A searing coming-of-age account about sexual extremes.



A debut essay collection charts a man’s development from closeted Christian kid to liberated sex writer.

There was nothing about Cheves’ early life that hinted at his future career as the sex columnist for Out magazine. The adopted son of Evangelical Christian parents, the author was raised in rural, conservative Georgia. “They knew nothing about the woman who birthed me,” he writes of his parents, “except that she was described in the adoption papers as a dancer, a 1992 code word for prostitute, or so I’ve always believed.” His parents worked in Zambia as medical missionaries, where the young Cheves saw the ravages of AIDS firsthand. Back home in Georgia, he learned that gay sexuality was sinful according to the teachings of his Baptist congregation, and his father insisted that the author’s sexuality was the work of evil spirits. At college, Cheves was diagnosed as HIV-positive, only a couple of years after entering the gay dating scene for the first time. After initial panic and depression, the author came to accept his diagnosis and see himself within the continuum of HIV-positive artists and activists. With this collection, Cheves recounts his struggles to come to terms with himself as a young man caught between the rigid intolerance of his childhood and the exciting but sometimes dangerous world of adult sex. He learned how to date with his diagnosis, discovered his numerous—and often wild—kinks, and explored his ever evolving relationship with God. From the barns of rural Georgia to the sex dungeons of San Francisco, the newsrooms of Los Angeles, and the pride parades of Atlanta, the author tracks his own development through a series of lovers, relocations, hardships, and experiments. Easy answers are rare and difficult to come by, but Cheves’ life never ceases to offer test cases in the many different ways to find the limits of pleasure and pain.

The author’s prose style seems to hold nothing back, mixing stark admissions with arresting gallows humor: “My first Christmas as an HIV-positive man was rough. I was suicidal, and to make things worse, I worked at a restaurant. I attended the host desk; I was a host in so many ways. Whenever an unhappy guest complained about their table or the atmosphere, I was tempted to say, ‘You’re the reason I won’t be alive tomorrow, and I want you to live with that.’ ” Cheves excels at portraying sex and place, but more than anything he is a perceptive and shrewd writer about people. He approaches the characters who populate these pages with a generous helping of empathy, which makes the sometimes-extreme behavior he describes feel unexpectedly accessible. Although there are moments when the writing feels slightly self-indulgent—the author includes in full a poem he wrote as a college student—he makes up for it by consistently delivering poignant insights and shocking moments of beauty. While perhaps not for the most squeamish readers, the book presents an unapologetic vitality that will linger long after the covers are closed.

A searing coming-of-age account about sexual extremes.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-9913780-3-6

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Unbound Edition Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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