June 20, 2011

BEAR LIKE ME by Jonathan Cohen (in review)

BEAR LIKE ME, by Jonathan Cohen (Bear Bones Books/Lethe Press, 2011)

I confess to having read this book back in 2003 when it was published by a now sadly defunct company.  I think I prefer this cover a bit to the original, though I'd rather see the model recoiling in horror from the razor. ;)

In that now-distant era, I was fairly new at Bear identity.  However, I've never held identity as this precious thing beyond humour or critique, especially since my general experience with the queer community has required that I both be able to laugh to keep from crying or retching and to realize that some people think that their product resulting from what bears do in the woods does not stink.  Therefore, I loved this book then, if only because it is true that you are a bear if you say you are...until ten other bears rip you to shreds.

This fun romp through the main character's adventures when he sets out to go undercover as a Bear in order to write a piece about that subculture, with the resulting changes in his life, is romantic, hilarious, sardonic and shockingly true-to-life.  Though I must confess that early on I thought perhaps things like beauty contests and A-lists would be something foreign to a community made up primarily of exiles, I should have realized that, no matter what some Bears actually say, we ARE gay men, and there does seem to be some cultural tendency towards bitchiness (or butchiness, if you will).  And the passage of eight years has allowed me to stop cringing at the notion of a Bear named Ben, fortunately. :).

Like the best books that would seem to have an audience in mind, this book could appeal to a wider range of people interested in humorous but pointed satire, which I tested by leaving the book out in a pile of leaves in the middle of the woods.  Soon, several women and straight men ventured along, flipped through it, and guffawed, so I know it could have a broader appeal (no girth humour intended).

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