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The Wild Man.

The Wild Man * Patricia Nell Warren * Wildcat Press * $19.95

Wild about Patricia

The author of The Front Runner jumps into the bullring with her new novel, along that familiar white-hot gay passion

You know what they say: Lesbians are from Mars. gay men are from Venus. When it comes to love. the boys are bionic bad girls with the mysterious power to trawl the tearooms and pose atop the wedding cake. Meanwhile--underneath the lipstick--most lesbians, over 30 anyway, are still working on the stoic, heroic marriage model of the "greatest generation." We wade in, lay siege to our women, and stick with them, damn it, whether it works out or not.

Gay men and lesbians amuse each other; we regard each other with affection. But we've always known that neither team necessarily understands what makes the other tick.

That's one reason Patricia Nell Warren has won a lasting place in queer history. She was one of the first contemporary lesbian interpreters of gay male behavior--and she remains one of the most fluent. Her new novel, The Wild Man, is set in Franco's Spain of the 1960s and tells the story of a gay bullfighter. But leave out the exotic setting, and the book shares many virtues with her 1974 hit, The Front Runner, a gay love story--equally popular with men and women--that plays out between a tough college track coach and an idealistic Olympic-lass runner on his team.

The similarities, it turns out, are no accident: Warren began writing Wild Man as a young reporter on assignment in Spain, long before she wrote Front Runner--or came out as a lesbian herself. But in both novels her own identity and passions drive those of her heroes.

Warren's gay men behave in ways that lesbians understand. After a lifetime of lonely searching, they fall in love with one guy, till death do them part. Mutual machismo hinders their courting. And they're hot--for each other. Maybe they cat around, but like proper lesbians, they prefer their sex with love. If Edmund White had written The Front Runner, most of the action would have taken place in the locker rooms.

The Wild Man's disillusioned gay hero is Antonio Escudero, a great bullfighter now hobbled by a near-fatal injury, the responsibilities of running his family estate, and the inevitable onrush of marriage with the well-bred girl his family has betrothed him to. Worse than all that, though, is having to seduce women when he's dying inside for a man. Enter Juan Diano Rodriguez, a poverty-stricken and muskily handsome country boy who saves Antonio from a crush of fans outside the bullring--and cops a feel while he's at it. The moment cracks Antonio's resolve to bear his troubles alone; he finally confides his sexuality to his cherished twin sister, Jose--only to discover that she too has been gay all these years, working just as hard to lead her own life in secret.

The book turns plot-heavy as the twins scheme to win their respective loves. Yet the stakes for these lovers are real. In Franco's Spain, getting caught in any lavender activity meant jail and maybe worse. True to her experience, Warren paints a convincing picture of the era: the politics. the countryside, the art of bullfighting.

The honor-drenched atmosphere of Spain suits Warren's characters so well, you have to wonder: Has she been writing American gay men all this time--or Spanish lesbians? It doesn't matter. Whatever adventure she found in Iberia, she carried its spirit back home and kindled it in a generation of gay men and women smothered by disrespect and hungry for a duel in the sun.

Find more information on Patricia Nell Warren, The Wild Man, and links to related Internet sites at www.advocate.com
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Article Details
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Author:Stockwell, Anne
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 19, 2001
Words:625
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