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Ripe: Letters

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Funny, sexy, evocative, and brutally honest, Ripe is Alan Semrow’s ode to relationships with men. In this epistolary book, Semrow writes to the men who have impacted his outlook, reminded him of basic life lessons, surprised him in more ways than one, and left him reeling for days. Writing to one-night-flings, men he has never met, and men he’ll never stop running into, Semrow touches on some of the most constant human themes—love, lust, desire, and the yearning for connection. All the while, the book details a man’s journey navigating and blooming by way of the modern gay scene. Readers will find familiarity and hard truths in Semrow’s statements about the intricacy and explosiveness of the intimate moments we share.

152 pages, Paperback

Published October 1, 2018

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About the author

Alan Semrow

4 books54 followers
Alan Semrow’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry has been featured in over 30 publications. Semrow’s debut short story collection, Briefs (Lethe Press), was published in 2016. His second book, an epistolary memoir called Ripe, was released in 2018. Previously, he was a monthly contributor at Chosen Magazine, the Fiction Editor for Black Heart Magazine, and a Guest Fiction Editor for the Summer Issue of Five Quarterly. Semrow lives in Denver, CO.

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Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
Profile Image for Gabi.
673 reviews115 followers
February 5, 2019
*A free copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review via the MMRG Don't Buy My Love program.*

This guy lived! :D
He's like a bee, drifting from flower to flower, always looking for something and only he knows what that is exactly.

Through these numerous letters he has written to men about their meetings, we get to experience the joy of life. From what little I gathered, Alan is a carefree man, and craves connection. These encounters (a planned hookup or a coffee with a stranger that ended in an impromptu sexy session) might seem meaningless to an outsider, but Alan did a great job explaining through his prose, what each of them meant to him. He went in for the fun, but always came out with a little something he could cherish on the long run.

I always rolled my eyes at people who are so easily enamored by another person. They always seem to see and like something in each and every person; and they fall in love easily, or at least some kind of trance that makes them think they're in love, or have a crush. In all honesty, I think I envied those people, cuz I wasn't ever that girl. Not that I wanted to be, not to that extent. But still, I admire them, their ability to open up, and see the possibilities.
" Some of us were born to love harder than others"

The letters are short, and the encounters aren't that detailed, but that wasn't the point. If you asked me what happened in the letter that was addressed to Desert Guy or Afternooner, I couldn't tell you. I remember some of the stories, but can't tell you who it was about. Again, that wasn't the point.

This book gave me an overall good feeling. You don't have to take the world so seriously, you have to let loose a little every once in a while. And you shouldn't give up looking for that special something/someone you're looking for. Alan is a good example of all that, or maybe he just likes his life this way, not tied down, and always looking for new opportunities, new connections. I mean, that's a lot of letters and I assume not all of them was included in this collection. Good for him. :) #LiveAndLetLive
" I lived vicariously through the lives of characters—gay characters. And then I stepped out of it ready for whatever might be thrown my way. To be my own character in my own story."

Alan is obviously a talented writer, his prose is beautiful. We just jumped right into it, the letters came right after another, there were no interludes, or little breathing points, but I didn't mind that. However, I wouldn't have minded a Foreword and/or an Afterword. If you are the kind of reader, who gets easily frustrated by the repetitive manner in a book, my suggestion would be to not read this in one sitting. Try to break it up to several sections. Read something else in between. Don't worry, you won't get lost, these letters are completely separate from each other, so you can pick it up and start right in the middle if you feel like it. And that reminds me... I don't think these letters were written chronologically. Which *shrugs* is just an observation.

Also, if you're the kind of reader who wants to get the whole picture, the background stories of the people in this book, well, I guess this isn't for you then. I mean, I got a fairly clear picture of who Alan is, what kind of person he is, and that was enough for me. I didn't want to know about his upbringing, his parents, siblings, what school he went to, did he have a pony while growing up, etc.

All in all, I liked this collection and recommend it.
Profile Image for Joyfully Jay.
7,474 reviews424 followers
November 29, 2018
A Joyfully Jay review.

