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Postcards from Heartthrob Town: A Gay Man's Travel Tales [Paperback]

Gerard Wozek

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"One of the Most Compelling and Original Voices Working in Gay Literature and Travel Memoir."

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartthrob Town From a Poet's Perspective 1 Feb 2007
By Sherry Shapiro - Published on Amazon.com
Girard Wozek's stories run the emotional gambit. Written with such precise detail it's as if the reader is standing beside the narrator. First and foremost Wozek is a poet. This is obvious from his musical use of language and distinctive images. He has a sensitivity to the emotional complexity in all of us.

This book should not be limited to a gay audience. Rather it is for anyone fascinated by the human condition.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Poet's Pulse 5 May 2008
By Nina Crow - Published on Amazon.com
This is one of the best collections of short stories I've ever read. I love these little erotic gems from Gerard Wozek, who is clearly a poet, above all. Combine this with his well-honed and intuitive storytelling and you get literature that's thoughtful and engaging, deep-felt and intimate. I highly recommend this book!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lit travel guide to places off the beaten track 12 Jan 2007
By Spencer Reinhold - Published on Amazon.com
Gerard Wozek's vagrant characters in "Postcards from Heartthrob Town" are looking for something beyond the lure of common tourist sites and trendy vacation spas. Some of them are lonely wanderers, aimless loiterers who amble about a city without much of a rationale except to casually absorb the pulse of an overseas vacation town or take up brief residence in some European city in order to blend in with the sightseers and locals. Others seek out more risqué encounters with either their traveling companions or those who are haphazardly met along the course of a trip.

Each of the nineteen stories contained within this unique collection of travel writing offers an affecting sketch of a passionate traveler bound up in the desire to move out of the familiar and commonplace in order to merge with something more enticing, amorous and exotic: a covert kiss in the scummy latrines of the Paris Metro, a pilgrimage to a radical faerie retreat in the mountains of Tennessee, a tryst with a stranger at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, a total breakdown in a hallucinatory marketplace in the city of Tangier.

Wozek's compilation dissects the inner promptings of a gay excursionist and tries to get at what propels a traveler to cross over his restrictive borders in the first place. In the centerpiece short story, "Postcards from Heartthrob Town," the adolescent hero has dreams of the perfect Florida beach town, complete with suntanned "Teen Beat" pop stars from the seventies who inhabit this fantasy destination, among them, Bobby Sherman, Davy Jones and John Travolta. The young explorer invents a relationship with these "heartthrobs" who send him make-believe postcards inviting him to secretly meet--underscoring the book's theme that the impetus to venture out beyond safe boundaries is always motivated by imagination and the shifting nuances of romantic desire.

The story "My Polka Kings" is told from the vantage of a spurned lover who recounts his travel memoirs while touring the country of Poland. The narrative, written as a series of aerogrammes jotted to an ex-lover, offers a melancholy portrait of a solo traveler--a man who desires connection with his environs but who is compelled to recount the exploits of a lonely travelogue that is cluttered with memories from other times and places.

This absorbing collection of stories offers a number of historical and geographical insights into colorful vacation locales, mostly sites scattered throughout Europe, while at the same time, creates a tension and interest for the reader by grounding its characters in relationships that weave in and out of a intense connection with each other. Be warned, a few of the stories delve into moments of fairly explicit male on male sexual exploration, (note the bare swimmer's chest featured on the cover) but the bulk of these road tales build on meaningful character portraits and the provocation for wandering to someplace out of the ordinary.

One can't help comparing these fragments of personal diaries and queer travelogues to some of the earlier writings of Edmund White, particularly in "The Flaneur" or even the hypnotic, poetic journaling of beat poet Jack Kerouac. While some of the stories contained within "Postcards" feel experimental, incomplete, or at best, a prelude to what could be much longer pieces, ("Reuben Ran" and "Paris Angels" to name just two) there is something completely satisfying when viewing this collection as a whole. Embraced in its entirety, Wozek's travel-inflected narratives comprise the voice of a storyteller and poet who is skilled at chronicling the chaotic patterns of foreign cities and distant, compelling landscapes, as well as the driving motivations and yearnings of a wild vagabond. These are definitely keepsake "postcards" that one will consider fondly and read over again for pleasure.
4.0 out of 5 stars longings, loneliness, and exquisite fearful romances 24 April 2007
By Reader Views - Published on Amazon.com
Reviewed by Tyler R. Tichelaar for Reader Views (3/07)

