Title: Vanya Says, “Go!” - A Retelling of Mikhail Kuzmin’s ‘Wings’
Author: Wayne Goodman
Release Date: October 20th 2016
Genre: Retelling, Gay Fiction
In 1906, Mikhail Kuzmin published "Wings," the first book in Russian to discuss same-sex relationships in a positive light. With "Vanya Says, ‘Go!,’" Wayne Goodman retells the story from the perspective of the young man at the heart of the tale. The original work contained only three sections, but a fourth has been added to round out the story and provide some closure.
Kuzmin was one of the most celebrated poets of his time, the Silver Age of Russian Poetry. While his poems were quite successful, his somewhat-autobiographical novel "Wings" met with skepticism and criticism. Kuzmin used many constructs from poetry (characters who appear all too briefly with no second mention, plot jumps with little connecting material, long-winded orations); however, his descriptions of scenery are exquisite, and the dialogue is quirky and colorful.
"Vanya Says, 'Go!'" is crafted for the modern reader while keeping much of the original Russian style. It is a window into a time and places long gone. The story is narrated by the main character, who at 16 years of age is dealing with being an orphan foisted off on friends of distant relatives and attempting to acquaint himself with his sexual orientation while also discovering various religious and philosophical frameworks.
"An exemplary study in classic Russian literary charm... with a choice cast of picaresque characters. Goodman draws the reader into the desperate historical moment of pre-revolutionary St. Petersburg, and artfully stages Vanya's gay yearnings against its fast-moving currents." -- Edmund Zagorin
"The author accurately evokes a long-lost Russia through his marvelous characters and descriptions... the underlying commentary on the decaying social order, and the romance of that forgotten time period." -- Andrew Demcak
"Set in Old Russia... this is an interesting, fact-based story of an orphaned gay youth and his attempt to find himself, his own opinions, and love." -- Daniel Curzon
Purchase: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Smashwords
Watch Wayne Goodman read from Vanya Says “Go!” on Facebook
My Stroop has been messing around with these boys at the bathhouse, paying them with beer and roubles. Our afternoons discussing Greek and English had seemed more like courtship than tutelage. He has let Nata and Ida Goldberg think he might–maybe, perhaps–marry them. For the first time in my young life I felt the horrific cannonball of betrayal punch through the pit of my gut. I felt the urge to run from the very spot, but realised I needed to remain.
Larion Dmitriyevich turned to the fellow in the poddyovka and said, “Sergei Sorokin, this is Vanya Smurov, the fellow I mentioned who is interested in learning more about the Old Believers.”
This gave me the necessary excuse to turn my attention from Stroop. The anger and contempt continued to build up pressure inside me. I decided I would run off at the very first opportunity to do so.
Sergei, a very attractive and fit young man with curly brown hair, smiled at me as he began to remove his heavy coat, “Yes. Please come to visit us at our farm along the Volga. I’m sure my father won’t mind. You can see how we live, and help with the work to earn your keep. If you are truly interested, that is.”
I felt Stroop’s hand upon my shoulder, and I flinched, knocking it away. “I’m sorry,” I sputtered, “it’s gotten late and I have to get back.” I ran down the hall, down the stairs, back to the bridge, and just kept running and running, even though I really had no place to run to.
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About the Author
Wayne Goodman has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area most of his life (with too many cats). When not writing, he enjoys playing Gilded Age parlor music on the piano, with an emphasis on women, gay, and Black composers.
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