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Metes and Bounds
Reviewer: iandthou @ yahoo.com (Frankfort, KY)
Surfing To Selfhood
Whether you are planning a summer retreat to the beach or just dreaming of one, Metes and Bounds by Jay Quinn would be an excellent cabana companion.
The summer before his graduation, Matt, a cute country boy in North Carolina, reconnects with Tiger, his uncle just eight years older, at Matt's grandma's death. Tiger's mystique has haunted Matt for the ten years since Tiger left-since the time Matt spied him making out at the movies with a handsome Air Force officer. With adolescence, and a particularly strong attraction to his friend Jeep, a football player, there are things Matt wants to talk about, and he's pretty sure his uncle is the one he can confide in.
Matt tells his story, and his voice has the authentic ring of coming from the heart with all the contradictions, emotions, and enthusiasms of an eighteen year-old. After Matt graduates, his father, wanting to help his gay son find his place in life, arranges for him to live with Tiger at Nag's Head, where his uncle teaches him surveying. Off work, Tiger introduces him to beach life and surfing, which becomes his passion. It's a laid-back life, and with his uncle and uncle's lover Mark as mentors, Matt-with considerable trial and error-takes the measure of his own metes and bounds and, discovering his own emotional parameters, becomes the man he has to be.
Metes and Bounds has no intricate plot or mystery; it's episodic-and that is not a fault, because it isn't about the story, it's about the young man telling it, a coming of age biographical novel. Though not propelled by surprises, it is filled with self-revelations about Matt's relationships to family, friends, and lovers. He's a real young man with dangerous and powerful lusts he gives himself up to, described in some of the most erotic scenes in contemporary gay literature. But he's a sweet kid too. Quinn draws his character skillfully, showing Matt's vulnerable and innocent nature in scenes when others use him and in situations when his fundamental goodness proves the quality of his character. Matt is neither saint nor sinner, but a wholly believable young guy whose jealousy, spite, curiosity, love, and compassion-indeed, the full range of human emotions-are what real boys are made of. The storms that rage within him are in stark contrast to the idyllic sun, sand, and surf of the novel's coastal setting.
Living with Tiger and Mark provides a stable and wholesome gay family environment where Matt is protected, understood, and valued. His ventures outside that matrix are not always any of those things, but they are the experiences through which a young man finds his way in the world. The contrast between the two worlds he moves in provides him just enough ballast to find his balance. With each mistake he becomes more sure-footed. Even romance, to his wondrous surprise, at last works out for Matt, and the promising happy ending is a perfect note on which to top your beach blanket holiday.
Reviewer: Joseph J. Hanssen "Joe" (Upstate New York)
The Joy of Coming Out...........................
There's a lot of coming-of-age stories being written today but many of them are not told in a very positive light. Most are told in a negative way with suffering, lost of friends & family, and rejection by peers. The young gay person finds himself usually moving to the big city, where he can find acceptance with other urban gay men. He no longer feels wanted in his small hometown. I was excited about Jay Quinn's debut novel because it tells the story of a young man, Matt, discovery he is gay and being accepted in an intelligent & positive way by the people who have always loved him before his coming out. More and more young people today are discovering their sexually at a younger age than ever before. It would be nice if all young people could be accepted like Matt is in this story.
Matt, the story's narrator, is an 18 year old from a small town by the coast in North Carolina. He's just graduated from High School and is not too sure what he's going to make of his life yet. So he goes to live with his gay Uncle Tiger and his lover, Mark, a pilot, at their house by the shore. He plans to work for Uncle Tiger's surveying business for a year and earn some money for his college education. Mark's son, Shane, who is straight, also lives with them. Matt finds total acceptance in his new all male family. He learns how to surf & finds great pleasure in his new sport. He goes to his first gay bar and has his first sexual experiences. All of his sexual experiences are written in a beautiful, exciting, loving & intensely erotic way.
If you're not from the South it may take a little while to get use to some of the Southern manners of speech. I believe this makes the story more authentic and totally realistic. It's great to read a book from a Southern gay perspective for a change. I think Jay Quinn with this debut novel, "Metes and Bounds" has proven himself to be one of the best new talented & engaging writers out there today. I certainly enjoyed his other two books, "The Mentor", a memoir and "Rebel Yell", a collection of stories by various Southern authors. I eagerly await his future endeavors. Make sure this book is on the top of your "To be Read list." A truly enjoyable read!
