#BlogTour — Vanya Says, "Go!" by Wayne Goodman with Exclusive Excerpt + Giveaway

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-sexrelationships 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.


What Others Are Saying. . .

"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




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Vanya Says “Go!” exclusive excerpt #1


At Nata’s insistence, Koka and Boba got a box at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre for Saint-Saëns’s opera Samson and Delilah. The ever-scheming ginger girl with the rude mouth had selected that particular evening in hopes of meeting up with Stroop on neutral ground. However, the schedule had altered, and the performance was to be Bizet’s Carmen instead. When Nata heard of this substitution, she fumed and raged, presuming Stroop would not attend such a well-known opera without a specific reason.

After she had calmed a bit, Nata approached me with an odd request, “If I let you attend in my place during the first act, will you leave when I arrive during the second?”

Her impertinence seemed silly to me, as were most things she said and did concerning the ever-desirable Stroop. “And what would we be attending, Nata?” Even though I knew the answer–from hearing it screamed throughout the house all the day–I decided to act innocently instead of merely playing into her devious ploy.

“Carmen,” she snorted like one of Escamillo the Toreador’s bulls. “Would you like to see it?” Her eyes bulged slightly as the gears ratcheted in her head.

I had never been to an opera before, but I knew of the great love story. “And why would I want to attend this particular piece?” I knew I was pushing a bit too far, but I seemed to be getting my own particular thrill out of taunting her. After all, we both sought the affections of the same man.



Stroop glanced down at my lap, “What’s that? Homer?”

“Yes. The Greek class is especially awful.”

“You mean you don’t like Greek?” His sparkling eyes returned to mine, and an invisible shiver pulsed through me.

“Who really likes Greek?” I said, feeling a bit foolish about that sarcastic remark. It made me sound pretentious, but, then again, I probably was for only 16 years of age.

The corner of Stroop’s mouth flinched, “That’s a pity.”

“What is?”

“That you don’t like languages,” he responded coolly, lips pouting slightly, his goatee jutting forward. “I have nothing against modern languages–you can read just about anything–but who would want to struggle with such antediluvian nonsense in Greek?”

I could feel Stroop’s eyes examining me. “What a boy you are, Vanya. The whole world–worlds are closed to you.” He looked away and then back at me, “Though a world of beauty–not just to know, but to love. It is the basis of all education.”

 “But if I wanted to learn about that, I could read translated works. Why must we spend so much time learning their obsolete grammar?”

His head dropped and shook gently from side to side. I felt like I had just impaled him with a rusty pin.

“Instead of a person of flesh and blood, laughing or frowning, who can love, kiss, or hate–which one can detect in the blood surging through their veins, and the natural grace of a naked body–we are like soulless dolls, often made by artisan hands. That… that is translated. You don’t need to spend a great deal of time with a preparatory lesson on grammar.” He turned to face me. “The only requirement? Read, read, and read. Read–looking up every word in the dictionary–like you’re wading through a thicket in the forest, and you would find untried delights. And it seems to me, Vanya, that you have the makings to become such a new, authentic person.”

I just stared at this very attractive man with my jaw hanging, probably looking like an open samovar. I believed he was trying to tell me I shouldn’t shirk my language studies and that if I read enough books, I could become a better person. No one had ever given me such encouragement before. If it hadn’t been improper to do so, I would have leaned over and kissed him on his palpable lips.



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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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