First of all, A History of Barbed Wire may not be everyone's cup of tea. A collection of short stories by Jeff Man, Barbed Wire is powerful, brutal, masculine, and, unless you are absolutely turned off by anything not vanilla, violently beautiful. I found it erotic, haunting, and not easy to put down. The narrative takes us by the hand -- not so gently -- and opens our eyes to an incredible world that lies parallel to our own, but is much more exciting, dangerous, and satisfying. There's a lot of Hemingway's spare writing style here. But there's also that wonderful, descriptive, poetic prose that Mann can summon, seemingly, at will.
Of the collected stories in Barbed Wire, four really grabbed my attention (and everything else). Briefly, "Dionysus Redux" is the tale of Don, a muscular, hairy, "forbidden" student who's the subject of his professor's daydreams. The descriptions are beautiful and the narrative solidly written, yet strongly erotic.
"Balsam Poplar Buds" traces Allen and love-interest Travis as they end up, serendipitously, in Allen's bedroom one snowy night playing their guitars. You can take it from there, but the story is still one of my favorites. Again, Mann creates magic with his descriptions!
You've got to love the title, "Raspberry Moonshine," especially if you were brought up in the rural south as I was. Greg teams up with fellow student James to research and write an essay on, of all things, moonshine. Things get interesting when James takes Greg to check out a real, working moonshine still. They get caught and things become more interesting. Then the story ends, yet it doesn't.
Perhaps the most intriguing of the collection is "Fireflies." It seems there was a Confederate officer accused of sodomy. A century and a half later, a Civil-War buff spends a series of nights in the room where the officer died, now part of a bed and breakfast inn. Weird, sensuous dreams become increasingly real and the story ends in the only way that it could end. Jeff Mann's talents for story telling are at their peak in this tale.
I highly recommend A History of Barbed Wire. I read it (twice) and was completely caught up in it. Jeff Mann is an incredible talent. Read Barbed Wire and you'll agree with me.