4.25 stars

This collection of micro essays chronicles the flings, romances, and loves of author Alan Semrow. The essays are formed like impromptu letters to the narrator’s former lovers. Each one has a title reminiscent of “Dear John,” but captures some facet of what Semrow shared with his partner. Some entries are purely about the physical, but others explore somewhat deeper connections There are a number of people who have sailed in and out of the author’s life, and while some of these connections may be fleeting, they are no less poignant.

For me, I really enjoyed reading this prolific series of intimate letter-essays. With every new letter, we get to relive the rush of attraction and passion, while also learning a bit about the author and his object of desire. That said, there is little to bind this collection together beyond that theme of acknowledging all one’s previous lovers. By the end of the collection, the entries did start to feel a bit stale with the repetition—such is the nature of writing letters to one-night-stand type connections or friends-with-benefits-when-you-happen-to-be-in-town type of thing. Without more curation of the letters, the reader is sort of adrift in a sea of spent emotion with no land in sight.

Read Camille’s review in its entirety here.

Profile Image for Sandra .
1,716 reviews308 followers
October 23, 2018
Definitely not my usual fare, as this is non-fiction, written entirely in memoir-style short letters to the many men the author has met or seen over the course of learning about himself and who he is.

Each letter details a moment, a few days, a few weeks, in the life of the author, ruminating about encounters with men, some with whom he spent some time, and some he never even met, and learning about himself and life in general as he explores the intricacies of intimacy, friendships, relationships, and the difference between lust and love.

Each letter, whether written to Dear Weekend Love or Dear Athlete or Dear Stallion or Dear Lobster Bisque, provides an honest look at what that particular person meant to the author, how each of these men influenced him in some way, no matter how long or short the encounter.

Many times we're given hints at bedroom exploits that never become too explicit, but serve to strengthen the intimacy of each letter, as the author reflects back on the encounter. There's poignancy here, many, many times; there's an honest vulnerability, a hopefulness, a youthfulness, a promiscuous recklessness. There is humor, reflection, longing, learning.

This probably won't appeal to everyone, but I found myself many times thinking back to my own youth, the choices I made, and the letters I might write. This book definitely makes you think.

** I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. **
Profile Image for The Celtic Rebel (Richard).
591 reviews123 followers
February 9, 2019
I received a copy of this last fall from the author in exchange for a review. I had several books ahead of it so it has taken me awhile to get to it. I enjoyed this a lot. I definitely look forward to reading more things from him.

I loved how each of the letters to his former lovers easily drifted from one to the other. I kept thinking as I read along that 'o wow this one was my favorite' and then the next one would make me say it again. In the end it was hard for me to say which one actually was my favorite. They were all so good. The last few seemed more poignant and did leave me wanting to know more about them. For me that is a good thing. I always love books that are satisfying but leave me wanting more.

I love how he only gave the highlights of the encounters and each seemed so sexy and interesting without the author having to resort to "porn language" to make them hot.

The letters are funny, poignant, passionate, almost personal, vulnerable, reflective, sentimental, nostalgic and at times there was a longing that something more might have been wanted by the author but it just wasn't meant to be.

I enjoyed this collection and highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Joey.
154 reviews12 followers
October 18, 2018
I’m always skeptical of gay writers writing on gay subject matter. They either knock it out of the park or slither into a culvert filled with refuse. Semrow hit a home run. Honest. Vulnerable. Compelling. He’s the first gay writer I have seen in many years who can write erotically without actually being erotic. Hints and suggestion make for really beautiful poetry. Although it’s billed as a book of letters, it’s much more than that.
Profile Image for Nocturnalux.
122 reviews122 followers
March 1, 2019
I received this book in exchange for an honest review

Ripe: Letters is, indeed, a collection of letters. Here lies its greatness weakness and its greatest claim to interest.

The epistolary genre, as such, is something of a throwback to earlier phases of the history of literature. This particular entry does much to do away with the tradition even as it does revive it by its very being. For starters, each of these short letters is addressed to a different man and covers a considerable brief moment of time. These letters are entirely one sided, being conceived entirely to be forward the narrator's point of view almost exclusively and doing much to cast a sense of anonimity over the addressees.