Reviewer: N. Vaupel "master_wren1964" (San Francisco bay Area)
Worth Every Penny
This was a great read. I've never been to the south but after reading this book I feel like I have. Jay Quinn is a gifted author who's characters are unforgettable. The range of emotion and experience captured in this book is awesome. I found myself being caught up in Matt's life and feeling the struggles he faced in such depth. I really felt as though I had a special front row seat all the way through this book. It's a great read for anyone who really enjoys a good coming of age story.
Reviewer: H. F. CORBIN (ATLANTA, GA)
Mr. Quinn Has Something To Say
METES AND BOUNDS is the story of the young Matt who leaves home after high school and goes to live with his uncle Tiger and his lover Mark on the North Carolina shore. Mr. Quinn tells a good tale. In fact, he is a better storyteller than a writer although his prose is certainly adequate. He gets the Southern experience right-- with sweet tea, Pepsi and Aqua Velva; and rows are "hard to hoe." A toboggan is a cap worn in winter, something that few people outside the South have ever heard about; and coffee keeps kids from getting "wormy." Mr. Quinn is dead right-- no pun intended-- in the funeral home scene. Rural Southerners have traditionally been as attracted to funerals as truckers to country music. The author writes about surfing too with complete authority; Matt's surfing accident seems totally believable.
Although I find this story a tad too rosy-- is it possible that two adult men can live together with two male children under the age of 13 in a small coastal area of North Carolina in 1983 and not be run out of the county? Maybe not. I don't know. Certainly Mr. Quinn has a perfect right to see life in any color he chooses and doesn't have to have the dark world view of say a Jim Grimsley or Andrew Holleran. I can see a teenaged gay boy coming across this novel and being blown away. He would find the sex scenes, as Matt would say "totally awesome" and would take comfort in knowing that there is gay life outside the major Eastern cities and that people like him live in the small towns of the "red states." That alone makes this novel worth reading and a welcomed addition to "coming out" stories.
Reviewer:"ydimant" (New York, NY)
A Utopian dream
This is not a perfect book. However, it is a book of a certain idealism which defies anybody to not wish for its world for just a moment, for a day, for a lifetime. This story of a young surfing boy coming to terms with the world around him and the world inside him, is built upon a certain Utopian world, where not a single character is totally without heart, or without a certain primal and primitive goodness. Where a 12 year old will tell an 18 year old that he needs to start trusting people more; where a fighter pilot and a high school senior love each other so much, they're willing to cut off all ties, suffer through divorce and child custody battles, willing to stow away on bomber planes just to spend an extra two days together, and through it all, get to happiness that only few may know. A world where a family of two gay men, a straight son, a gay nephew and a stray poor boy is happier than most conventional families are. Formulaic and often suffering from too many metaphors and straight-up lessons, this novel nevertheless pushes boundaries of what we're all willing to believe can happen and what so many of us wish would happen. In a world where even a glorified rapist can have tenderness, where your straight crush from high school can turn around and fall in love with you, where your father will support you through all of your falls, and where strangers are kind and those that are not are almost harmless, the characters of this lovely novel teach the readers that yes, good things can happen, even through all the fears and dangers that life has to offer. Set against the backdrop of one of the most conservative parts of this country - the South - with the contrast of the most freeing things a person can do - surfing, the novel juxtaposes the right and the wrong, the need and the will, and love and lust. As Matt, the main character, moves through his turbulent year - and even more turbulent memories of years previous - the reader gets sucked into this mind and his world, feeling that, as the end approaches, this world is the one that is the dream of almost every queer and even straight person out there. Though sometimes awkward, the style still flows beautifully and the frank and lively tone of the main character carries the story with dignity and life.
Reviewer: K. Steinhouse (Virginia)
Decent plot but a painful read...
I picked up this book from the library with a bunch of other gay books (albeit of the trashier variety). Expecting that it would be a nice, "literary" deviation from the trash books, I started my plunge into gay fiction with 'Metes and Bounds.' I wasn't pleased with what I found.
The plot in the book was decent, nothing too special. It's basically a coming-of-age novel about a guy, Matt, finding his place in the world as a "queer" guy. (Though, why he didn't use the less-irksome and more PC word "gay" is beyond me.)
The real pitfall of the novel is its writing. I absolutely abhorred it. The whole novel is written in an on-again off-again "Southern accent." The narration constantly switches grammatical correctness on and off as if Matt, the narrator, is one moment a college professor with a Ph.D. and the next a high school drop-out.
