS when our community was dying. A group of men and women with no scientific training infiltrated government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry and helped to find promising new drugs and compounds, took them through trials and got them out in unbelievable record time. These drugs are the very same that saved lives and ended what we call now an epidemic and because of them AIDS wards all over the world emptied out.

It was the very same people whose effort revolutionalized the American health care system and thereby earned respect from everywhere from Nobel prize winners to bureaucrats. More important than all else is that they kept us alive. It was their work that created the example for patient empowerment and health care activism that has been used in fight against other diseases including breast cancer and heart diseases.

These very same treatments were used when AIDS spread to Africa and Asia and AIDS activism gave us the ability to call for better and more accessible treatment.

It is the story of these heroes that has become an inspiration to future generations—they provided a “roadmap and a call to arms”. While there is not yet a cure for AIDS, things are certainly much better than ever before. The call for vigilance is once again out as transmission is again on the rise among young men who do not know how these AIDS activists made America and the world better places.

Take a look at the Facebook page for the film.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/How-To-Survive-A-Plague/166472320074695?sk=wall

“PLAYING FOR TIME”— A Classic Performance

“Playing for Time”

A Classic Performance

Amos Lassen

“Playing for Time” is a film that one cannot forget. It tells the depressing story of female prisoners in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Do NOT let the word depressing deter you because there are incredible performances here and Vanessa Redgrave gives her best. The film is based on a book by Fania Fenelon with a screenplay by Arthur Miller. Choosing Redgrave to play Fania opened controversy because a few years earlier, she gave a pro-PLO speech at the Academy Awards. Yet we are lucky that she got the part of the French nightclub singer Fania and her performance is one of dignity, desperation, strength and weakness. She is forced to sing to survive as she joins the women’s orchestra made up of prisoners. She is asked to audition with an aria from “Madame Butterfly” and in this we see the contradictions that we shall see throughout the film. As she picks out the melody on the grand piano which looks so conspicuously out of place in Auschwitz, her voice rings clear yet full of emotion and pain. Heads suddenly begin to rise and the eyes of those prisoners in the room are opened wide and they are totally moved to find beauty like this in such a place even if only for a moment.

We soon learn that a place in the orchestra was something of a reprieve from brutality, deprivation and the gas chamber. The orchestra plays for the prisoners as they are marched to the gas chambers and their death as well as for the camp officers in concerts that are arranged by Maria Mandel (Shirley Knight) who is in charge of the women’s barracks. Fania’s own thoughts are that she saved her life and she does not sing to entertain the Nazis. Conducting the orchestra is Alma Rose (Jane Alexander), the niece of Gustav Mahler and something of an artist who was raised to be professional.

Fania is the focus of the film from her ride in the cattle car on the train through her ordeals at Auschwitz and her liberation. We see what she sees and we hear what she hears in this world devoid of color. We know what is happening in the world because we hear things like airplanes flying overheard and bombs falling. We are kept completely in the barracks and this is the Holocaust that we see. If there is an outside world, we do not know anything about it except from what we hear. We know there are mass exterminations because the orchestra plays and the victims march by and are never seen again.

Daniel Mann directed this film and he keeps the camera on Fania and the characters that she interacts with. Fania is always aware that she has made sacrifices to be in the orchestra and how she has become weak due to hunger. The screenplay by Miller show us what went on in the camps as it explores the emotional and physical terrors that were faced there. Miller also makes the point (which we do not get very often) that one’s sense of identity has very little to do with the Nazi reign of terror. We especially see this and with Alma and her perfectionism as a conductor that defines her as German and not as Jewish regardless of the yellow star on her uniform. Ultimately the film is the study of Fania’s struggle and it asks the unanswerable question of how one human can treat another as the Nazis did. This is a film that must be seen so that we can remember the darkest period in the history of the world and it is even more important now that the last generation of Holocaust survivors is dying off. Lastly, Redgrave’s performance is one for the ages as she defines what acting is all about.

 

 

“KEEPING THE KIBBUTZ”— Facing Challenges

“Keeping the Kibbutz”

Facing Challenges

Amos Lassen

 

I just heard about this new film and as a member of a kibbutz, I was quite anxious to see it. The kibbutz has been an integral part of the history of Israel as well as an ideal that the rest of the world admired. Of late, the Israeli government decided that the country had outgrown the kibbutz and stopped government funding and one by one, the kibbutzim began to close up shop. Those that did not, face new challenges of a community in transition. Some of the members of the movement had to nurse broken hearts while others found new opportunities as the kibbutz came to the end of its existence. The film shows us a nostalgic story as we learn about communal living and have hope for what is to come. The kibbutz will go down as a moment in history.

