Hard by Wayne Hoffman (2006) A Review by John Cook


You can update on Hoffman at http://www.waynehoffmanwriter.com/ and listen to an interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=We1e_WkcEV0 (oddly enough with an American Pilipino, given the role of another prettier in ‘Hard’). This book was written in 2006 about New York gays in the 1990’s with certain lifestyles and issues highlighted. It is now between 11 and 20 years since those times and some things change and some don’t. The young (26) man becoming a bear is now confirmed in that variety and is now married (obviously to his male partner) while his latest book  ‘An Older Man’ (2015) is more reflective of contemporary times.


As a period piece, I found enough to enjoy here. The tone is very much in the mode established by Larry Kramer’s ‘Faggots’ and revisited regularly by authors like Edmund White and a stable of others. I found the balance of sex (plenty of it and quite explicit – not a read for your Nana), contemporary politics and sex issues, characterization and narrative a bit out of balance.


I found it a little difficult to keep track of the characters and their interactions though this eased a little with time. The two clearest characters are Moe, the 26 year old ‘best cock-sucker’ in Manhattan who essentially narrates and is a central figure in the newspaper showdown as a writer/author/would-be academic and Frank de Soto the wealthier misdirected crusader wounded by the early phases of the AIDS years into a kind of blind single-minded opposition. His behavior in slyly removing a condom mid f***k was, for me, one of the few key interesting moments as Hoffman strove to explain the behavior. I thought it linked well with the central issues of the emergence of ‘undetectables’ and the decision some gay men had to confront with regard to serodiscordant partnerings under some conditions and the kind of confusions that still rein in some minds.


Understandably enough, marriage is a non-issue though ironically, as indicated initially, that has filled much of the intervening time and as even borne fruit with the author. The issue of when bareback sex can responsibly occur remain as lively as ever (something I know from personal experiences with my circle of friends) though a lot of pornography shows little enough awareness.


A relatively light read (quite funny at times), something of a blast from the past that retains a surprising degree of contemporary relevance.





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