Joe's Reviews > ManBug

ManBug by George K. Ilsley
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Apr 05, 11

bookshelves: gay-authors, highly-recommended
Read from April 01 to 04, 2011

Sebastian is a gay entomologist with Asperger Syndrome. Tom is a dyslexic bisexual and (nominally) Buddhist. ManBug is the nickname Tom accidentally gives Sebastian (he meant to say BugMan). ManBug the novel is the story of their relationship. The novel is written in the third person, but it is obviously filtered through the mind of Sebastian.

The story of their relationship is told in short chapters which read like ethereal wisps of stories. There is a story here, and despite the light feeling of the prose, there is depth and weight. There are also moments of incredible humor. Familiarity with Buddhism, while not necessary for the enjoyment of this novel, will certainly add new depth to some of the story.

The Kardapa Lampa was both a reincarnating lineage, and a theory Tom ascribed to. The current title holder had been empowered through a series of events whose legitimacy provoked controversy and much bitter debate. People loved him or they hated him. The Kardapa Lampa was either tearing Buddhism apart, or he was a living embodiment of the teachings.

There was no middle way here.


One of the devices that I found interesting was the way that Sebastian saw the world of feelings as colors. Throughout the book, Tom moves from blue to green.

The word "kiss" as it came off Tom's lips was a kind of blue that melted from the edges and faded, but lingered.

The word "Tom" also became bluer after this. Thoughts of Tom were oddly tinged blue somehow, in a new development.


Of course, one can't talk about a novel called ManBug without wondering about its relationship to Kafka's The Metamorphosis. The word "metamorphosis" appears several times throughout ManBug, and change is certainly a major theme in the book. Tom and Sebastian's relationship changes throughout the book, but more importantly, Sebastian's relationship to the world changes.

Another theme of the novel is impermanence, the Buddhist concept that nothing lasts and that everything, even the idea of "I", the ego, is ephemeral and changing. Ever chapter is a fleeting, impermanent thing that often leaves behind no residue. The novel, as a whole, however is concrete and will live in my mind for a long while.
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