This film is about Kfar Giladi and was filmed during the summer of 2007. The director of the film, Ben Crosbie was born there but his family moved to America when he was just three years old so he only knew the kibbutz from visits during summers. His mother had been born and raised on the kibbutz and his father had come to the kibbutz as a volunteer from Wales. In the 1970’s, the kibbutz was a utopia, a community that was based on shared experience and hard work but this is not how it developed and like everything else it changed.

In 2003 Kfar Giladi went through a transition from the socialist model that had been its purpose to a capitalist model that reflected the economy of Israel and that was demanded by the state. Now all members would become salaried instead of the way it had been when everyone received an equal allotment of shelter, food and necessities. In other words, a worker in the kitchen would not receive the same as a field worker or an administrator and the salaries were based upon a market-determined salary. Idealism made way for money as were the ideals of sacrifice and commitment. Now kibbutz members had to embrace entrepreneurism and self-reliance, difficult concepts for those who had never known them.

Kfar Giladi sits and has sat since it was founded in 1916 in the Hula Valley of Israel in the shadow of Mount Hermon. Then in 2003, it decided to privatize and while the landscape has stayed the same many familiar faces are gone. There is something about the kibbutz movement in Israel that everyone knows everyone in the area, even if just by face. We see the changes that happened to Kfar Giladi in the documentary—the changes and the disappointments are there and we hear directly from the kibbutz members themselves about how they feel about the new kind of management of the place that had been their communal home.

We first get a history of the place and the ideals upon which it came to be—from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs, communal child rearing meals eaten in common, collective harvests. These are gone now. Children now live with their parents, people no longer eat in the dining room, day laborers come in for the harvest and everyone gets a salary. I can remember too well how it was when I worked for the Ministry of Education; I never saw my salary because it went directly into the kibbutz account. In return I got what I needed including a driver who would take me back and forth to wherever I was working that day and sometimes two and three trips in a single day. I looked forward to having my evening meal in the communal dining room and discussing what was going on with fellow kibbutz members but I also watched as that changed and there were times when only five or six people came to eat the evening meal in the dining room.

The members of Kfar Giladi reached the final stage of kibbutz life with acceptance—the trend was showing that they could not continue and they reluctantly accepted the changes that had to be. Yet they still are nostalgic about the unique community of what once was their home much like Americans talk about sitting on screen porches at twilight and watching their kids catch fireflies or play hopscotch.(I was reminded of this last week when at  friends’ house their daughter was catching lizards).

What is so interesting about the film is that it beautifully captures nostalgia without sentimentality and I am sure that is because those interviewed answered the questions with humor and honesty as if they were holding back how they miss the old way. The film juxtaposes archival film and photos with the way it is today as well as with examples of modern industry and how they do now what was once done by the kibbutz movement. We also see photos of children with parents so we know that even with all of the changes that have taken place, there still is a sense of community among the former kibbutzniks.

One unexpected happening that was caught in this film was when two of the older members of the kibbutz were told their services were no longer needed and we sense their feeling of losing their identities, the very identity that they had earned while working in the Giladi community. When the kibbutz existed, a major part of its philosophy was to make sure that those of retirement age would have meaningful work. This is what money does and it is reflected in the letters that the oldsters received. “Only you can take care of yourself and your needs”.

Many are reluctant to leave the area because of the beauty of the location and many express sadness that future children will not have the chance to experience the special kind of life of the kibbutz. It seems that the majority have accepted what fate has dealt them and while the sense of community has been altered, it has not disappeared. Now there is a kibbutz just without the original socialistic principles upon which it was founded. I cannot help but remember the first line of the short story, “Eveline” by James Joyce—“everything changes” and yes it does.

 

“ALL THE RAGE”— Looking at the Outside

“All the Rage”

Looking at the Outside

Amos Lassen

Christopher Bedford is a gay dream. He seems to have everything going for him—good looks a killer tan body, a good job, he is clever, rich and young. He loves himself but now that he is 31 and living a hedonistic life, he does not realize is that his life is a mess. The film is a satire on the pursuit of perfection that we can all relate to.

The first half of the film shows us gay stereotypes and we begin to wonder where the film is going. Christopher is on Boston’s gay A-List and he is a professional—a lawyer by day but at night he sheds his professional outer covering and takes to the streets looking for the next guy to go to bed with. His social life is made up of going to the gym and working out, gossiping with another guy at work and cruising. He just can’t seem to find Mr. Right. Christopher’s priorities are wrong and that is because he is so obsessed with himself and his own perfection that he cannot open himself up enough to be in a relationship.

