Book Review: Wild Animals I Have Known Polk Street Diaries and After by Kevin Bentley
Title: Wild Animals I Have Known Polk Street Diaries and After
Author: Kevin Bentley
Categories: Gay, Non-Fiction, Memoir, Erotic
Publisher:Chelsea Station Editions
In the late ’70s there was a massive migration of young gay men to San Francisco. They left home in droves, traveling by plane, bus, Pinto or Volkswagen towards a life free from discrimination. Struggling to make ends meet, many worked in bookstores and restaurants, all the while taking advantage of a scene of sexual hedonism. Kevin Bentley faithfully kept a frank, literate diary of his experiences as this generation of gay men tumbled into the era of AIDS.
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*copy provided to me via Divine Magazine by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*
*Note this review will be cross posted at Divine Magazine and on my personal blog, Bayou Book Junkie*
In 1977, Kevin drops out of college, packs up his 1969 Volkswagen and leaves Texas behind for San Francisco. Written in short journal entries, this memoir chronicles Kevin's exploits into drugs, sex, friendships and romantic relationships over the two decades that follow. Starting in the late 1970's, Kevin discovers San Francisco's gay sexual liberation and moves between numerous one night stands(sometimes without even exchanging names), friends with benefits and even a few meaningful romantic relationships.
This was very candid look at gay life in the late 70's and 80's, and into the early 90's in San Francisco. It was an interesting, intriguing and very erotic read. Kevin's writing is witty and humorous. It kept me entertained and turning the pages. I found I couldn't put it down, I had to see where his journey would lead. To see if he would ever find the love he seemed to so desperately desire.
The book does briefly touch on the subject of the AIDS epidemic, because in this time period and location, how could it not? Yes, the subject matter is deep, and the author suffers much personal loss, but he keeps the entries brief and on the lighter side. It is sad, and while I did need a tissue or two, I wasn't left a blubbering mess.
While this was a well written, fast paced and very enjoyable read, I want to stress before you open this book that if you are looking for something deep and meaningful, this isn't it. The author comes to no heavy realizations and the subject matters that were so huge at that time, such as the gay rights movement, politics and the AIDS crisis are very rarely, if ever, touched upon. I'd still highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in what the lighter and more promiscuous side of San Francisco gay life was all about during this time.
You can find my other reviews for Divine Magazine at ~ http://divinemagazine.net/jreviews/my-reviews/31/
About the author
Kevin Bentley is the author of Wild Animals I Have Known: Polk Street Diaries and After and Let’s Shut Out the World, a collection of memoirs, both available from Chelsea Station Editions. He edited the anthologies Boyfriends from Hell, Sex by the Book, and After Words: Real Sex From Gay Men's Diaries, and also authored Sailor: Vintage Photos of a Masculine Icon. His writing has appeared in various anthologies and in Poz, Out, ZYZZYVA, and Chelsea Station magazine. He lives with his husband, Paul, in San Francisco.