Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review: Bear Like Me by Jonathan Cohen


Fired from his job at Phag magazine, Peter Mallory has to find a way to make a living...and get revenge When his best friend suggests writing a book about the bear community--and using his new ursine look to go undercover at Phag--Peter is soon letting his body hair grow and practising the fine art of flannel couture. When Peter's sabotage campaign works only too well, he starts to run the risk of discovery. With an envious fellow bear set to unmask Peter as a fraud, and a relationship with an intriguing bear on the line, things are about to get very hairy.
I'm a fan of bear erotica and bearish romances when I find them, so Bear Like Me by Jonathan Cohen, an amusing, light tale about a man who becomes part of the bear community, through let's say the back door, is right up my alley.

Cohen weaves this bearish story around Peter Mallory, a journalist and self-proclaimed twink who becomes obsessed with getting revenge after he's fired from his job at Phag magazine. In the meantime he needs to make a living and at his friend Mac's suggestion Peter decides to write a novel about the bear community. Unfortunately, he is clueless. Problem? He's part of the mainstream gay community and lives in what he refers to as the "gay ghetto," but Peter doesn't even know what a bear is!

Mac suggests Peter go undercover to research his novel. To blend in he grows a beard, stops waxing his body hair, and gains heft by eating like food is going out of style. And in some of the most amusing moments in the story, his wardrobe undergoes a dramatic change as Peter sheds his trendy suits and ties for flannel. Of course there's more to the experience than growing fur, changing wardrobe or gaining weight.
"Becoming a bear, just like coming out of the closet, requires a certain shift in perception. What you find attractive, what you find acceptable, what you deem important, all changes. In a way you become an outsider, but in a way you become part of a small, select private group. Usually this is a long process that accompanies repeated exposure to the bear community. I didn't, however, have the luxury of time." 
Peter's partner Danny is not necessarily over the moon about the lack of income, but all the physical and psychological changes that slowly turn Peter into his other self, Dan the bear, take a real toll on the relationship.

Peter/Dan is driven by his obsession to get that revenge against Phag, meanwhile that "shift in perception" slowly takes place within Peter. This takes time, however even as he clings to the belief that inside he is still a twink and that his foray into to bear community is temporary Peter falls for Ben, a big teddy bear of man who sees the bear and other qualities in him that Peter doesn't see in himself. Unfortunately Peter doesn't know when to stop lying and scheming, so that by the time he comes to his senses it might be too late to keep the friends who welcomed him with opened arms, or his man.

There are over-the-top moments (Peter loves and attracts drama like a magnet), and since this book was first published in 2003, a rather dated back story. But I like that through all the mayhem Cohen sneaks in slight critical views of both the mainstream gay and bear communities from an insider and an outsider's point of view. Additionally, the pace of the novel is quick as lightning and it makes this story not only entertaining, but a super fast read.

In Bear Like Me, Cohen presents an overview of the bear community with all its rules and bearish family atmosphere. Peter's second coming out story as a bear is entertaining with an intentionally campy style, outrageous moments, and a surprisingly sweet romance.

Category: Gay Fiction/Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Bear Bones Books/June 9, 2011
Source: Lethe Press
Grade: B
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About the Author (Summarized): Jonathan Cohen was born to non-bear parents 40-some years ago in Toronto, Canada. The rise of the Internet in 1995 connected Jonathan to a community he'd never heard of before. "Bears" were hairy, bearded, large men, Jonathan found to his surprise --- and they liked men just like him! After coming out to himself and others as a bear, he decided to study their community, their rituals, and of course their sexual practices. The novel Bear Like Me was the result and was published in 2003. Jonathan now lives in Toronto. Brown hair is turning to gray, but Jonathan still remembers those halcyon bear days and gropes of yore.


4 comments:

  1. Ok, this book sounds like lots of fun!

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    1. It is, Ames. It is! LOL I think you would like this one.

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  2. Sounds good, Hilcia - thanks for the heads up on this one. :)

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    1. It's a good read, Tracy. I enjoyed it. :D

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