The following book review appeared in the 02/16/2006 edition of the Bay Area Reporter.
“What if” is a big theme in Randy Boyd’s expansive fourth novel, Walt Loves the Bearcat.
Writer Marcus Coleman finds the nerve to call up a man he’s never met, yet whom he thinks he should have known all his life, one Walter Yeager, former star quarterback.
They end up meeting through another bit of happenstance, and over the course of a few meetings, Marcus reveals to Walter his secret fantasy story about their romance that could have happened back in the 1980s.
With Marcus as Bear, a cheerleader who happens to end up inside the bear costume of his school mascot, a furtive kiss caught on film threatens to push their secret into the public eye before it’s even consummated.
Boyd employs a number of fanciful devices to draw the story within a story out, frequently breaking the past tense with conversations between the older characters, as well as some “cosmic” almost cartoonish interruptions and revelations.
The tale is more than a mere jock romance, but a self-aware and expansive rumination on how stories can be told, why they are told, and how reality often interrupts its animated poetic idealism.
Fans of the exuberant spirit of the college football scene will appreciate Boyd’s description of football games between the Georgia State Bulldogs and the UCLA Bruins. But those scenes are only part of the expansive story.
At over 700 pages, Boyd’s epic tale may daunt light readers. But its lighthearted tone keeps the pace going, and offers a warm spirited take on the college romance that could have, and should have been, and what may be.
A long pass away from the painful realities of real gay football players, Boyd’s expansive confection of existential characters reverberates with soulful queries into the nature of love and life.