The plot goes back and forth from the present to the past to the more-recent-than-the-past-but-not-quite-present-either. I didn't find it it hard to follow along, but it made me wonder what the point of it was. It seemed that the author was trying to be deep for the sake of being deep as if he were a gay, white, male Toni Morrison.
Another part of the writing that I found redundant was the use of vulgarity. I'm not a conservative person when it comes to this sort of thing, which is demonstrated by the fact that the book I'm reading currently is entitled 'Hunk House,' however, I have to wonder if the use of profanity both sexual and otherwise really served any purpose. It wasn't sexy. It was just thrown in there at places where it was just superfluous. It was like the author was just throwing in dirty words every other paragraph to distract the reader so that he might not notice the bad writing.
Overall, I found this to be a less-than enjoyable read. I like to vary my literary books and my fluffy reads. This book, however, fits into neither of those categories because it's too poorly written to be literary and too full of itself to be fluff. It is what it is, and what it is is just plain bad. There are plenty of enjoyable, well-written books out there to read. Don't waste your time or money on this one.
Getting hit by a car turned Jay Quinn into an author
For Jay Quinn, being creative is just part and parcel of who he is. It's something he has got to do, whether it is doodling on a napkin or coming up with a writing idea at a stoplight.
"With true creative people, they are going to be creative without renown, respect or being celebrated," Quinn observes.
But in his case, Quinn is doing it with renown. As the author of two books, the editor of two gay anthologies, and with another novel on the way, in a few years Quinn has made his stamp in the world of gay literature.
Quinn moved to Florida 13 years ago from his native North Carolina, settling down in South Beach.
His time was spent painting, working as a pool boy in Bal Harbour and living off money from a freelance job. After being struck by a car in a hit and run, Quinn decided to change creative direction and began writing what would eventually become a published book, "Metes and Bounds."
While looking through a literary magazine, Quinn read that Riverhead Books was looking for gay material. He got in touch with a young assistant editor who agreed to look at his manuscript, and that started Quinn's journey as an author, and eventually an editor.
"My first book had an interesting history trying to get published," Quinn recalls. "It got a great reception, but when it came down to it, every editor who looked at it left to write his own book or take another job."
In the interim of "Metes and Bounds" getting passed around from publisher to publisher, Quinn had a book proposal for a memoir accepted by Haworth Publishing. That memoir was tilted "The Mentor," and would become his first published book.
When "The Mentor" became successful, Haworth agreed to publish "Metes and Bounds," which turned out to be a hit for the small publishing company, selling 10,000 copies and being translated into Spanish and Hungarian.
From writer to editor
After his first two books were published, Quinns involvement with Haworth went beyond the role of an author.
Because of the success of "Metes and Bounds" Haworth asked Quinn to start a small imprint for gay fiction called Southern Tier Editions.
Quinn began soliciting manuscripts, meeting with authors, and turning a profit for the publisher. Some of the work he has solicited includes noteworthy books like "Huddle" by Dan Boyle and "The Big Book of Misunderstanding" by Jim Gladstone.
As an acquisitions editor, Quinn doesnt generally line edit books. But he is responsible for spotting a book not only based on its artistic worth but also it's marketing potential.
"In a sense I am asked to be a fortune teller and keep up with the zeitgeist of not only what people are reading today, but what they might be reading 14 months down the road, which is generally how long it takes for a book to make it through the production process," Quinn says.
Quinn came to the position as a dedicated reader. He reads extensively within and outside the gay genre. Some of his favorite authors are John MacGahern, Annie Proulx and Jhumpa Lahiri.
He has also managed to write his fifth novel, titled Back Where He Started, which will be published by Alyson Books in the spring of 2005.
"I wanted to grow and change with a new editor," Quinn says of his first novel with Alyson. "I don't live in a vacuum. You have to challenge yourself as an artist. Nick Street, my editor at Alyson, has done wonderful work on books Ive really liked. So I know I am going to grow as a writer after working with him."
Sun and stability
Quinn thinks living and writing in Florida works for him for a number of factors. For instance, he did not become an author until he was in his early 40s and in a very stable, domestic life.
"Where other people might come here to vacation and see it as very distracting and frenetic with all the places to party and relax, I live here," he says. "If you live in a place you have to earn a living, and living in a more settled, stable atmosphere helps."
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