With his friends he cries over what he sees as the shortage of “normal” gay guys in Boston yet he doesn’t really how to act when he is around “such people”. His friend Tom invites him to a dinner party and there he meets Stewart who is from the Midwest and says little. This is not the kid of guy that Chris would usually go after and he is intrigued by him. Although Stewart is interested in Chris, he keeps his distance aside from holding his hand under the table. When the two do not speak afterwards, Chris is mystified and then Stewart becomes his object of desire.

I believe that the movie was meant to be a satire on the superficiality of gays but it comes across as a nice little comedy. John-Michael Lander plays Chris who is totally unlikeable even with his great body and good looks. Tom is his opposite—he does not work out and he has only a mediocre job and a chunky body. But next to everyone else, he turns out to be the best looking guy in the film because of his sincerity.

Christopher is shallow, superficial, vain and annoying, and more or less gets what he deserves in the end. The fact that he is promiscuous is not what bothers us about him, we just do not like the way he treats the guys that he has sex with.

I must say that the theme of the film is in those three little words, “I’ll call you”. Roland Tec directed the film which is based upon his own play, “A Better Boy”. The dialogue is witty and sharp and the plot is interesting. Tec gives us characters that are far apart with Chris representing desire and Tom as its opposite. The film is something of a critical look at affluent urban gays who consider themselves as the cream of the crop. Unfortunately for Chris, the cream has soured.

“Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth stand Out” edited by Steve Berman— For Our Youth

Berman, Steve (editor). “Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up”, Bold Strokes Books, 2011.

For Our Youth

Amos Lassen

Of late there have been several books that have been published for young adults and teens and this is such a good thing as they are our community of tomorrow. We want to make sure that they will get there to pick up the mantle. Steve Berman has done a wonderful job of bringing together and editing stories by fresh voices and known authors and the stories inspire. We all know how difficult it is to come out and when coming out coincides with reaching puberty; it is that much more difficult. Our young adults need stories about life and what happens in it and here we have a diverse collection that incorporate challenges and triumphs.

What makes his collection so special is that it includes stories on all kinds of subjects from money to love and from homophobia to sports. Of all of the subjects herein, friendship seems to be the overriding theme. While love may be the ultimate goal, we seem to forget that friendship is a necessary component of love and we need to learn to live together before anything else is possible.

Some of the authors included (aside from Berman himself) are Jeffrey Ricker (whose first novel is forthcoming), Sam Cameron, Danielle Pignataro, Alex Jeffers, Dia Pannes, L.A. Fields, Lucas J.W. Johnson and Sandra McDonald. No matter where you turn to in this book, you will find a story worth reading and that has a strong message. As usual, Steve Berman has done a fine job. And while the book is written for young adults, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

“ALL MY LIFE”— Gay in Egypt

“All my Life” (“Toul omry”)

Gay in Egypt

Amos Lassen

I first heard about this film a few years ago but then it disappeared from my radar. It is a film that I have wanted to see because it deals with the way gay life is in a Muslim country and this is an honest look at Rami, q 26 year old Egyptian gay man who has the best of everything but with a condition—he must keep to himself. When his lover leaves him to marry a woman and his friends start to drift away, Rami begins to face the realities of being a gay man in Egypt. He feels it especially when the crackdown on gays begins in 2001 when the Queen Boat was raided and those on board were put into prison. Rami soon finds himself in a world of sex and loveless friendships and he begins his unfortunate downfall.

Directed by Maher Sabry, “All My Life” chronicles Rami’s life. He is an accountant and dance student who lives in Cairo and begins to realize that life is not so easy. His friend, Kareem, a successful doctor pressures Rami to become involved in the underground gay scene of Cairo and then Kareem is arrested on the Queen Boat. That incident brought attention to Egypt’s treatment of gays and many international organizations sprung into action and condemned Egypt.

Rami’s neighbors, Ahmad and Mina watch him. Mina is a teen with a crush on Rami who lives in the closet and is very unhappy. Ahmad has his own troubles as a devout Muslim who has longings for women. Rami goes through a series of one night stands with closet cases and tourists and then he meets Atef, a poor waiter who has moved to Cairo from a rural area. Rami muyst decide if class differences should influence the prospect of a relationship with Atef.

Sure this movie has problems and I suspect they are due to what the film is about. It is a low budget, amateurish look at gay life in Egypt and it gives us a look at a topic that is never discussed so we can imagine the amount of courage it took to make it. This is an Egyptian movie that does what no other Arab nation dared to do and that is to discuss homosexuality and human rights in the Muslim world. We see the difficulties– socially, religiously and security wise of being a gay person in an Arab country. If nothing else this is a start, a crack in the cement curtain that separates the Muslim world from the rest of us.

