Molly's Reviews

Brass PonyBrass Pony: Two Novellas
Marsh Cassady
GLB Publishers 2001

Novella 1, To Ride a Wild Pony tells the tale of 55 year old artist Dennis Thompson and his long time partner, college professor Menolaus Aradopolos. The pair have lived together in LaJolla, California for some thirty years. During this time they have raised Men's son Boris from a brief marriage during a jaunt to Europe, grown comfortable with one another and faced many of the problems inherent in any long term relationship. Neither is prepared for the toll aging will take upon the health of either. Men's heart attack has caught them short and the pair, and Boris and his family are now going to have to deal with this reality.

Writer Cassady has admirable credentials as a writer. This particular work, Brass Pony: is a bit of a breakthrough for him as he delves into the aging process and how it affects familial relationships. In this poignant work Cassady presents us with well developed characters who are so amicable and fiduciary it is hard to comprehend they are only the product of the fertile mind of the writer. Any of us who are in a long term relationship can see our own dilemma as Denny and Men seek to find answers and hope for tomorrow where there well may be none.
Excellent Read

Cassady's second offering Sounding Brass presents young 12 year old Martin O'Jenkins on his journey as a young homosexual during the 1940s when the lad had no notion that homosexuality even existed. The lad knows only that living with his demanding parents is inadequate at best as he struggles to understand why or how the mysterious feelings he has toward men in his life is affecting him.

The novella is broken into 6 small chapters. Martin is first presented as a pre teen in June 1948. The work back tracks to 1940 to introduce John O'Shaunessy a troubled young man who is never quite able to deal with the fact that his parish priest and his mother are involved in a sexual affair. Police office Sam Holden and Claude Frazier, partners who live together as 'roommates' come to have influence upon the O'Jenkin household. This was the San Joaquin Valley during the late 1940s and early 50s. The word gay had not yet begun to be used to designate those men who prefer the company of their sex, nor was any tolerance for homosexual relationships to be found within the thinking of most of the populace. O'Shaunessy's stint in the military ends in a POW camp, Martin is befriended by Sam and Claude as they try to help the confused youngster deal with his parents demands and lack of parental caring.

I found Sounding Brass to be harder to read than To Ride a Wild Pony. Transitions from chapter to chapter tended to be confusing on the first read. The first chapter Learning About Sex ends with Martin sitting on his uncle's front porch. Chapter two begins with Sam the police officer, a brand new character with no prior mention, facing a dangerous situation. Each chapter ended as abruptly as the next began with a different time, place or character. However, as quickly as I realized what writer Cassady was doing I went back, began again and found the technique works well once you know this is how it is supposed to be.

Sounding Brass left me with a very different feeling, one almost of despair, as I came to end of the work, whereas To Ride a Wild Pony left me feeling both life and death, health and illness are only bumps in our relationship when we care deeply for those in our family. The characters found in Sounding Brass are every bit as human and plausible as those found in the first novella. The writing is vibrant, filled with rich expression and detail.

The single question I might ask is regarding Sam, he is Martin's Scout leader. It is on a scout outing that Martin sees Sam nude, feels aroused and does not understand what is happening to him. Sam is a wonderful, compassionate character who is in no way a pedophile. His relationship with Claude is adult and secure. My question is would Sam have undressed or actually slept in the cabin or tent with the boys in his troop during the 1940s, or would he have stripped down to the buff in order to dress in pajamas. Seeing Sam nude is intrinsic to the tale.

BSA does not advocate one adult taking groups of kids on an overnight trip. Sam is a trained police officer, would have received Scout leadership training and is not a pedophile. I find it difficult to fathom that a trained police officer in the 1940s who is very careful to keep his true relationship with Claude hidden, would not follow scout rules. This action would certainly leave him open to at least one kid blabbing at home that they saw their Scout Master nude and that he slept in the cabin with them.

Other than this problem with Sam I found the novella to be a good read. Recommended.




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