"Postcards from Heartthrob Town" is a collection of short stories about gay men traveling around the world in a quest for sex, love, and companionship. The originality of this collection is partly due to the settings which range from unique sections of the United States to foreign settings including France, Germany, Morocco and Japan. The information the author provides about all these places is astounding--one marvels to think he has visited so many countries, and even more marvelous, if he has not visited all these areas, that he writes as one intimately familiar with each city and its streets. A deeply sophisticated world view is pervasive throughout the work and becomes more so with the progression of each story.

Despite the often exotic settings, the real theme of the book is the emotional journey of being gay and seeking love and understanding. Because the same theme runs through the stories, they build on one another, although the reader may have difficulty remembering distinguishing marks of many of them with a few exceptions where a distinct tone comes through as in "Reuben Ran." What makes the stories true literature is they go beyond simply focusing on the sexual aspects of being gay and delve into the emotional longings and alienation that gay men experience. They are not quick, pornographic gay fantasies--although they do border on fantasy at times. The happy ending is not achieved by a sexual act--nor do they deal with the angst of one's sexual identity. They are far from simply "coming out" stories. They surpass these more typical elements of gay fiction. What predominantly sets the stories apart from other gay fiction is Wozek's mature and sophisticated language. In a few stories, the adolescent characters' language seems a bit too sophisticated, but overall, the tone and style is powerful and carries the reader along in an almost dreamy addictive prose toward an often emotionally difficult ending.

"Postcards from Heartthrob Town" is not without its moments of humor however. In the first story, "Tenderness among Wolves," the adolescent boy, just beginning to awaken to his sexual feelings, tries to understand himself by dressing his G.I. Joe toys in grass skirts and allowing them to copulate with one another. The story, "Reuben Ran," is of a lighter, more fast-paced tone, and optimistic as the young protagonist runs away from home to study art in Russia.

Overall sadness permeates the book, a constant sense of dissatisfaction despite or because of the characters' frequent obsessions with sex. We see gay couples falling apart, men learning their lovers have cheated on them, or men who are saddened by a past that might include abuse from a previous lover or a best friend who refused to speak to him again when told his friend was gay. In the end, the book seems largely to be about lack of fulfillment, and not surprisingly, recalls E.M. Forster's novels, although more "Howards End," where the characters strive to connect but fail to do so than his gay novel "Maurice" where the ending is an unrealistic fantasy.

In one story, the main character comes to feel sorry for his lover who appears trapped in his sophisticated facade. Similarly, the reader finds himself caught up in the dreamy, exquisite sophistication of the prose, yet all the beauty of the author's words does not hide the deep unhappiness of the characters and their situations. Whether the reader is gay or straight, he will appreciate that the stories are about the mystery of human relationships in "Postcards from Heartthrob Town." Readers will find their own experiences, longings, loneliness, and exquisite fearful romances depicted in these pages.

Received book free of charge.
4.0 out of 5 stars Enticing, diverse stories are sure to spark your wanderlust! 30 Jan 2007
By Bob Lind - Published on Amazon.com
In his collection of nineteen stories, a few of which were already published in other compilations, Gerald Wozek weaves a complex tapestry of memoirs, travelogues, philisophical introspectives and erotic fiction. He starts with a couple of sweet stories from his childhood, traveling with his family and knowing he was "different", which paved the way for his passion for travel. Subsequent tales are a diverse combination of adventures while traveling, ranging from mountain climbing in the Rockies to semi-public sex with a handsome stranger in Morocco. Some stories deal with a gay man's relationships, both good and bad, current and past. A few read like disjointed journal entries with short, page-long passages at various locations. The one quality that comes through in each is the author's obvious talent for creative imagery, which puts the reader into the action, no matter how brief the scene may be, to better understand the experience and reactions of the character portrayed. Despite being a confirmed stay-at-home couch potato, I'll admit reading the author's enticing prose gave me an itch to see more of the world as well! I give the book four stars out of five.
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