Review: Fog, Jeff Mann

Jeff Mann, Fog.

In yet another example of the universe having a plan for things, I came to Fog through a circuitous route. I had purchased and read Jeff Mann’s poetry collection, Bones Washed With Wine, years ago when I was in a particular theme of poetry by gay writers who didn’t shy away from being confrontational. It is still proudly on my shelf next to Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, Thom Gunn, Jason Schneiderman, and others. I pull it out occasionally, but don’t really ever have reason to discuss it. However, in the course of setting up this site, I set up a new Goodreads account (since apparently my old, neglected one no longer exists), and Amazon thoughtfully let me import my purchase history, including Bones Washed With Wine. This led it to appearing in the recent “What I’m Reading” list on this site. Which led to a friend catching sight of Mann’s name and triggering a memory of having read Fog some time ago and having no one to discuss it with. Which led to him telling me about it, which led to me reading it, which led to this moment where I bestow you fine readers with the largess of my opinionating.

If you have the impression from my blogs, or really have interacted with me in any way whatsoever, you’ll know that I have a problem with and take great exception to the emasculation of nearly all the writing that is about gay men. I’m not talking about having an effeminate character, but the presentation of gay men as, essentially, people with the emotions and behavior patterns of women, but with a penis. That is not a concern here!

I realize that not everyone will have the same response to the graphic and potentially triggering nature of the content as I did, and that’s fine. Go emote elsewhere. My blog is probably the only place where I get to exist in and express my own feelings.

It may sound silly, but from the very first page, as someone who has studied linguistics and the effects of rhetorical grammar, I had an instinctive and visceral response to the use of contractions in the prose. More than just a dialect choice, the narrative use of these frictives and plosives immediately keyed me into the masculine voice of this piece. The natural, unforced and unflowery nature of the writing just hit a chord with me as, honestly, one gay dude writing to another. If nothing else, the authenticity of that language would have kept me reading.

The plot of the story as it progressed was not surprising, but perhaps that in itself was the surprising part. I kept expecting the prescribed divergence from what I could sense was coming, and the refusal to adhere to that was refreshing.

I’m not at the moment equipped to articulate on the sex, the abuse, and the psychological commentary; I will simply say that based on my own experiences with abuse and trauma, it was visceral, raw, and accurately portrayed based on the scenarios that were being crafted.

This is not your “HEA M//M romance” but it is in many ways more gratifying for having my experiences genuinely seen and depicted in a literary form without the demeaning denuding that is so often required when writing to the expected market. Though this is not every gay experience, it is far more honest than most of what is available and represented.

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