Indecent Exposures depicts moments in a man’s life. Bahr doesn’t relate stories so much as he expresses those epiphanies which shape our character and make us human. In “Another Time or Place” the narrator, an introverted high school bookworm, befriends the class jock and loans him his car. There’s not much plot there, but I knew right away the feeling Bahr was expressing: that blind, adolescent, not-quite-Gay (but certainly not Straight) worship which seems so natural at the time and which later appears bizarre and miraculous.
Although “Another Time or Place” is about two supposedly heterosexual boys, it contains scenes which are extremely erotic: “We would wrestle, but I could never make a believable pretense of it and he would quickly straddle me, pinning my wrists over my head in just one of his large hands, and with the other tweak my nose or slap my face or poke me in the sides until I giggled like some silly girl or closed my eyes to feel the weight of him on my abdomen.” “I thought back over the last two months, the hours we’d worked together on the motorcycle, our bodies slippery with grease and sweat, our faces inches apart as we wrestled with belts and wires, bolts and screws.”
Most of the stories in Indecent Exposures focus on relationships between fathers and sons, and older men and boys. Probably the most poignant moment in the book occurs at the end of the story about a teenager who meets an older man on a bus and ends up falling asleep leaning against the older man’s body. I can’t explain to you why this scene is so moving. In fact, I think the reason this book is so effective is precisely that Bahr never explains his characters. He doesn’t tell you what they are feeling or why an action is important or significant. Bahr creates his characters, allows them to act out their story, and leaves it to the readers to discover the feelings within ourselves.
“From A Distant Way” tells of an older man’s desire (or maybe love, or maybe passion, or maybe fatherly concern, or maybe all of these and more) for a 13 year-old boy. The story becomes erotic, but not necessarily sexual, when the man describes sitting in a chair with the sleeping boy sprawled across his lap. Later the man carries the boy to bed and undresses him. But this is not a story about statutory rape or sex across the generations. Sensations, intuitions and emotions are supreme in the universe Bahr has created.
Indecent Exposures is not a pleasant book. While I was reading it I invented dozens of excuses to get away from it. I suddenly found myself fixing the window shade that’s been broken for weeks, organizing my videotapes, transplanting the philodendron which out-grew its pot last year. This book is too glaring, too raw, too intense to read in one sitting or even in one month. And it is frequently too beautiful. Some of the emotions in Indecent Exposures are so exquisite that they are painful to experience. I’m sure I’ll read this book again. Not so much because I want to, but because I have to.
--Ron Abraytis, “Constant Reader”
From the book:
“Immediately she started toward the car, but she did not hurry. I saw as she approached that she’d been crying. Well, and why not? She was passing through adolescence, cutting herself free from herself, severing the dreams, the ideals, turning toward the coldness and sterility of adulthood. Or so it seemed to her.”
“It is a very evil thing, and for three days he has walked around with the hunger in him and said no to it. In English class the feeling was heavy in his belly and he got hard, making his face red and his breathing fast and shallow. The teacher called on him and he stammered and said he wasn’t listening. She yelled at him and the kids laughed, making him more embarrassed and ashamed.”
(“The Arms of Michael”)
“After the graduation party, he stood in the alley behind the tenement and watched the convertible full of kids drive off. And the farther they went, the quieter the night became. So quiet that he thought the stars hummed and he felt the whole sky expanding and contracting in slow, patient breaths. There in the stillness all the themes of his past and all the paths of his future converged like spokes in the hub of that one moment of soaring significance.”
(“The Gold Pen”)
“Yes, I was in love with him. I basked in it like those Newark sparrows in the warm dust. I stopped seeing friends, stopped dating. When I went to the movies or bowling or roller skating it was with Ricky. We did his homework together, went shopping together. As Gertrude Bell said of T.E. Lawrence, ‘He lit so many fires in cold rooms.’”
(“From a Distant Way”)
Created by The Authors Guild
A note for users of older versions of Internet Explorer, Netscape, or AOL:
This site will look a lot better in a newer browser. Download one for free!
Internet Explorer: Windows Mac | Netscape: Windows Mac Other
For AOL users, please choose Internet Explorer above.