Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Monday, August 23, 2021

Alec by William di Canzio

Alec by William di Canzio ; New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2021
New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2021
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of E. M. Forster's Maurice, William di Canzio gives us Alec, a novel that both enhances and expands the original story. While it isn't strictly necessary to have read Maurice to understand Alec, the decisions Di Canzio has made seem more clear having read both and frankly, readers should do themselves the favor of reading both of these excellent novels.

In Maurice, Forster tells the story of Maurice's relationship with Clive both from Maurice's and from Clive's perspectives. But when it comes to Maurice's relationship with Alec, he only provides the story from Maurice's perspective, preferencing an upper class telling. 

Di Canzio has chosen to give voice to Alec in his novel, providing a brief telling of his younger years (as Forster did for Maurice) and then telling the story of Alec and Maurice meeting and falling in love, but this time from Alec's perspective. The author has even used some direct language from Maurice in this section to create a continuity between the works. Where I think Di Canzio excels is at providing believable alternatives to what Maurice thought was happening in the original text. 

One could really be satisfied with just this much of Alec, taking the reader to the point in time where Maurice ends. Di Canzio opts, however to take us further. He creates a life for the characters that is much more uplifting than Forster's ending, much less his abandoned 1914 epilogue. He takes them into World War I, an area we know from Forster himself that he was unable or unwilling to go.

Like Maurice, Alec is a romance. Di Canzio doesn't shy away from the sex either. In the early chapters the sex scenes read a bit like Victorian erotica but they begin to be described in a more modern way as our characters and the world experience the changes that WWI brings. This is a worthy companion piece, allowing us to spend just a bit more time with these classic characters.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Hemdanziehender Knabe = Boy Putting on Shirt by Helmut Kolle

Hemdanziehender Knabe = Boy Putting on Shirt (1924) Helmut Kolle (German, 1899-1931) Oil on canvas 92 x 65 cm.
Hemdanziehender Knabe = Boy Putting on Shirt (1924)
Helmut Kolle (German, 1899-1931)
Oil on canvas
92 x 65 cm.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Romance in Marseille by Claude McKay

Romance in Marseille by Claude McKay ; New York : Penguin, 2020
New York : Penguin, 2020
Begun in 1929 and significantly expanded by 1932, Romance in Marseille failed to find a publisher. It has existed as two versions in manuscript form in two different archival collections until the 2020 publication as part of the Penguin Classics series.

The story centers around Lafala, a West African sailor who stows away on a ship out of Marseille headed for New York. Having been caught by the crew and held in an unheated area of the ship, he must have his lower legs amputated due to frostbite upon landing in New York. A lawyer helps him sue the shipping company for his loss of limbs due to his treatment and confinement onboard. After winning his case, he returns to Marseille a much richer man. 

Although Lafala's fortunes have changed, he returns to his life among the sailors, dockworkers, prostitutes and pimps of the Quayside in Marseille. Although now a celebrity of sorts, his newfound wealth means many are trying to separate him from it. The remainder of the book sees everyone take a side and numerous plots and counterplots work themselves out.

McKay's dislike of the N.A.A.C.P.'s negative reviews of his 'shocking' work is hilariously highlighted when he includes a reference to a fictitious organization that is an obvious stand-in: The Christian Unity of Negro Tribes, or C.U.N.T. 

The extended text of 1932, sees the addition of two white characters, Big Blonde and Petit Frère. Big Blonde is a sailor who is known to prefer boys to girls and Petit Frère is his little friend, probably a teenage boy who works the ships. Among the inhabitants of Quayside, this is considered a normal relationship variation and is paid little attention. It was not uncommon for teenage boys to work ships and be coupled with sailors or act as prostitutes for the men onboard. The novel, Boy (1931), by James Hanley describes this exact situation in startling detail. 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Monday, June 21, 2021

Queers: Eight Monologues curated by Mark Gatiss

Queers: Eight Monologues curated by Mark Gatiss ; London : Nick Hern Books, 2017
London : Nick Hern Books, 2017
Queers was published on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act which partially decriminalized sex between men in England and Wales. It would not become law in Scotland until 1980 and Northern Ireland until 1982.

Gatiss has brought together eight monologues written by himself and seven other playwrights, each taking place around a critical person or at a critical moment in history to illustrate the lives of queers in the Commonwealth over the last 100 years. Covering Oscar Wilde, the issuing of the Wolfenden Report, the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, the rise of HIV/AIDS,  the 1994 lowering of the age of consent, and marriage equality. These are extraordinary snapshots, at times funny and heartbreaking. These brief yet compelling character studies show how much has changed and how little. 

The monologues were first performed on the stage on 28 July 2017 and 31 July 2017 at The Old Vic, London. They were also filmed as the BBC Studios production Queers on BBC Four.

The Man on the Platform

by Mark Gatiss
Set in 1917, pairs the bittersweet train platform parting of a young soldier and his Captain with a childhood memory of Oscar Wilde on the Reading platform on his way to prison.

The Perfect Gentleman

by Jackie Clune
A gentleman in 1929 shares her stories of passing, beginning with growing up a tomboy and playing the part of the husband when she and her friend played 'wedding.'

Safest Spot in Town

by Keith Jarrett
A black man in 1941 describes the places that gay men meet in the years leading up to and during the war.

Missing Alice

by Jon Bradfield
Alice tells of being married to a gay man and the life they forged together before the issuing of the 1957 Wolfenden Report.

I Miss the War

by Matthew Baldwin
In 1967, an older gay man reminisces about the excitement of meeting men when things were less open and things like the use of Polari kept men safe from Lilly Law.

More Anger

by Brian Fillis
A young actor in 1987, laments that his only roles are of gay men dying of AIDS, while simultaneously trying to navigate his own personal life and reluctance to get tested.

A Grand Day Out

by Michael Dennis
A 17-year-old boy is among those gathered outside the House of Commons as the vote is announced for the lowering of the age of consent to 18 in 1994.

Something Borrowed

by Gareth McLean
A man remembers all of the challenges and changes in his life and in society that lead up to the possibility of this day, his wedding day.

Queers | BBC America

October 11, 2017

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Junglinge im Gartenpavillion by Friedrich Ahlers-Hestermann

Jünglinge im Gartenpavillion = Young Men in the Garden Pavillion (1904) Frederich Ahlers-Hestermann (German, 1883-1973) Oil on canvas 100 x 120.5 cm.
Jünglinge im Gartenpavillion = Young Men in the Garden Pavillion (1904)
Frederich Ahlers-Hestermann (German, 1883-1973)
Oil on canvas
100 x 120.5 cm.