What I find amazing is how the film touches on homosexuality from different angles and we see how this is such a complicated issue. Naturally we see some gay men who are comfortable with themselves and their sexuality and we see how others view Egyptians as being exotic. We get to look at the desperation many feel and we see the oppression of the lifestyle.

Sure, the acting is bad and the plot leaves much to be desired but the issues that the film raises are very important. You may say this is not a good film but you also know that it is all we have on the subject. We realize that this is an amateur production but everyone needs to start somewhere. I am sure the same was said about some of the best moviemakers around once. Rami is the main character but we also meet others and each brings the tribulations he faces as a gay man in an Arab country, something most of us know little about. The fact that it was ever made shows the courage of the producers and actors and this to me is really all that matters. We get a clear indication of the oppression and the violence experienced by some of the characters and it is clear that the film attempts to cover too many issues. With that it is difficult to deny that the mixture of soap and drama sprinkled with sex is not fascinating. This is a film that demands that we see it.

“GAY GAMES 2011”— Following the Games

“Gay Games 2011”

Following the Games

Amos Lassen

Many of us do not get the opportunity to attend or to see the gay games but now we are lucky enough to have them) or at least some of them) on DVD. Francoise Romand has recorded a video of the 2011 games so we can all enjoy them. The Games are open to all and there are no entrance requirements of age, skill, etc. All one needs is the desire to compete. The games are based upon the principles of mutual respect and the values of comradeship and men and women come from all over the world to take part. The 2011 games were in Cologne (Koln), Germany and now we have the chance to see our athletes compete and exhibit good sportsmanship.

http://www.youtube.com/user/GayGamesCologne?blend=11&ob=5

“SHADE AND SHADOW”— Facing the Past

“Shade and Shadow”

Facing the Past

Amos Lassen

Another new film from director Gabriel Maitreya, “Shade and Shadow” is about a young man whose wife died a year before and he continues to mourn her death. As he mourns, he is visited by his past. His mother convinces him to go to what was his childhood home, now abandoned and there he receives visits from a retired film star, an old girlfriend and her new boyfriend, a masked servant and a filmmaker looking like a rotting bird. Like the widower, these strange visitors are haunted by their pasts. As the demons begin to reveal themselves, we enter another world. Mixing humor and horror together, we explore memory and its power and get a movie that almost hypnotizes its viewers. The film is done in the style of the old fashioned horror movies, the beautiful and grotesque come together.

While this is not specifically a gay film, there is a good deal of male nudity and a very strange relationship between the two male actors. Keep your eyes out for Maitreya—he has three movies coming at us.

 

“Fog” by Jeff Mann— Violence, Lust and Passion

Mann, Jeff. “Fog: A Novel of Desire and Reprisal”, Bear Bones Books, 2011.

Violence, Lust and Passion

Amos Lassen

I do not know what happened to me with Jeff Mann’s new book. I have had it for a month and just have not been able to make myself sit down and review it. I think that  is because Mann is such a good writer that I want to be sure that I give him the full credit that he deserves. He is a master wordsmith and it seems that each word is especially chosen. Be that as it is, whenever I get news that Jeff Mann has something new coming out I am ready to get a copy. This is his first novel and it blew me away. He brings us an erotic tale of violence and passion that is so beautifully rendered that I had to stop and rest every few pages. The thriller is set in an isolated cabin during the winter where two men, Al and Jay, lovers, work on a plan to avenge what they consider a wrongdoing. They want to kidnap Rob, the son of a man who has spoken against Jay.

Al lusted for Rob and even stalked him and the more he sees him the stronger the infatuation becomes. He even begins to obsess about him. He wants to protect Rob from Jay, Al’s partner who is filled with rage about the way Al feels. After they kidnap Rob, Al finds his feelings growing even stronger. At this point I found myself so totally engrossed in the story that I could not put the book down. Al realizes that taking care of Rob acts as a kind of sex drug on him and he feels in constant desire for the boy. Jay has let it be known that he has no intention of ever allowing Rob to escape.

I can’t say anything else about the story because I would give too much away and ruin it for others. The atmosphere that Mann creates pulls the reader in from almost the first sentence and the claustrophobic way that the cabin is pictured makes the reader feel what the characters feel. I found myself surprised that I was actually reading the book at home and not in the cabin with Al, Jay and Rob. Mann almost makes the cabin a character in the book as so much is tied to it. The eroticism of the work includes violence and lust but we also feel the passion that is felt for Rob. It takes a really good writer to be able to create something like this.  The beauty of the book for me is that I want to read it again and that does not happen often. Perhaps with a second reading I will feel differently but I doubt it as the images are lodged in my mind.