First Fiction Fridays: When is a Man by Aaron Shepard

July 4, 2014

Paul Rasmussen is a young ethnographer, an academic, and a sexually active man--or at least he had been. That was before the cancer. Before the surgery. Before his impotence. Now, at thirty-three, Paul is broken, angry, defeated and, in his own way, healing. Struggling to come to terms with his new reality, he escapes to the remote forests of the Immitoin Valley to recover, grasping at the chance to spend the summer isolated on a field study. But Paul's little camp isn't as secluded as he had hoped.

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What:

When is a Man (Brindle & Glass, 2014)

Who:

Aaron Shepard has written award-winning short fiction and has been published in a number of Canadian literary journals. He is a graduate of the University of Victoria’s MFA in Creative Writing program, and has served on the Malahat Review’s fiction board. An avid outdoorsman, Aaron enjoys hiking, camping, birdwatching, and cross-country skiing.

Why you need to read this now:

Paul Rasmussen is a young ethnographer, an academic, and a sexually active man—or at least he had been. That was before the cancer. Before the surgery. Before his impotence.

Now, at thirty-three, Paul is broken, angry, defeated and, in his own way, healing.

Struggling to come to terms with his new reality, he escapes to the remote forests of the Immitoin Valley to recover, grasping at the chance to spend the summer isolated on a field study. But Paul’s little camp isn’t as secluded as he had hoped. His arrival is marked by the discovery of a drowned man, and a series of encounters with the locals force him to confront both the valley’s past and his own uncertain future.

“Impotence is very hard to capture in fiction,” wrote a reviewer for Quill & Quire Magazine. “The effects of erectile difficulties on one’s sex life rarely make it into even the most male-focused literature. But it’s a topic that Shepard tackles head on in his sparkling debut novel.” 

Paul’s anger will draw on your sympathies, his defeatist attitude will provoke your anger, and the honesty with which he describes his disease and subsequent recovery will inspire your pride. Shepard’s talent as a writer not only transports the reader, it brings to life a truly genuine character that you cannot help but admire.

This is a book for your father, your son, your brother, and your husband. It’s for fishermen and outdoorsmen, men who seek out seclusion, and men who fight for a cause. It’s for men suffering from and recovering from cancer, men concerned about their virility, and men who appreciate fiction that explores the constructs of masculinity. And it’s for all the people who care about these men—Paul’s story is captivating and Shepard’s writing is impeccable. 

What People are Saying about When is a Man:

"Defining masculinity and male sexuality was likely not the goal of Shepard’s novel, but he does a fine job of exploring the topic nonetheless . . . When is a Man is fine proof of the skill the author has for grafting and crafting words into a memorable journey through the human condition." —The Winnipeg Review

"Lyrical, compassionate, erotic: this is a haunting portrayal of how a man can forget —and then remember —what it means to be desired." —D.W. Wilson, author of Once You Break a Knuckle

"When is a Man by Aaron Shepard is an intimate and affecting exploration of screw-tight landscapes of the Interior. Shepard paints scenes in smoke and snow and light and dark, and the crack language and iron settings of river, mountain and forest put me in mind of the best of Ken Kesey the merry prankster. When is a Man is complex and stubborn and a serious joy." —Mark Anthony Jarman, author of 19 Knives and Dancing Nightly in the Tavern

*****

Thanks so much to Brindle & Glass for sharing When is a Man with us, especially to Tori Elliott for her profound recommendation of this book. 

 


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