It is here that one runs into a structural flaw, namely, the way in which each letters runs into the other. The several men become a bundle of sameness as the narrator's interaction with which- consisting mostly of encounters followed by sex- is told in almost the same manner. In granting these men nicknames and even denying them a name, the narrator reduces them, to some extent, into borderline interchangable entities.

This strikes me as a problem of the text as an anthology. If one is to consider each text as precisely that, a text that exists as a discrete unit with requirement to relate to others, then the repetitive tone and almost formulaic presentation ceased to be a problem. After all, if each letter is addressed to one particular person, fictional or otherwise, then this one reader can find something meaningful in their experience as it relates to the narrator's account of it. One can, after all, have several similar experiences with many and sundry individuals without that devauling in impact of these.

When such texts are compiled and presented as a 'Text' to the very same reader, though, they soon reach a point of overstating whatever they had to say. Ten accounts that very much alike are not improved by ten more accounts very much in the same line.

In narrowing the scope so much the narrator accomplishes a sense of almost surreeal dreamy landscapes. Despite the many very realistic details- the smoking, the drinking, the minute details of flirtation both online and in real life, the frantic travelling and feverish sex- there is so much about the narrator's life that is deliberately sidelined by the narrative that one has the feeling of having stumbled into something of an endless romp. There is, of course, much more to the narrator and the many men he meets but it is all so vague that this anthology is more a collection of stolen moments than anything else.

Ripe is at its very best when it manages to captures precisely this sense of fragmentation and of the flitting character of all human experience. A few letters do this brilliantly and the shorter ones tend to be more successful as they fit form to content in a quite quirky manner.

It is worth mentioning the almost absolute lack of rancor or bitterness on the part of the narrator. Several times he longs for a more lasting connection but time and time he finds something to take from each particular encounter, doing much to live in the moment without casting blame on others. If anything, that is the greatest achievement of this work: it is not a love story but a series of love stories, a strong statement about the plurality of human attachment and the ability to always see what each encounter can teach you about yourself and the world around you.

Without getting too off-topic, we live in dark times and the lgbt community in particular has had to face several attacks in recent times that threaten its very existence. Something like Ripe is a good reminder that it is possible, in some place at least, for men to express their love in public, with flair and without fear. One can only hope that the sexual freedom hailed in Ripe can become a lived and living reality to all.
Profile Image for Heidi Lynn’s BookReviews.
1,059 reviews81 followers
January 2, 2019
First, I want to thank Alan Semrow for providing me with this book so I may bring you this review. I would also like to thank Jasmine Jordon for allowing me to be a guest reviewer on her blog Jazzy Book Reviews.

RIPE Letters by Alan Semrow was unlike any other LGBT book I had ever read before. Then again I love when authors go outside the box and do something different. Alan decided to write letters in this book but to me it felt more like a diary. There are about 45 letters total in this book.

I had a few favorites out of the 45 that caught my interest. Dear Peter Pan cracked me up immediately!! Come on who wouldn’t crack up laughing when the first line refers “the girls and I had been carrying around this blow-up doll with an erect penis.” The letter just gets better from there!! I have never read an author say “we fucked like volcanos.” That was a priceless line for me!! Well done Alan!!

How could you not like the letter that starts with Dear Ryan Gosling Lover LMAO!! That letter was beautifully written with detail about a special connection someone has with someone visually across the room. The physical and mental connection that Is off the charts but no action is taken.

Alan would like to thank Liz Phair, Frank Ocean, Sheryl Crow and Lana Del Rey for their music that has been ringing in his ears for so many years.

He would also like to thank Peggy Benton, Liz Morgan and Ben Monty for being the family he always wanted, but never thought he deserved. Unconditionally, he loves you. You have taught him so much.

Thank you for Madison LGBT community, in all its eccentricities for letting him in. You have made him feel at home.

Most of all he is thankful to all the men who informed these letters. You have left a mark on him.

Profile Image for Love Africa Book Club.
449 reviews23 followers
October 12, 2018
This book reminded me so much of my teenage years when writing love letters to your crushes was still a thing. Each chapter is a letter addressed to the persons the author had relationships with, some very brief and some others even from a distance.

While some of these letters weren't exactly love letters, they were written from a place of love, highlighting how those encounters no matter how brief impacted the author positively.

From Dear 'Birthday Guy' to 'Daddy', 'Blondie' to 'Athlete', each letter is meaningful and poignant, sometimes humorous, sometimes poetic and always comes across as genuine.
The reflections are so relate-able, they made me think of my past relationships and how I would address them if I wrote letters to them.

This is quite an easy read and I didn't want to put it down once i started reading. Definitely worth reading for anyone who enjoys memoirs and LGBT literature.
Profile Image for Brady Jones.
106 reviews9 followers
December 17, 2018
I’d never read a book of paradoxes before, but here we are.

Semrow’s book ‘Ripe’ - a hybrid of epistolary memoir and poetry - is directed at everyone and no one at the same time. While each letter offers a portrait of one of his sexual encounters, after reading a few of them, you’ll realize this is as much a portrait - intentional or unintentional? - of the author himself. And while he’s being brave and vulnerable, letting the world into the most personal parts of his life, there is also the sense you’re reading something you’re not supposed to - as if you’ve stumbled upon a friend’s open diary.

There are moments and details so specific you feel like you’re in the room with Alan and his exploits, but there is also a general vagueness that reminds you that you’re actually across the street watching through a window. And yet the combination of those contradictory responses leaves you wondering if you’re actually seeing these experiences within yourself - through the lenses of your own experiences?

But maybe that’s just me. And I think he’s really into something brilliant here.

One thing is for sure, there is a lot more meaning and depth behind each raw, emotional sentence in each letter - and even when Semrow tries to hide some of those emotions behind nonchalant walls of indifference, you can feel there’s more there, hidden from view.

You should know I really enjoyed reading through this one.
January 30, 2020
I really enjoyed reading this book, I haven't read a book in english in a long time and I intend this to be the first of many to come this year. But I never thought I would go through such an experience. From my rating it is clear that I liked to read but I will be more specific with the reasons for that, the texts are quite simple in a way, but the writing brings a delicacy and a level of exposure, which I was shocked. Being an autobiography in letters focused on the author's relationships, it can be interpreted as a work that is based on satisfying the author's own ego, but not. I interpret these letters as small pieces of the author's life where relationships are addressed, with the right to amusement, exposure, courage, sex and a lot of vulnerability, with regard to the experience of a gay man. Many will identify with the feelings that these letters convey and not only for sexuality, themes such as fleeting relationships, being single, falling in love, loneliness, expectations, that is, much of what refers to ties with other people today. When something so simple comes to the reader in a way, through the reality of a gay man, representing contemporary relationships in as many ways as this book (perhaps unintentionally) does, it has to be read.

P. S.: Thank you Alan for the opportunity to read your book. It was great.

Profile Image for Jarrett Neal.
Author 2 books68 followers
December 9, 2018
Few gay-themed books provide a focused, insightful view of the modern gay dating scene. To be young and gay in the twenty-first century is nothing like it was in the heyday of the post-Stonewall 1970s or the years prior to Stonewall when dating among gay men was shrouded in a quilt of homophobia. The fact that Ripe sloughs off all of that makes it a great read.

Alan Semrow is a letter writer of enormous gifts. In Ripe he crafts a series of missives to an assortment of hook-ups, would-be-boyfriends, near misses, and naughty flings. Each letter freights a certain amount of pathos balanced with libidinal overtures. Semrow expresses sex and desire among gay men--bottoming in particular--as a common, prideful act, which is refreshing. The standout letters in the collection include "Dear Almost Stranger," "Dear Steak," and "Dear Fire Lighter."

While sex and longing are the themes that vibrate beneath the surface of these letters, other themes emerge as well: excessive alcohol consumption among gay men, the bonds between gay men and their straight female friends, the multifaceted relationships among gay men. Ripe is a quick, fun read and Semrow certainly has his finger on the pulse of contemporary gay life. Kudos to him.
Profile Image for Amy Shannon.
Author 102 books120 followers
May 13, 2019
Wonderful Collection

A collection of letters from a gay man about his life and journey of exploits, so-to-speak. I enjoyed reading this book, and how it showed a story. I wasn't sure of the book cover, but I've learned to never judge a book by it's cover. The letters were interesting, and who they were addressed to, was funny, yet endearing. The letters are raw and erotic, but not-so-detailed, where it leaves a lot to the imagination. One of my favorites was entitled or written to "dear two weeks", as he writes, "You,fair fellow, took me away from just about everything for almost exactly two weeks. And what a two weeks it was." I enjoyed this collection, and look forward to more of the author's "memoirs" written through letters.
Profile Image for michael.
2 reviews1 follower
December 9, 2018
Ripe is an exceptional sophomore release by young, gay writer Alan Semrow. Possessing the same voice as his short story debut, Ripe goes into a different direction, as a collection of letters to the men Semrow has had experiences with, regrets with, and even moments of missed connections. Sexual orientation aside, these are experiences that millions of people have every day, but with Semrow' punchy use of language, his ability to expose himself figuratively, and topic matter with considerable breadth, there's something in this collection for everyone.
3 reviews1 follower
March 2, 2020
I liked the book, it was an easy and fun read, however the letters did not feel like letters to me. For me it was more like looking into someone's bullet journal, which was filled with doodles, diary entries, random thoughts and reminders about particular events and persons, therefore it gave important life lessons and personal development tips to the writer himself. I would recommend the book to other readers who are not looking for anything dramatic or challenging to read at the moment.

Many thanks to the author, for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Shweta.
224 reviews11 followers
May 13, 2020
**A free copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for a honest review via the MM Romance Group ‘Don’t Buy My Love’ program.**

A very refreshing, captivating and feel-good read.

This collection of memoirs, though presented in an epistolic manner, weaves together (through snippets of hidden revelations found in between the lines) a story of the author’s journey - finding his footing in a new city, exploring untrodden paths, as well as discovering his self identity; in the backdrop of his ode to the men and the moments that helped mould him.

I personally felt that there is more to this book than what meets the eye and what the premise promises. Indeed, all the letters are addressed to the men that he encountered during his journey, but in a very subtle fashion, Semrow, also pays tribute to the the lessons and experiences that he took away from each encounter (that helped him mature as an individual), moments of meaningful introspection (that probably serve as the best teacher of them all), his newfound supportive family of friends (We all need a friend like Greta) and most importantly, to the small things that matter in any relationship, be it romantic or otherwise. The emotional high one experiences with someone they connect with, the silly exclamations, situational jokes, the little smiles and flirtatious gestures, a feeling of assurance and connection, have a special place in our hearts, however brief they might have been and are no less significant to Semrow.

| “Above us, the moon, it was almost full (or was it?) and below us, I guess we had some exceptionally healthy grass. I felt like a tiny kid again, being introduced to the little things-it served to remind me that sometimes, the focus needn’t be on the large.”|

Semrow's style of writing, diction, use of short emotive phrases helps accentuate the underlying subtle emotions. He doesn’t elaborate upon the intricate details of his encounters, but we feel no need for it, as his unique emotional perspectives make up for it. Although that didn’t stop my poor heart from crying out for more and wanting to bang on the author’s door, asking him to reveal what happened next in ‘Dear Person’ and ‘Dear Desert Guy’.

Semrow’s work makes one realise that there is so much to treasure in a moment, the endless possibilities that the present reality encompasses, that its okay to crave acceptance and human connection and that its okay to reflect upon the romantic instances in your life ( however heart-breaking they might have been) since the emotions that they stemmed from were true and distinctly beautiful.

I would definitely recommend this collection to anyone who wants to read something new, out-of-the-norm and at times, thought provoking. The beauty of this collection is that it tells a story in the form of letters, that one can read in a single-go or as a daily bedside read that will serve to remind us to savor each moment in its RIPE.

| “How one encounter can make a person wonder these things continue to baffle me. But that’s sort of the point as to why we do the things we do to each other. We’re seeking answers and resolution.”|
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